SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Jon-Eric Meyer's match with Helias' Andy LeRoy in the quarterfinals of the state championship consolation bracket was, in essence, a five-part epic story, a near-marathon of tennis that resembled a heavyweight title fight.
In the first part, Meyer, a Rock Bridge senior, looked like he was playing angry yet calm and punished LeRoy with shots that had the Crusader running across the baseline, and then easily dropping the ball in front of the net. Meyer won the first set 6-1.
The second part was ushered in when Meyer suddenly cramped up and he crumpled to the court. The cramps started with his right hamstring. Soon the rest of he muscles in both legs began to cramp while a trainer was working on him. He writhed on the court in pain while trainers tended to him and he took a medical timeout. Taking advantage of his weakened opponent, LeRoy quickly went up 4-1 in the second set.
Part Three: Despite continuing cramps, which began to include his right hand, Meyer fought back LeRoy, breaking him twice and taking a 5-4 lead in the second set. Meyer yelped in pain with each shot and his run was, at times, reduced to a hobble. He often struggled to get the ball over the net and his serves arched high in the air. At one point, during a crossover, he told the crowd, "I just want to die."
The fourth part of the struggle came when LeRoy began cramping in his legs. For the next three games, the two would trade weakened shots and settle at 6-6, forcing a tiebreaker.
The conclusion to the story, the fifth part, featured Meyer up 5-2 in the first-to-seven tiebreaker. When one of Meyer's shots forced LeRoy to lunge after the shot, LeRoy collapsed on the ground in cramps. He yelled, "I'm done," as the trainer rushed on the court to tend to him. LeRoy, who had exhausted his medical timeouts, had 20 seconds to be able to put the ball in play. He couldn't.
While he lay on the court face down, he told the umpire he retired from the rest of the match. Meyer, whose right pectoral muscle was then cramping, limped over and congratulated his opponent. They both walked off the court, with Meyer planning to go to the hospital.
The victory isn't the end for Meyer. Today he continues to the consolation semifinals with a berth in the fifth-place match and a medal at stake. The top six finishers receive medals.
"I've coached high schools for 16 years and colleges for a few, and I've never seen anything like this," Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said. "This was one for the ages. It was amazing. Both players were gutty."
Meyer said quitting was never too far from his mind. "Every time he made me run for a ball, I felt like quitting after every point," he said.
Meyer's victory overshadowed the play of two of his teammates, Matt Dresner and Justin Winner, who will play in the doubles bracket consolation semifinals today. They defeated Lindbergh's Josh Nezam and Kyle Tosie 7-6 (1), 6-1 in the second round of the consolation bracket after losing in the second round of the championship bracket earlier in the day.
Meyer's cramping was probably the result of playing his third match of the day and playing five matches in two days. After playing the final two rounds of team competition on Thursday, he defeated North Kansas City's Kyle Cumberland 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 in the first round Friday.
In the second round, Meyer got off to a slow start and it was too late when he began to play more consistently. He lost to Rockhurst's Jose Guerra 6-3, 6-4 and was relegated to the consolation bracket.
Loeb said Meyer never had a chance to establish the kind of strategy he wanted.
"Hitting with his opponent from the baseline wasn't doing it (for Meyer)," he said. "I also thought giving him some low, short balls or angle shots or something to pull the guy off the baseline would work. But that's hard because the other kid makes it difficult to hit those balls and do what you want with it."
Dresner and Winner didn't have much of a problem with their first-round opponents, Farmington's Chris Singer and Patrick Singer, and rolled to a 6-4, 6-1 victory. In the second round, DeSmet's Andy Garlich and Ian Hartling bounced Dresner and Winner from the championship bracket with a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
"I think we just ran into a really good team," Winner said. "It was frustrating. We were constantly having to win our serves because we were having a really hard time trying to break our serves. It put some pressure on us the entire match."