COLUMBIA — The sun was going down at the courts outside the Green Tennis Center when Missouri freshman tennis player Maureen Modesto was in the middle of her third set with Kansas State’s Natasha Viera. All eyes were on the Tigers’ No. 5 singles player, as her individual match was the last in the teams’ match that had lasted over six hours. At this point, the match had already been decided in Kansas State’s favor.
But Modesto didn’t give up. She and Viera went to work for every point, grunting it out and usually hitting over 20 balls per point. After many changes in the lead during the set, she took Viera to a tiebreaker. Both players were exhausted and Modesto said she knew it was a matter of who could hang in there the longest. She ended up falling short, losing the tiebreaker 7-5, in a singles match that lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The loss at No. 5 seemed to summarize the day for the tigers: a really long match with an abundance of missed opportunities. The Tigers won the doubles point and took four of the six singles matches to third sets,
“If just one of them had won a third set, just one of them,” head coach Blake Starkey said as he sat in frustration, watching Modesto play out a match that would have no bearing on the overall match’s outcome.
While Modesto knew the Tigers had already lost, she never once let anything other than fatigue affect her play.
“I go out there with the mentality that I want to get a point for the team, even if we lost,” she said.
After further reflection, Starkey said that most of those matches should have not been three sets long.
“We shouldn’t have been in third sets,” he said. The reason we were in third sets is because we had to come back and win two because we were tense in the first set.”
Every Tiger whose singles match went to three sets had lost the first set, rebounded in the second, and lost the third. They recognized that it takes a specific mentality to win a come back in those situations.
“I just try and focus on each point and worry about that, otherwise you can get way too caught up in the score and that can make you play worse, make you put more pressure on yourself,” said senior Chrissy Svetlic, who lost to K-State’s Katka Kudlackova in three sets 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2.
Svetlic was at her best when she got angry with herself and let her emotions out, something Starkey said more of his players need to do if they are to start winning third sets.
“I think they’ve just got to get mad, just come out with something lit up in them,” Starkey said.
The Tigers have a day off Saturday, a chance to find that mentality before the border showdown with No. 55 Kansas on Sunday afternoon.