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Marathon man Maxson goes out a champion

Andrew Maxson survived two marathon matches Tuesday to win the Class 6A boys state singles title at the Burns Park Tennis Complex in North Little Rock.

Maxson, a senior from Little Rock Central, finished strong on a hot and windy day. He won the final four games of the championship match to take a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Bentonville West junior Hayden Shoemake.

The championship match took 2 hours, 47 minutes to complete. Earlier that morning, Maxson outdueled Little Rock Catholic's Harrison Cook in a match that lasted 2½ hours.

"In the last four games, I was more exhausted than nervous," said Maxson, who trailed 3-2 in the third set. "I was up 5-3 in the second set too, and I think I realized [late in the third set] that there was no reason to be nervous. If I play the same way I had been playing, it would go my way."

Shoemake lost the first three games of the second set but was far from finished. He won five consecutive games -- the last four of the second set and the first game of the third set.

After trailing 3-0 in the second set, Shoemake won the next three games to re-establish a groove.

"At that point, I was starting to get my rhythm," said Shoemake, whose semifinal victory over Catholic's Jackson Davis took 90 minutes. "I was playing better, but [Maxson] was not making it easy. I had to fight for those games. Everything started to feel better. My forehand was better. I started moving better. It all just seemed to kick in."

"A lot of junior matches, I've lost in that situation," Maxson said. "With it being my last year, I just got nervous. I shouldn't be nervous because I've played in almost 1,000 matches. I'm not sure that will ever go away."

Maxson's victory allowed Central to tie Catholic for the team title. Catholic's team of Henry Nolan and Steven Weeks won the doubles title for the fourth consecutive year, topping Central's Phillip Abston and Zandy Djurica 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match.

Fayetteville cruised to the girls team title. Junior Mary Houston rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Bentonville's Lucia Canigova. The Lady Bulldogs' doubles team of Grace Coleman and Yasmine Humbert also became state champions with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Caroline Long and Brittany Matthews of Rogers. Rogers claimed the runner-up trophy.

Nolan and Weeks improved to 16-0 this season.

"It doesn't get old, but it gets more exciting," Nolan said. "It feels better every year. Actually we felt like this would be the hardest year."

"Everyone was out for us," Weeks said. "We won it three years in a row. We were the No. 1 seeds. Everyone wants to take down the top dog."

Long after Nolan and Weeks had claimed their title, Maxson and Shoemake continued to grind on a day when the wind became stronger and stronger. Both of the singles finalists admitted the wind played a factor.

"The wind can make it hard on one side and easier on the other," Shoemake said. "It's just how it's played. It's pretty stupid how it happens, but you've got to play through it."

"The wind was definitely a factor," Maxson said. "The tight moments in that second set, especially with my second serve, I was really worried about my toss. It ended up being OK. A lot of my shots weren't affected by the wind."

Andrew Maxson

Sports on 10/10/2018

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