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Boys Tennis: Toivonen falls in three-set thriller

Red Wing's Isaac Toivonen fires off a forehand during his Class 2A state singles quarterfinals match against Hopkins' Manfred Barrios at the Baseline Tennis Center Thursday in Minneapolis. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

MINNEAPOLIS – Isaac Toivonen was not going down quietly.

After dropping the first set in the Class 2A state tennis singles quarterfinals to Hopkins’ Manfred Barrios, the Red Wing senior went on to win the second set to tie the match. Even after falling behind 2-0 in the decisive third set, Toivonen won a pair of consecutive deuces to tie the match, eventually going up 4-3.

But Barrios, the tournament’s No. 3 seed and the sixth-ranked player in the state, won the next three games to knock Toivonen out of the tournament with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory Thursday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center.

“I just wish I could have won the close ones,” Toivonen said afterwards. “I don’t like to say, ‘What if’ after (a match). I don’t think I could have played much better.”

Wingers head coach Matt Kavanagh shared in that mindset.

“I’m not sure if he could have played better. You got to consider the caliber of player he’s up against and you can only play as well as your opponent sometimes,” Kavanagh said. “To see a good, hard-fought three-setter out there was excellent considering all the blowouts in the first and second rounds. I thought it would be a close one like it was.”

Earlier in the day, Toivonen won his first-round match with Mankato East’s Dominic Cannella 6-1, 6-2.

Early on in the quarterfinals, Toivonen and Barrios duked it out in long sets, with Toivonen winning a pair of games in deuces to tie the first set 2-2. But with a ferocious serve and an equally impressive forehand, Barrios ran away with the rest of the set on the way to an early lead.

“He hits the ball really hard. Any ball that I hit to his forehand he was going to hit as hard as he could, whether it went in or not,” Toivonen said.

But as the match wore on and the players, and the ball, were getting worn down, Toivonen took advantage, going up 4-1 in the second set.

“He does better with a new ball because he’s able to hit the ball harder that way,” Toivonen said. “When it got a little bit flatter, it did help me out.”

As the two battled on the baseline, Toivonen took charge when he was serving, winning five of his six second-set games when he started things off.

“As good as (Barrios) was in his first match, he’s not used to returning that serve, and that’s what kept Isaac alive in the match,” Kavanagh said.

He continued, “They were just duking it out on the baseline, just hitting three-quarter base with each other, and Isaac managed to win most of those rallies. In the first set, he was just losing those tight 30-to-30 and 30-to-40 points. He just reversed that in the second set.”

In the final set, Toivonen and Barrios played to deuce five times, with Toivonen winning three times. Down 40-love with Barrios playing for match point, Toivonen battled back and brought the match to deuce once again. This time, Barrios finished off the match and will move onto the semifinals against top-ranked Toby Boyer of Forest Lake.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t keep the match going longer because Manfred was very fatigued,” Kavanagh said. “The longer the match was going on, the more it was swinging in Isaac’s favor. It wasn’t much to swing them. I think if you split up points won and lost, it would be right down the middle.”

Toivonen added, “He hit more balls at the end, so he deserved to win.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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