LEWISTON, Maine — If not for an assist by Aerosmith, Bob Tom Flynn might well have had to be content with advancing just one round further than he did last year in the State Singles Championships tennis tournament.
The junior from John Bapst of Bangor shook off an opening-set 7-6 loss (7-5 in the tiebreaker) to fourth seed Tyler Adams from Bonny Eagle of West Buxton, regrouped with both a mental and tactical adjustment, and won the next two sets 6-2 and 6-0 Saturday afternoon at Bates College.
His impressive rally sets up a showdown with the entire singles team from fellow private school Waynflete of Portland, which placed all three singles players — top seed Brandon Thompson, No. 2 seed Patrick Ordway, and No. 3 seed Devin Van Dyke — in today’s morning semifinals.
All four players will join girls semifinalists Analise Kump (No. 1 seed) and Annie Criscione (No. 3) of Falmouth, Elena Mandzhukova (No. 2) of Brunswick, and Emilie Cloutier (No. 4) of Lewiston and return to Bates’ tennis complex for today’s semifinal and championship matches.
Action begins at 9:30 a.m. as Flynn takes on Thompson, Van Dyke duels Ordway, Kump plays Cloutier and Criscione battles Mandzhukova.
The fifth-seeded Flynn is not only the only non-Waynflete player in the semis, he’s also the only player seeded lower than No. 4 remaining in either the boys or girls tourney. Who knew Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry had game on the tennis court?
“It’s difficult if you’re just thinking about it in your head, changing your entire game and strategy, it’s difficult,” Flynn said about his midmatch adjustment of going from aggressive play to patient, baseline-to-baseline returns. “But if you just go out there and just hit the ball, don’t think about it, and think of a song or something in your head, it’s fine.”
The most visible front men from rock-and-roll super group Aerosmith were nowhere near Bates College’s courts Saturday, but they affected play nonetheless.
“I was playing Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ in my head and that helped,” he said with a hearty chuckle.
While Flynn’s mental game was improving, Adams’ was deteriorating, especially after Flynn broke Adams’ serve in the first game of the second set.
“I couldn’t even move one of my legs for awhile, but I didn’t want to show any pain,” Flynn said. “Once I started hearing him yell his name out loud and getting angry… I was cramping up, but that invigorated me.
“If I had lost that first game, it probably would have gone downhill for me. I needed that one. It went deuce six or seven times before I won it.”
From then on, Flynn did exactly what John Bapst coach Gene Matthews suggested during the break between the first and second set: Get it back, hit it deep, play deliberately and patiently, and wear him down.
“The power wasn’t doing any good. I told him to back off on his serve and get more spin because Adams was blocking the ball back and getting it in play,” Matthews explained. “And on his returns, I told him to just get the ball back in play instead of going for winners and it seemed to make a huge difference.
“His mental game has improved a lot since last year, but today it was really big. To lose that first set like that and come all the way back is huge.”
Flynn won his first two matches 6-0, 6-4 over Lewiston’s Eric Hall and 6-3, 6-0 over Adam Levesque from Mount Ararat of Topsham.
And if you’re wondering about the name Bob Tom, Flynn wants you to know he’s not from the deep south. There’s a story behind it:
“My dad is Thomas Flynn and my actual name is Thomas Everett Flynn Jr.,” he explained. “My sister when I was like 5 or 6 years old and in first grade tried to call me ‘Baby Tom’ but it kept coming out ‘Booby Tom,’ so my entire first grade class called me ‘Booby Tom.’ My mom found out about it and said ‘Well, let’s go with ‘Bob Tom’ instead and everybody started calling me that from then on.”
In the girls’ tournament, nobody from Eastern Maine cracked the top four, but Caribou juniors Jenna Selander and Laura Collins improved on last year’s effort and both reached the Round of 16.
“I made it to the Round of 16 last year, so I was really happy to get into the final eight, and Laura getting into the Round of 16 was big, too,” Selander said. “We push each other a lot in practice.”
Selander said advancing another round and playing someone like Kump, despite losing 6-4, 6-4, will help her both in team and singles play.
“She had a lot of stamina and she did line shots really well, moving back and forth. She was also really good at the net, so it’s tough to get games off all-around, really good players like that,” Selander said. “Moving her around as much as I could and getting my first serves in was pretty much the best I could do against her.
“It’s great to play players like that because it forces you to learn to do other things well to compete with them.”
Eighth-seeded Selander knocked off Sarah Jordan from North Yarmouth Academy 6-2, 6-4 and No. 9 seed Hannah Potter of Yarmouth 6-2, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinal round. Collins beat Blaire Burney from Cony of Augusta 6-4, 6-2 before losing to Mandzhukova 6-1, 6-1.