Wall boys tennis coach Christopher Doyle and Shane Jeffray, the Crimson Knights’ first-singles player, have a special relationship.
The two became friends when Jeffray was 9-years-old. He discovered the sport at his family’s home near Orchard Park, where Doyle provided lessons in the Wall Township Recreation Department.
“I live a block from the park,” Jeffray said. “Jake Evans (a teammate) and I went to the park to play. I got to really like coach Doyle and tennis. Every summer, we came to his camp and played each day.”
“Shane and Jake heard the commotion in the park,” Doyle said. “I am very loud when I run my camp. They’d be out there at 8:30 at night playing with each other. When camp ended at noon, they would ask me to hit with them and I did. If either Shane or Jake were missing, the other would hit the ball against a wall.
“It did not take Shane long to figure things out. He was real coachable. I could tell he was athletic. His swing was pretty natural. He made good contact and made good adjustments.”
Jeffray, now 18, did not waste time growing to love the sport.
“I liked it right away,” he said. “I just had a real good time playing it. I like the individual aspect of it. You do your own thing each day. Tennis is a stress reliever. It’s fun. Everything about it is fun. I am friends with everyone I play tennis with.”
Jeffray, who plans to win his fourth varsity letter this year, is one of the top players in the Shore Conference. This year, he won 13 of his first 15 matches — all at first singles. He prevailed in 51 of his first 66 matches — all at No. 1 singles — in his career.
He got the measure of his opponents in 66 of his first 85 career matches. That stretch includes a 15-4 record as a freshman at first doubles with partner Brad Notaro, who has graduated. Not surprisingly, Jeffray credited Doyle for a large part of his development.
“He taught me how to play,” Jeffray said. “At this point, he tells me what I am doing wrong and how to fix it. He knows when I don’t want to be talked to. He always calms me down. He is mellow and straight to the point. He is definitely a huge influence in my life. His door is always open if I ever need anything. I am pretty close with him.”
Jeffray ascended to first singles as a sophomore.
“It was a nervous year as I had no experience there,” he said. “This year, there is no pressure on me at all. I just go out there and play my game. I feel I belong in my sport — that I am there for a reason. I enjoy playing first singles. I like its superiority. I like being respected. I like being looked up to.”
Jeffray is a well-conditioned player. He also practices his sport at The Atlantic Club and works out at Retro Fitness in South Wall. An avid cross trainer year round, he pumps iron and runs to keep himself in shape.
The regimen has helped Jeffray improve his game in several areas since last season.
“I am a lot more consistent,” the 6-foot, 150-pounder said. “My power and speed have increased. I am keeping the ball in play a lot more. I am hitting it deeper. I am not missing as many shots as I used to miss.”
Jeffray said he gained 10 pounds during the winter.
“I am hitting the ball much harder,” he said. “I am quicker on my feet.”
Doyle said Jeffray attacks opponents with a diversified arsenal.
“Oh man,” Doyle said. “He has so many weapons. It’s hard to pinpoint one. His court awarness and court sense are unmatched by most of his peers. He knows how to put a point together. He knows where his opponent is standing.”
Jeffray has improved his discipline since his junior year.
“In the big matches last year, he felt the need to go big in a lot of points,” Doyle said. “He made a lot of errors and was out of his matches early. This year, he has learned to rally and be patient. He grinds out a lot of points and waits for the proper opportunity to try to take control of the point. He’s not forcing the issue. He has done a great job this year.”
The winner of a varsity letter in bowling as a freshman, Jeffray is adept at serving.
“He hits a lot of different serves,” Doyle said. “He will crush a flat serve with a lot of pace. He will put a lot of spin on his serves. He will use a kick serve if he wants to get to the net. He will also use the serve and volley game.”
Turns out Jeffray displayed baseball ability before focusing on tennis.
“Shane was a real strong baseball player before he decided to play tennis,” Doyle said. “He works relentlessly at his game. He wants to make a good forehand better by hitting for two hours. Most kids just want to play in their matches, but he works to get better. I have been in the sport for 23 years and I don’t know if I have seen a player with as much intelligence and court sense as Shane.”
Doyle appointed Jeffray the Crimson Knights’ captain for his junior and senior seasons. Look for Doyle to cry a Shark River when Jeffray graduates in June.
“Sadly,” Doyle said, “this is the last year for him. He’s an excellent student (an honors student and an aspiring accountant). He’s a good role model and a hard worker–the whole package.”
Jeffray hopes to leave positive memories behind.
“I just want to be remembered as one of the best,” he said. “Tennis taught me to be a competitive person, but to still be a good sport.”