BY DAVE LINK
William Blount’s John Macon and Bayler Cupp didn’t win the Class AA state doubles title in the spring, but their memories from the state tournament in Murfreesboro will last a lifetime.
Making their second straight trip to state, the recent graduates won tight quarterfinal and semifinal matches May 25, advancing to the state championship match the next morning.
Despite a three-set loss to Collierville seniors Anjay Arul and Carter Amaba in the final, Macon and Cupp left feeling satisfied with their best efforts left on the court.
“We made it to the last match that we could possibly make it to,” Cupp said, “so only positives to take away from this year and everything. I won’t let one match get to me because it was a heck of a season that we had.”
It was a remarkable season for Cupp and Macon, who repeat as the 5Star Preps Boys Co-Players of the Year.
They compiled a 60-1 record in singles and doubles; Cupp was 18-0 at No. 1 singles; Macon was 16-0 at No. 2 singles.
They were 26-0 in doubles before losing to Arul and Amaba 6-4, 0-6, 6-1 in the state final.
“It was a lot better this year than last year, that’s for sure,” Macon said. “I’ll always have good memories of that tournament now.”
Their 2022 trip to Murfreesboro went from historic to extremely disappointing.
They were juniors at William Blount and became the first tennis players to reach the state tournament in school history.
Then a rainstorm forced their state doubles quarterfinal to be moved to the indoor courts at the Adams Tennis Complex.
It was mayhem inside the facility as the TSSAA made the decision to use pro-set formats for state quarterfinal and semifinal matches that Thursday. (The rains cleared out in the afternoon).
Macon and Cupp lost their quarterfinal match 8-3 to Station Camp’s Carter Ramthun and Chase Etheredge.
Before they knew it, their experience at state was over and they were headed home.
But not this year. They were around the expansive outdoor courts at Adams Tennis Complex for the entire two days of the individual singles and doubles state play. They were two of the last players to leave.
“It felt a lot better to finally get that full experience of the state tournament,” Cupp said. “You could walk around and see everybody else when you weren’t playing, and then actually getting to play the best out of three sets instead of the match just taking like 25 minutes or something like that. To get the full effect of it was pretty cool.”
GETTING TO THE FINAL
Macon and Cupp got a rematch of sorts in this year’s state quarterfinal.
They faced Station Camp’s Etheredge again – a senior this year – and now playing with sophomore Weston Jones.
In the noon CT match, Macon and Cupp posted a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 victory for a berth in the semifinals later that afternoon.
“That first match, we’d already played them early in the year and we kind of beat them handily,” Macon said, “and it kind of looked like we were going to put them away and they just came back and started playing so much better (in the second set). We just had to lock it back down and get it done in the third set.”
Cupp said: “We had a little mishap in the middle of the second set, but we got it back on track in the third set, which is good.”
In their semifinal match, Cupp and Macon defeated Greeneville senior Brayden Kennedy and junior Jackson Weems 6-4, 6-3, for a berth in the finals the next day.
Macon said they played some of their best tennis against Kennedy and Weems.
“They were both good players,” Macon said of the Greeneville team. “One of them had a really good serve and it was really hard to break him. I really think our best match was the Greeneville match.”
Cupp thought the semifinal might go three sets.
“The semifinal match against Greeneville was tough,” Cupp said. “It almost felt like if we didn’t win it when we were serving for it definitely could’ve gone to three sets again because they were a good team. They were a lefty and a righty too, and we played really well to beat them in straight sets.”
THE FINAL: “IS HE GETTING UP?”
Cupp and Macon faced a challenge in the final against Arul and Amaba.
Arul won the 2022 state doubles championship with Tristan Kelly, and they were state runners-up in 2021.
Collierville’s seniors had a 4-2 lead in the first set with Arul serving when one of the most memorable moments of the match occurred.
One of the Collierville players hit a lob, Macon drilled an overhead, and the blazing tennis ball hit Arul – who was standing near the baseline – unintentionally where it hurt the worst.
Arul fell to the court, groaning. Fans courtside gasped. Arul, still lying on the court, was treated by trainers during a medical timeout.
“Oh my gosh,” Macon said, “I hit that ball so hard I could not believe that he. … that I don’t know if I would have got up from that.”
Cupp didn’t know if Arul would continue, either.
“John hit that ball so hard,” Cupp said. “I saw that ball hit him and I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ He was on the ground and part of me was like, ‘Is he going to get up?’ I didn’t even know. John hit that ball so hard.”
Arul recovered and won his serve for a 5-2 lead.
Cupp and Macon rallied, winning two games, but lost the first set before winning the second set without losing a game.
“We got a lot of momentum going in the last two or three games in the first set and we really just rode it the whole second set,” Macon said.
William Blount’s seniors had three break points on Arul’s serve in the first game of the third set.
But Arul held serve, and Cupp and Macon lost momentum.
“We were up 40-15 to break Anjay’s serve,” Cupp said, “and he hit a good serve, we hit a volley out that was there for us. If we get that first game of the third set, I think it’s a completely different match and I think we end up winning, honestly.
“I know that’s a lot to say, but it just gave them a lot of momentum and it kind of depleted ours a little bit knowing we had three game points in that first game, but Anjay came up with a big serve and a big forehand.”
Arul and Amaba rolled to victory in the third set, but the loss didn’t put a damper on Cupp and Macon’s senior years.
Macon will attend Tennessee in the fall and Cupp will go to Pellissippi State.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Cupp said. “I know we didn’t win that last match, but it was a great season that we had.”