Ever since Blake Savidge played for the Truman varsity tennis team as a freshman four years ago, his ultimate goal was to make the state singles tournament.
In his first three years, he made the sectional round but would fall just short of reaching that goal. This year, his senior season, was his last chance.
Once again, Savidge won a district title and made the sectional round and went up against Lee’s Summit West’s Hogan Stoker. It was a match that the senior and head coach Scott Lett would never forget.
It was the most physically taxing match of his career, a three-hour marathon that pushed him to his limit. Late in the match, the pain and cramps started to set in on the Truman senior. The pain was so bad that his hand clenched the handle of his racket, and he couldn’t let go at times. Sometimes, Savidge would have to sit down and bury his head in his towel in between games to try and block out the pain.
After winning a point, Savidge leaped in the air and pumped his fists and then would go back to cramping up.
It was a match that Lett called the best he’s ever seen. But unfortunately for Savidge, it was his last. Savidge fell to Stoker 3-6, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7 tiebreaker), concluding a career that ended up being one of the best in the history of the Truman tennis program.
“That was a tough match for me,” Savidge said. “I sat on the bench at the end of the match and I was so emotional because you imagine that moment where you realize, ‘Wow! It’s over.’ It was hard to get through the third set physically and emotionally. It was extremely hot and it was a three-hour match. My fist kept closing on my racket. I couldn’t open it. I haven’t played anything like that all year.”
Lett was in awe of Savidge’s effort.
“In terms of the outcome, that was brutally tough,” Lett said. “If you are to go out, that’s the way you want go out.”
After his match, Savidge was surrounded by some teammates, coaches, family and friends. Although it was not the outcome he was hoping for, it still capped off a tremendous season in which he finished 19-5. For the third straight year, Savidge is The Examiner Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
“I thought there couldn’t be a better way to go out at this point,” Savidge said of his sectional match. “It was bittersweet. It’s weird to say, but I really enjoyed that moment in some way.”
After the match, Stoker lobbed praise toward Savidge and offered to be his doubles partner outside the high school season.
“That blew me away honestly,” Savidge said. “If I were to lose to anyone, I would want it to be him.”
Now that Savidge is a Truman graduate, Lett will try to figure out how to fill the void left by his No. 1 tennis player and captain in addition to the loss of six other seniors.
“He did everything he could in practice to have a successful season,” Lett said. “Blake is extremely competitive, but he leads in a way that’s not abrasive. In the William Chrisman match and the district match against Lee’s Summit, the other guys fed off him.”
So, now that his tennis career is over, what does the future hold for Savidge?
Well, he has many other talents in addition to tennis, including singing. He will sing for the Truman State University choir.
He was a standout singer at Truman and often received superior ratings at high school competitions. He also performed in some musicals, including “Guys and Dolls” and “Oklahoma.”
“I got to go to the all-state (vocal music) convention, it was amazing,” said Savidge, who specializes in classical music.
Ironically, on road trips with his tennis team, Savidge sang the least out of all of his teammates.
“We had a love for music in our practices that was evident,” he said. “Even if we lost, we were singing on the way home. They got way more into it than I did.”
But there will be more singing to come in college for the Truman grad.
“Singing is important to me.” Savidge said. “It’s not as physically draining as tennis and I don’t have to devote as much time to it. I am looking forward to singing in college.”