LEXINGTON The nearly 300 minutes Ashland’s Parker Clarke spent on the tennis court Friday wore him out Saturday.
Clarke, who’ll be playing tennis at Georgetown College next year, fell to top-seeded Matt Halpin of Paul Laurence Dunbar, 6-3, 6-1, in the boys singles semifinals of the state tournament at the University of Kentucky.
“I played really well this week,” Clarke said. “Two tough, tough matches (Friday). I was on the court for almost five hours … getting ready for this one was tough.”
Friday’s matches were strength-sapping: a 5-7, 7-6, 1-0 (5) win over Covington Latin’s Kazu Watanabe in the Round of 16; and the 7-6, 7-6 squeaker over Jacks Lancaster of Greenwood.
“That’s not very normal, but Matt played a hell of a match,” Clarke said. “ … I might’ve had a little more left, but (Halpin) hit his serve really well.”
Halpin was a singles semifinalist a year ago, too. He lost to state runner-up Robby Krick (Ashland). He said there were no thoughts of comeuppance. “I didn’t think about it that way, really,” he said.
Clarke and Halpin traded service holds the first three games — Clarke moved ahead, 2-1. Then, Halpin broke Clarke’s serve and held to pull ahead, 4-1.
All day long, Halpin’s groundstrokes pinned Clarke to the baseline, which turned out to be sound strategy. Clarke often sent the ball long or netted volleys.
“I was trying to go for too much sometimes and trying to push too hard,” Clarke said.
A pivotal point gave Halpin the opening set when his lob to the right corner caught Clarke trying to go to the net.
“That wasn’t what I wanted to happen,” Clarke said. “That was a big point, and for him to be able to hit that kind of lob on that point, that’s just too good.”
Ashland coach Eddie Sizemore spotted something else.
“I think the biggest thing in the first set was this: Parker had multiple break opportunities,” Sizemore said. “ … I want to say he had four break points and I think Matt only had one, and Matt executed the one that he had. That, to me, was the difference.”
Halpin, however, thought breaking Clarke’s serve for a 2-1 lead in the second set was the pivotal point.
“(Clarke) felt a little deflated,” Sizemore said. “That was probably where (Friday) may have kicked in on him a little bit, where he realized he was tired, he wasn’t 100%.”
Added Clarke: “He just took off from there.”
Through the semifinal round, Clarke won more games against Halpin than any other opponent had in the tournament.
Halpin ultimately outlasted Trinity’s Brandon Chou, 6-7, 7-1; 1-0 (8) in the finals to capture the state title.