Long days, and long sets have been where the Wilson Central sophomore has thrived this season and Monday afternoon was no different.
Mercante dealt with rising temperatures and a two and a half hour match to open the tournament, and a two hour and 15 minute three-set battle in the finals to take home the regional championship.
“I wanted to come out strong, and I’ve prepared for what the temperature and conditions would be today,” Mercante said. “It feels great to be the first player we’ve had to get to state tournament – its awesome.”
Speaking of Mercante’s conditioning and consistent play, both Robinson and Miller took medical timeouts during the third set due to leg cramps.
Mercante fell behind 3-0 in the opening set of the first match against Robinson, as the senior held on to take the first set.
The second set was all Mercante as he steadied his play by keeping numerous balls deep and working Robinson left and right to take the second set.
After a long rally Mercante forced his opponent deep into the backhand corner before coming up and hitting the forehand winner to the open court.
During the deuce point, Robinson began cramping, and was forced to take a 15-minute medical timeout.
After that, Mercante controlled the rest of the set for the win.
“There was some very tense moments that could have went really wrong for Michael,” Wilson Central coach Ryan Jent said. “When Robinson started cramping, he backed off the gas a little, but he got himself composed and did well.”
Miller dropped the first set 1-6 to Hendersonville’s Jackson Kinsler before running away with the last two sets 6-1, 6-3 to earn his spot in the finals.
Miller started off well using his athleticism and controlling the pace of the match with his slice backhand. Mercante forced the match to 4-all before dropping the final two games of the set.
Mercante ran out to an early 4-0 lead as Miller began having numerous leg problems that led to Mercante claiming the second set.
In the third Mercante raced out to a 4-1 lead as Miller’s conditioning continued to fail.
Miller continued to fight and cut into the Mercante lead at 5-3 before being forced to take a medical timeout due to treatment.
After the time limit expired, Miller was not able to answer the call and four point penalties later Mercante claimed the match.
“I just wanted to keep pounding the ball and keep it moving around,” Mercante said. “Both players had different styles, but I kept playing my game and had confidence in myself.”
Said Jent, “Michael forced two young men into medical timeouts. That’s amazing, but that is Michael Mercante tennis. He just keeps fighting and fighting.”
Michael will now play in the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro Tennessee next Thursday. From the Wildcat Nation—Congratulations and good luck at the state tournament.