STANWOOD — It was a match that had all the trappings of a state tournament match: Big crowd. Big expectations. Big forehands.
And Mitch Williamson was feeling nervous.
“Everyone was telling me good luck and there was definitely some pressure,” Williamson said about the lead-up to his
match with Stanwood’s Gergo Muller.
But the Jackson senior shrugged off some early nerves and dispatched Muller 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, handing the Stanwood singles player his first loss of the season and leading the Timberwolves to a 7-0 sweep of the Spartans.
“I think it was the first time in a long time that he had that anxious, nervousness feeling,” Jackson head coach David Hutt said of Williamson. “He was excited, but he was also like ‘What is going to happen today.'”
Williamson, the early favorite to win the Wesco singles title, and Muller, a Hungarian exchange student taking Wesco by surprise, knew very little about each other going into the match. Both were undefeated and neither really had been challenged through their first eight matches. Hutt compared the match to what players encounter at the state tournament, where they often go against opponents they know very little about.
Then there was the hype. Close to 50 people crowded around the No. 1 court at Stanwood High School, many to see the Hungarian exchange student face his first big test.
“You don’t get a crowd like that all year,” Hutt said. “You have people crowded over there by one court, looking and watching. It’s a lot of fun.
“No one comes out to watch tennis.”
Williamson, who admitted after the match that he didn’t know how to play Muller at first, lost the first two games to the big-hitting Muller, including having his service broken in the first game. But Williamson settled down, steadied his nerves and started to climb back into the match. Williamson went back to the basics and won five of the next six games and showed why he’s one of the favorites to win a state singles title.
“I was just trying to focus on keeping the ball in and when I had an opportunity to step in I’d try to hit a winner,” Williamson said.
But Muller clawed back, breaking Williamson’s serve and then holding serve to even the set at 5-5. After splitting the next two games, Williamson took over in the tiebreaker, taking the first four points en route to a 7-3 win in the tiebreaker and a first-set victory.
“I thought Mitch was defensive at first, but once he got used to (Muller’s) power, he responded really well,” Stanwood assistant coach Ron Shanander said.
Muller was his own worst enemy in the first set. A number of unforced errors and failed drop shots helped unravel his chance to take the first set.
“He tried a few silly shots; a few drop shots and they didn’t work,” Shanander said. “Mitch is way too fast for that. They didn’t get over anyway.”
Williamson kept the pressure on in the second set and won the final five games to take the set 6-2.
Hutt said he thought that Williamson’s court coverage was the key to the victory.
“Mitch did a great job with court coverage,” Hutt said. “and Gergo, I’m sure, hasn’t had guys hit some of those balls back that Mitch was getting to. All of a sudden he’s playing a guy who’s hitting those winners back.”
Shanander agreed: “Mitch returned some shots that shouldn’t have been returned.”
Jackson also got big wins from singles players Patrick Cung, Ben Mietzner and Grant Follis, but Hutt was really impressed with his doubles teams, which were an unorthodox mix because of injury and missing players.
“Being able to go out there and perform like this today really made us feel good,” Hutt said.
Shanander said he was thought Eric Saekow was impressive in the defeat to Mietzner. After losing the first set 6-2, Saekow battled in the second set before losing in a tiebreaker 7-1.
“I thought Eric played the best set of the season,” Shanander said.
At Stanwood H.S.
Singles-Mitch Williamson (J) def. Gergo Muller 7-6 (7-3), 6-2; Peter Cung (J) def. Jonathan Wolf 6-4, 6-2; Ben Mietzner (J) def. Eric Saekow 6-2, 7-6 (7-1); Grant Follis (J) def. Riley Swenson 7-5, 6-3. Doubles-James Okubo-Chan (J) def. Frank Medlicott-Sean Dolan 6-0, 6-1; Kim-Bae (J) def. Hyrum Andelin-Sand 6-4, 6-0; Haugen-George (J) def. Kram-Graham 6-4, 6-3. Records–Jackson 8-0 in league, 10-0 overall. Stanwood 6-1, 7-2.