Truman boys tennis player Blake Savidge has built a reputation as one of the top players is in the Eastern Jackson County area.
However, there is still one big hurdle he wanted to climb. He wanted to make it to state in the singles tournament.
That didn’t happen for him during his third trip to sectionals in his junior campaign as he fell to Rockhurst’s Donovan Walsh 6-4, 6-1.
While Savidge fell just short of his ultimate goal, that didn’t take away from the quality season he had. It was his best one yet as he had a career-best 20-5 overall record and led Truman to a 10-4 dual mark.
Because of his efforts, Savidge is the Examiner’s 2017 Boys Tennis Player of the Year, repeating the honor from last season.
“I thought he had a great season,” Truman tennis coach Scott Lett said. “He matured a lot and played really smart. Apart from being one step away, he had a great season.”
Although he didn’t win districts, falling to Lee’s Summit’s Ethan Henry in the finals, Savidge earned a runner-up finish after defeating Blue Springs’ Blake Summers in the semifinals to clinch his third straight trip to sectionals. That round was loaded with players from state powerhouse Rockhurst, which made it a tough road to state.
Although, he just felt short of his goal, Savidge was pleased with how his season turned out.
“I think this season was still reflective of how I am as a player,” Savidge said. “It’s always good to get back to sectionals and get a chance to go to state.
“Moreso I was happy with how we improved our record as a team. We pushed even the best teams to more than we thought we could. I think we were two games under .500 last season and we were 10-4 this year. This is the best Truman has done in a long time.”
And that’s something the ultra-competitive Savidge is proud of. But he doesn’t want to stop there. The senior will have one last season to make it to state. Against Walsh, Savidge had the lead in the first set at one point, but couldn’t hold onto it. He had trouble returning the ball over the net at times, which led to a handful of points for Walsh.
“I thought about it so many times since then – How much I wanted to be back in that moment and playing the match again,” Savidge admitted. “There is only one chance to play that match every year and I have one more year to do it.”
In order to do that, Savidge said he is working hard over the offseason to improve his game by competing in some United States Tennis Association competitions.
He will have some quality singles players in his way to make it to state next season, including Henry, who earned a state berth by defeating Rockhurst’s Nicholas Hare in sectionals.
“It should be more competitive next year,” Savidge said of playing Henry, who beat him 6-2, 6-1 in the finals. “I have just really improved. It’s still going to be really tough. I’ve known Ethan for quite awhile. I traveled to tournament together a couple of times and played at the Hilltop Racquet Club.
“I saw him get a lot better really quickly. It’s been awhile since I’ve beat him. When he started, I beat him a couple of times. Then he started working and getting a lot better.”
The pair of losses that ended his season prompted Savidge to work on a particular part of his game – his serving. He said he has improved that since his sophomore season and he hopes to sharpen that skill even more going into next season.
“I switched coaches actually,” Savidge said. “I really worked on my serve and worked on my motion. That won me a lot of free points this year by serving harder.”
Added Lett: “His first serve became a lot more of a weapon, but there is a saying in tennis that you’re only as good as your second serve. If you don’t have a second serve, you’re going to get killed at the level he’s at. I thought his second serve was always there and it was reliable for him. He got bigger and added more power to it.”
He’s made the improvements. So now all that’s left for him is to make it to state, and he said he will do whatever it takes to get there.
“I’ve really been putting in the time over the summer and it’s going to get me over the hump next year,” Savidge said. “It’s really about consistency for me at this point. I just lose my head a little bit and that happened against the Rockhurst kid. I am going to keep that in the back of my head while I work over the summer and over the school year, so I can get back there and go to state.”