John Talbot had some big shoes to fill when he took over the first singles slot on Marcus Whitman’s tennis team. His predecessor, Danny Wickham, was one of the area’s top players and captured a Section 5 individual championship last season.
“All the competition between me and Danny definitely prepared me for first singles,” said Talbot, who played second singles in 2012. “I was really good friends with him and we’d always talk about how matches went. He guided me and mentored me with what to expect when you’re playing first singles.”
The junior proved he was ready for the top spot in the ladder, finishing with the best record in the Finger Lakes League at 10-1. Talbot is the Daily Messenger’s 2013 Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
The son of John Talbot and Karen Button completed his fourth year on the Wildcats varsity team this spring. He also played soccer and ran track.
In the off-season, Talbot worked on his ground strokes and net play, and improved the velocity on his first serve. The junior felt his best match of the season was a win over Mynderse’s John Wilson.
In individual sectionals, Talbot finished third in Class B, to earn a split sectional patch and advance to the state qualifying tournament. He won his first match of the state qualifier against Caledonia-Mumford’s Michael Roll, 6-2, 6-2, but lost in straight sets to Webster Schroeder’s Matt Gamble, who went on to win the state qualifier.
Talbot maintained an 11-4 overall record and went 21-6 if you include tournament matches.
The young Marcus Whitman team went 9-8 overall and 8-3 in league matches. Talbot enjoyed bonding time with his teammates and coach throughout the season.
The junior came up with the expression, “Give em the beans,” which became the Wildcats’ slogan. Talbot explained that it means to “give it all you’ve got and never stop.” Wildcats coach Bryan Law said some on the team were skeptical of the slogan, but everyone eventually embraced it — and Whitman started to play better tennis after it appeared on team T-shirts.
Law said Talbot leads in a unique way with his sense of humor and positive attitude.
“He’s an awesome leader and he’s very smart,” Law said. “He has some weird quotes because he’s so unique and creative.”
College is still a year away for Talbot, but he’s thinking about majoring in philosophy and eventually attending law school. Talbot is involved with Future Educators of America, varsity club and entrepreneurship club. He also plays trumpet in the jazz and concert bands.
Talbot is excited that the team isn’t losing any starters to graduation this summer. The first singles player believes Whitman will be stronger in 2014. Law is encouraging Talbot to play as much as he can over the summer.
Page 2 of 2 - “If he does, he’s going to be ridiculously competitive — he’s going to be off the charts,” the coach said. “He wants to go 11-0 in the league. If he works hard he could get a blue patch (given to the individual sectional champion).”