April 27—Dylan Mather has developed both his tennis game over several years and his physical stature over the past two years.
The Owensboro High School eldest is the reigning 3rd Region men’s tennis champion, and he’s learned to develop his game now that he’s 6-foot-2. Most of Mather’s career — he’s played for OHS since he was in fourth grade — he was under 6 feet tall.
“I grew up so fast between my sophomore and junior years, I really don’t have a lot of experience with my game, big serve, big forehand and all that timing,” Mather said Monday afternoon. . “My main focus is trying to find my own game. I was really comfortable with my game when I was 5-8, but being 6-2, 6-3 it’s a lot harder to do that.”
Mather started playing in the fourth grade, before KHSAA regulations dealing with age limits for young players. He has played in the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament since fifth grade. His second season was the COVID-19 year, and tennis was shut down in early spring. Mather began training in the offseason after that year.
“He texted me and was like ‘hey coach, I’ve grown a lot, I’ve been training’ and I was like OK,” OHS coach Cody Russelburg said. “Then he showed up at the first practice of my freshman year and I was like ‘Wow’.
“He had grown four inches and lifted weights and trained. His skills were still there, he’s always been a good tennis player, and his body has caught up with him in the last couple of years, so he’s got a lot of power behind this.”
Mather played a lot of junior tennis when he was younger, but he doesn’t anymore. He is a national merit finalist and goes to the University of Alabama to study computer science.
This spring will be his last season of competitive tennis, and he wants to go further in the state tournament than he did last year as an unranked player.
Mather won two games, beating a No. 9 seed, Peter Laskey of the Highlands, 6-2, 7-6(7) in the second round. Mather was stopped in the round of 16 by Manual’s Brent Reynolds 7-5, 6-2. Reynolds was a No. 5 seed.
“I went 23-0 in the regular season, won the region, in the championship, I only lost two games and was not seeded,” Mather said. “When I was little I played in a bunch of tournaments, these kids are favored in the rankings, they have more accurate results, they play tournaments and travel. I used to do that too, but I don’t do it anymore.
“I was upset that I didn’t get seeded, then I ended up knocking out the #9 seed in my draw, a 9 seed. I thought I had one of the 5 seeds the harder. I had the point in the first set. I really think looking back I would have beaten most of the top 5 seeds, it was a close match.”
Mather thinks he should earn a seed this year at the state tournament, but if he doesn’t officially get one, he won’t let it affect his preparation.
“I basically put a seed there by name last year,” Mather said.
Motivation is certainly not an issue for Mather. He worked in practice on what he can do to improve.
“My serve, I feel like I took it for granted last year, I was fine for a few months,” Mather said. “I’m a little funky right now with the serve, but everything else is good.”