Tennessee High's Matt Henson returns a shot from Sullivan South's Jimmy Nuckolls in the boys District 1-AAA tennis final on Friday at Dobyns-Bennett. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
KINGSPORT — From start to finish, the District 1-AAA boys tennis singles final at Dobyns-Bennett took 22 hours and 50 minutes, ending the rain-plagued tournament, which started Monday and was supposed to be done on Tuesday.
The merciful end to the tournament came on Friday when Tennessee High’s Matt Henson rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Sullivan South’s Jimmy Nuckolls.
By virtue of making the final match, both players qualified for Monday’s Region 1 tournament at the Liberty Bell Tennis Complex in Johnson City.
Henson and Nuckolls started their marathon on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. After just 40 minutes of play the skies opened up and the courts were soaked by a rain shower.
At that point in the match, Nuckolls trailed 3-4 but was up 40-30 in the eighth game.
Play was set to continue at 5:30, but conditions had not improved so the match was postponed until 1 p.m. Friday.
The match resumed on a sour note when both players could not agree on the correct score at the time play was suspended on Thursday. A coin flip settled the issue in Nuckolls’ favor at 40-30.
Nuckolls won the first point Friday and evened the match at four games apiece. Filled with emotion, the South senior went on the win the next two games and take the opening set 6-4.
“There was a lot of emotion early on,” Nuckolls said. “And things were really going my way.”
Playing some brilliant strokes, Nuckolls broke Henson in the first game of the second set to take an early 1-0 lead.
Henson, a sophomore, broke right back and then held serve to go up 2-1.
Nuckolls again answered to even the match at 2-2.
But, like turning off a faucet, Nuckolls’ emotion seemed to dissipate and suddenly Henson got the upper hand.
From that point, Henson won the final 10 games of the match and claimed the District 1 singles title.
“I was a little tight when we were at 2-2 in the second set,” Henson said. “Jimmy’s a great player so I had to keep my cool and just fight through it.”
Brimming with confidence, Henson was more than Nuckolls could handle.
“When he broke me in the second set to go up 4-2 I lost all confidence in my stroke,” said Nuckolls. “He started playing really well, and I got nervous and lost my head.”
All told, Henson broke Nuckolls eight times in the match. That proved to be the tale of the tape.