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Cool hand Luke: Negaunee’s Luke reflects on tennis career

Negaunee's Will Luke returns a serve during the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA Division 1 Upper Peninsula Finals in high school boys tennis on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at Negaunee High School. Luke won the match to finish his season undefeated. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

NEGAUNEE — During the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 boys tennis finals on June 2, players from the six competing schools duked it out long into the evening for the right to call themselves champions.

While all that was going on, Negaunee’s Will Luke was shooting the breeze with some family members and friends at the Miners’ courts.

You see, Luke’s No. 1 singles match ended shortly after play resumed at 6 p.m., and just like he did all season, he didn’t lose a set on his way to a 6-0, 6-0 win in the championship match.

The most impressive thing about that match is that Luke managed to not get shaken by two lengthy rain delays, and when asked about it he said he remained in the “zone.”

“I started off really strong,” he said. “I won the first set 6-0 and I was up 1-0 and it started raining. I was like ‘Argh’ because I was really rolling. I went home and kind of just relaxed and came back.

“As soon as I stepped on the court, I was right in the same mindset. Just kept plugging away and I ended up winning 6-0, 6-0. I re-entered the zone and I was just going.”

Watching Luke make quick work of his opponents is impressive to watch as many of them fall behind quickly and never manage to recover. Luke says the best part of his game starts with his first serve.

“My first serve, if I can get it in, it can be pretty dominant because even if the kid hits it back, it’s always a pretty short return,” he said. “So then I can go up and hammer a forehand or something, which also my forehand is also a stronger part of my game. And I’d also say just being able to be quick and get around, avoid hitting my backhand and just getting to my stronger shots like my forehand and shots like that.”

Luke also kept up a family tradition as he followed in the footsteps of his brother Ben, who also won a U.P. title for the Miners.

His interest in the sport blossomed at a young age.

“So my older brother played tennis back in the day and I just remember going to tennis camp in like fourth or fifth grade and it was just always a good time going to tennis camps,” he said. “I just played a little bit throughout the summers back then and high school came around, I joined the tennis team. Ever since then, I’ve just been playing and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Luke’s success shouldn’t be too surprising as he also played for the Negaunee football team last fall, helping them win a district title, then suited up for the basketball team in the winter.

In tennis, he also has won two previous U.P. titles at No. 2 singles in 2019 and No. 4 in 2018 and had an excellent chance of winning a third championship if the 2020 season hadn’t been canceled due to COVID-19.

“I’m definitely going to remember winning U.P.’s my freshman and sophomore year and just all the fun times that I had with all the upperclassmen and all the people and just all the memories you really make on stuff like bus rides and tennis practice and the all-day meets and stuff like that, really,” he said.

Luke’s career as a varsity tennis player has come to an end as he plans on just playing intramurals at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, but he definitely has left a legacy at Negaunee, according to head coach Kyle Saari.

“I can’t say enough good things about Will Luke,” Saari said. “If you could have a leader in any individual sport, that’s the type of kid that you’d want at the top of your lineup.

“He prepares the right way, he plays the right way and he’s just a high character kid, too. We believe that it’s a school record with not dropping a single set at No. 1 singles all year long and it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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