After four years of rifle-shot forehands and blistering serves, beating all comers en route to a quartet of state championships, Forest Lake senior Dusty Boyer finally displayed the nerves that had been suspected but rarely shown.
Of course, it didn't happen on the court, where the imperturbable Boyer dispatched another challenger to his Class 2A singles crown, beating Eden Prairie's Scott Elsass 6-4, 6-2 in the championship match.
The championship was Boyer's fourth in a row, making him the most successful player in the 84-year history of the boys' tournament. Before Boyer, only two players had won three singles titles, none since 1964.
Boyer's case of the jitters came in the walkways of the Baseline Tennis Center following his victory.
While finishing up interviews, two female acquaintances, Emma Bartels and Rachel Odmark, held up homemade letters they originally created to spell out Dusty. The girls had quickly rearranged some of the letters to spell out S-T-U-D.
Boyer looked up, smiled uneasily, then put his head down and headed to the awards ceremony, his face a deepening shade of pink.
"That's kind of embarrassing," he said.
Until that point, it was impossible to tell that Boyer had an appointment with history.
While stories about him swirled throughout the media and tennis fans packed the bleachers one hour before the match, Boyer was his usual modest self. He didn't see himself as a big deal. He was just a guy doing what he loves to do.
"It really doesn't seem that much different to me," he said after closing out Elsass, a close friend and likely roommate next year at the University of Nebraska. "It feels just like the others."
It didn't look much different, either. In his four state championship matches, Boyer has not lost a set. Opponents' styles change and approaches differ, but Boyer had always had an answer for everything thrown his way.
Experience told Elsass that he wouldn't be able to outmuscle the champ. His strategy was to keep Boyer on his toes and force him out of his comfort zone.
"I started off pretty well, too," Elsass said. "But he's Dusty, and he just started getting the ball back."
The crucial game in the match was the fifth game of the first set. With the score tied 2-2, Boyer found the range with his forehand, which had been erratic, blasting away with depth and breaking Elsass' serve to take a 3-2 lead. Each player held serve for the rest of the set, which Boyer won 6-4.
Elsass shifted strategies twice in the second set, at first taking pace off the ball and finally giving in and resorting to a power game. Neither had much of an effect. Boyer was in control the entire time and closed out his fourth state championship with a 6-2 second-set victory.
After the match, Boyer reflected on his achievement.
"You have to get a little lucky," he said. "I haven't been sick or had any serious injuries. It seems like it has gone by with a blink. I barely remember my first two years. But it's very satisfying. I'm pretty happy."
Minneapolis South's Martin Beck and Luke Elifson won their second consecutive doubles championship, beating Forest Lake's Zach Decker and Toby Boyer -- Dusty's younger brother -- 6-1, 7-5. Beck and Elifson became the first doubles team to win back-to-back titles since 1999.