Central's Grear cut down by cramps in tennis final

Central's Grear cut down by cramps in tennis final


Central's Grear cut down by cramps in tennis final



Mason Grear willed himself to an improbable comeback in the Class A/AA tennis singles final, but his body couldn’t finish the job.

Ridden with leg cramps in the longest match of the TSSAA state tennis tournament’s final day, Mason, a Central Magnet senior, lost 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 to Greenbrier’s Grant Maddox in the singles championship at Old Fort Park on Friday.

“I didn’t want it to be over. So I picked up my energy and competed as hard as I could, but my body didn’t have anything left in that third set,” Grear said. “I am proud of getting there. It stinks that I didn’t win it. But my body just wasn’t with my mind today.”

Grear was the only Rutherford County player to advance to the championship round of the individual state tennis tournament. And in his third straight state tournament appearance, he also made it further than any in Central’s brief three-year history of varsity tennis.

Maddox, a Tennessee State signee, claimed Greenbrier’s first ever tennis state title and the seventh state championship in any sport for the school.

Early on, it looked to be a quick runaway final, as Maddox raced through the first set for a 6-1 decision.

But the match took on a dramatic turn after multiple warnings from the official on numerous rulings, code violations called on both players, Grear’s comeback and finally the leg cramps that helped decide the outcome.

Usually stoic on the court, Grear challenged some out-of-bounds calls by the ref in the first set. And then when he fell behind 3-0 in the second set, he frustratingly smashed the ball over the fence and into the adjacent courts, which drew a one-point code violation.

“Once I launched that ball for that code violation, that’s when my energy picked up and I smiled at my coach and said, ‘I’m ready to play now,'” Grear said. “Then the momentum definitely changed when it was 3-all and then 4-3 because he had that lead and he saw the finish line.”

Grear took his first lead of the match with back-to-back aces that ultimately put him ahead 5-4. He won the second set 7-5 and shouted “Come on!” toward the net, which drew a warning from the head of officials because his yell was made in the direction of his opponent.

“Just being in the state final and in that atmosphere with a lot of fans from Central coming here, that got me energetic and emotional,” Grear said.

After the five-minute break between the second and third sets, Maddox was first warned and then penalized two points for being tardy in returning to the court.

“It felt like you got a code (violation) for breathing around here,” Maddox said. “It was ridiculous.”

Grear took the first game of the third set, but then succumbed to cramps in his calves and quadriceps. He dropped to the ground in pain and took a medical timeout. The cramps never subsided, and the fleet-footed Maddox pounced on the opportunity to attack his opponent’s obvious weakness.

“Morally right or not, when you see somebody cramping, you make them run,” Maddox said. “I just wanted to play soft and hit angles so I knew he would have to run and hit a sloppy shot because of his cramps. In the last three games I had cramps too, but I didn’t want to show it.

“But after I went up 2-1, I knew I had the match. That’s when the medical timeouts and the stalling started.”

Grear tried to rehydrate and stretch his calves between points, but he was constantly warned by the official for testing the 20-second time limit allowed between points. Despite barely being able to walk to the baseline to serve, he opted not to pull out of his final high school match.

“It was awful, some of the worst (cramps) I’ve ever had. It felt like it was going to come right out of my leg,” said Grear, who will play collegiately at UT-Chattanooga. “It hurt so bad. It was really frustrating. I wish I had more time because when I was laying down and tried to get back up, I started cramping again. It was super frustrating.

“But I am a competitor, and I was not about to withdraw in the final match. It was kind of sad that I couldn’t really compete in my last high school match at the end, but he deserved it. He’s a good player.”


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