Murphy wins second straight Metro crown
In a well-versed matchup between two great competitors that's spanned several chapters and pivoted through plenty of plot twists, the devil is in the details.
Jesuit sophomore state champion Peter Murphy and Westview senior star Luke Lemaitre have squared off against each other so many times they could probably recite each other's favorite Gatorade flavors and memorize one another's playing quirks.
Saturday's Metro League singles' district championship at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation Center was the rivals' seventh in the last two years and fifth as high school players. Most of their matches have stretched to three sets. So familiarized with one another's style, the outcome, Murphy said came down to patience.
With long volleys and extended points aplenty, Murphy leaned into his hard-earned stamina and new-found experience, winning his second straight Metro title over Lemaitre, 6-2, 6-2.
"It's been a lot of tennis for the both of us and we both know each other's games so well that just a slight edge will make the difference," Murphy said. "I stuck with solid patterns and stayed smart on the court. I didn't want any lapses in intensity or focus. That really makes a difference."
For once, Murphy and Lemaitre weren't the last Metro players off the title court. That distinction went the Binder sisters of Beaverton and Yu twins of Sunset who battled the heat and sweated through a three-set grind. But that by no means equates to a less entertaining match between Murphy and Lemaitre. Naturally, spectators' eyes gravitated toward the two soloists striking forehands and backhands back-and-forth, spraying shots at the net, clipping bunnies into uncovered areas of the court. The rallies were intriguing, lasting 10-to-15 balls at least, and the powerful put aways were dazzling.
"I try to put on a good show if I can," Murphy said with a smile. "Obviously that's the first thing you're thinking about, but those long points are definitely tough. It's hard physically and mentally go into a match knowing it could last three hours. But you have to stay with it and believe in yourself that you can win. It comes down to being OK with being that uncomfortable and feeling that tired."
There were a few points that could've shifted the momentum and made the final closer to their marathons matches of yesteryear, but Murphy was able to snatch those away from his Wildcat counterpart. Murphy, who beat Lemaitre in the state title match as a freshman last year, said he's more physically mature than he was a season ago and more in tune with who he's facing on the court. Murphy is in a weight training class at Jesuit and plays at a University of Portland tennis academy, where sprints and core work are emphasized. Both of which have helped him improve what's already a sensational set of skills.
"As a sophomore with a little more experience you feel like you should be here," Murphy said. "I'm a little bigger and stronger just from getting older and growing. The game is evolving and becoming more physically demanding, especially playing Luke. Mentally I know different players and game styles and can execute better."
Once again, Murphy and Lemaitre are the state tournament's top-two seeds, on one final collision course toward the state final. It would be the eighth and most likely final head-to-head bout between two players who have pushed each other to the brink.
"I want to go in confident, but not cocky," Murphy said. "I have to stay calm and just do my thing, not trying to impress anybody or prove anything. I'm just going to play tennis and if it goes my way, then that's great."