All that blather about staying in the moment and playing one shot at a time tends to evaporate when you find yourself trailing in a tiebreaker of the high school state singles final after wasting two set points.

Just ask Isaac Salas, a senior at Waynflete who faced that predicament Monday afternoon against top seed Nick Mathieu, a sophomore from Mt. Ararat in Topsham.

The solution for Salas? Nothing like a rat-a-tat-tat battering of tennis strings against forehead to sharpen one’s focus.

“It was tough,” Salas said. “I was thinking about those (set) points and I was kind of down on myself. But then, I had to keep playing, had to keep fighting.”

The second seed prevailed, winning four of the final five points in the tiebreaker and overcoming an early deficit in the second set Monday at The Racket & Fitness Center in Portland to win the Maine Principals’ Association boys’ tennis title, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Because of rain, tournament officials moved the semifinals and finals indoors from their scheduled site at Bates College. Both Salas and Mathieu won one match Friday and two more Saturday at Colby College in Waterville before dispatching a Serbian exchange student in the semifinals Monday.


Salas beat No. 3 Luka Stevic of Lee Academy 6-3, 6-3, while Mathieu prevailed against No. 4 Teodor Antelj of Fryeburg Academy, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

In the final, both players came out swinging hard, blasting forehands from the baseline whenever given the opportunity.

“I really wanted to hit the ball big, to have big serves and big forehands and really be aggressive,” said Mathieu, the 2014 runner-up to Brendan McCarthy of Falmouth.

Each player held serve twice before Salas broke Mathieu with help from a wide forehand. Mathieu responded by converting his fourth break point to make it 3-all, but then netted a forehand to end the next game and fell behind 5-3.

With two opportunities to serve out the set, Salas failed to convert at both 5-4 and 6-5.

“If I would have lost the first set, it would have been so different,” Salas said. “He would have had more energy throughout the second and I would have had less.”


Mathieu took leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in the tiebreaker. Salas pulled even at 4, then Mathieu tied it at 5, but Salas claimed the set when a second serve from Mathieu sailed long.

“It definitely is draining to know that you worked that hard and then lost by two points in the first set,” Mathieu said. “But I tried to have the best attitude that I could.”

Mathieu broke serve to start the second set, but a moment in the second game seemed to capsulize his frustration. After Salas managed a weak stab that barely kept the ball in play, Mathieu hurried to within five feet of the left post for what appeared to be an easy kill. Instead, his angled overhead smash found only net.

“That was painful,” Mathieu said. “Not painful literally, but mentally.”

Salas jumped to a 3-1 lead, made it 5-2 with a service winner and held at love in his next service game to clinch the title, unleashing a guttural yell when Mathieu’s final forehand sailed beyond the baseline.

“It’s huge,” Salas said. “It was my goal last season, and I lost to Brendan (in the semis), so it was awesome to win it this year, in my last year.”

Salas plans to continue his career at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


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