Tennis star unfazed by his shot at history

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2012 - 6:28 PM

Forest Lake's Dusty Boyer has little ego, a blazing forehand and a good shot at a first: winning four state titles.

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Forest Lake senior Dusty Boyer graduated early to concentrate on the tennis state tournament. He has a good chance of becoming the first four-time singles champion in boys’ tournament history.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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Without a worry, Dusty Boyer moved around the tennis court before a recent match, adjusting his hat, loping after loose balls, unconcerned that he's on the verge of making Minnesota high school tennis history.

The Forest Lake senior already is one of just three boys' tennis players in state history to have won three singles championships.

If he wins one more -- and the odds are good that he will -- Boyer will stand alone as the only four-time boys' champion in the tournament's 84-year run.

"It would be sweet to win again, because no one has ever done it," Boyer said. "But I really don't think about it too much unless someone brings it up."

Until Boyer, the idea has never come up. The last player to win three titles, Chuck Darley of Rochester, completed his run in 1964, or nine U.S. presidents ago.

"Winning four in a row? That's crazy," said KFAN-FM radio personality Justin Gaard, who won back-to-back Class 2A singles championships while at Edina in 2000 and 2001. "I remember the pressure I felt in my second year and how hard it was to deal with that every day. But four in a row? Wow."

Boyer fits the talent profile of a champion. He's blessed with extraordinary hand-eye coordination and a blazing forehand. He's gifted athletically, as evidenced by his earning a regular spot on Forest Lake's basketball team last winter despite not having played since eighth grade. Tennis has earned him a full ride to play at Nebraska next year.

Yet dozens of past champions with similar traits have not come close to doing what Boyer is likely to do.

What sets Boyer apart is his extraordinarily calm, confident demeanor, far more surfer dude than high-strung tennis ego. It's the same laid-back approach he takes when playing on his Xbox at home.

"I don't really get too nervous," he said. "If things start to go wrong, I just slow the match down and try to focus a little bit more."

Barring a seismic shift in the boys' tennis landscape, the path to No. 4 could be Boyer's smoothest yet.

Gone are rivals Edina's Erik Nordahl, who no longer plays high school tennis, and Mounds View's Wyatt McCoy, who graduated. Both were talented enough to take Boyer's best shots and return a few of their own.

The two highest-ranked challengers, Eden Prairie's Scott Elsass and Rochester Mayo's Thomas Nath, have struggled because of injuries for much of the season. Boyer has never lost to either of them. Rarely has there been such a big a line of demarcation between the best and all the rest.

"It's Dusty's to lose," said Forest Lake coach Greg Patchin. "I'm biased, but I think he's the best true high school player I've ever seen."

Nearly devoid of ego, Boyer admits that he's occasionally taken aback when confronted by his growing reputation.

"I went to a Gophers mens' tennis match and there were some high school boys sitting next to my mom," said a bemused Boyer. "I heard them saying things like 'Oh my God, that's Dusty Boyer.' I just had to laugh."

Boyer's laissez-faire style sits well with his opponents, too. He is 16-0 on the season and has not lost a set. He routs opponents but leaves their dignity intact. He has been known to drop a game or two while working on a particular skill.

"I went in thinking I had nothing to lose and I was going to do my best, but Dusty is so tough. He has no weaknesses," said Chisago Lakes sophomore Joe Turnquist, a longtime friend of Boyer's who lost to him 6-1, 6-0 last week. "I hope he does win four in a row. It would be pretty cool to say I lost to the best player ever."

Boyer knows history is his for the making. The thing is, he's not sure how much he cares about how he's remembered. He's just immersed in a life he enjoys.

"Tennis is basically everything to me," Boyer said. "I'm getting college paid for because of it, and I've made all of my best friends because of it.

"Does it matter being the best player ever? Not really. It would be kind of cool, but it's not a big deal. It might matter 30 years from now, but I don't know. For some others, it might matter a little bit more."

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