Dan Harkin’s state tennis title this previous weekend got here 39 years after the final boys singles champion from Manhattan Excessive. That’s not less than a era. And but there’s one man who performed in opposition to each of these champions: Dave Hoover.
Hoover has been the strongest males’s tennis participant in Manhattan for that total time, and so he has served as a difficult opponent for the very best highschool gamers all the way in which alongside. When Michael Heart was rising up right here within the late Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties — and even when Heart was again from KU throughout breaks from faculty — he and Hoover had some titanic battles. I watched a few of them. (Full disclosure: As a young person enjoying for MHS, all the way in which up by means of every week in the past, I’ve been making an attempt to beat Hoover myself. It’s all the time an uphill battle; he can run you all around the court docket.)
The newest Manhattan man to take up the problem is Harkin, who graduated from MHS final weekend, the identical weekend he received the title by hammering a string of Johnson County opponents, the hardest within the state. He doesn’t play matches in opposition to Hoover a lot anymore, however they used to play fairly usually.
“He’s nonetheless an incredible participant,” Harkin stated of Hoover. “I undoubtedly acquired one thing out of (enjoying in opposition to him rising up.)”
Heart has comparable emotions.
“Dave Hoover is an incredible one that performed an enormous half in my tennis improvement,” Heart stated. He “was among the best gamers on the town who took the time to assist me with my recreation. I owe him lots.”
Hoover, 72, chuckles when requested if he nonetheless beats Harkin. “When he was youthful,” he stated.
“Dan is simply crushing the ball,” he stated. “His recreation is so large. His serve is best, and he’s simply acquired a killer forehand. And he can cowl a lot court docket.”
“It’s actually spectacular, what he’s completed,” Hoover stated.
He has comparable regard for Heart. “Michael was an incredible athlete,” Hoover stated.
They’ve been the highest two opponents over all these years, Hoover stated. One other man on that stage was Leo Rosenberg, who lived right here however didn’t play at MHS, and performed often with Hoover. When he was 14, Rosenberg and his accomplice Donald Younger have been ranked first on the planet in doubles. Others alongside the way in which by means of the years included Aaron O’Donnell and Gabe Nagy, guys who went deep within the state match.
Heart received the 6A title in 1982, going undefeated that season, successful the championship match over Doug Gleason of Topeka West. He went on to play at KU, the place he and his doubles accomplice Mike Wolf received the Large 8 title. He additionally received the convention at No. 2 singles. Harkin has signed to play subsequent yr at Kansas Wesleyan in Salina; the place his faculty profession will go is up within the air, and he additionally plans to compete in monitor.
Laborious to match Heart and Harkin since they performed in totally totally different eras, Hoover stated. Racket and string know-how enhancements enable individuals to hit with much more spin and energy, so techniques have modified as nicely. Heart was a serve-and-volleyer, whereas Harkin stays on the baseline and clobbers groundstrokes. It’s like evaluating John McEnroe to Rafael Nadal.
Hoover’s model hasn’t modified a lot. He hits very flat pictures, glorious volleys, an enormous kick serve, and strikes opponents all around the court docket. That also works, in any period, and offers a special problem to gamers in the present day.
“He has a special recreation for certain,” Harkin stated. “He hits it so flat.”
Tennis is exclusive within the sense that older gamers can nonetheless compete head-to-head routinely with highschool gamers. No 45-year-olds would attempt to scrimmage the basketball crew or get on the mat with wrestlers.
Hoover offers confoundingly easy recommendation, like: “Simply win the final level,” or “when the man is over there, hit it elsewhere.” Harkin recalled Hoover telling him to shorten his backswing, to simplify his strokes.
Hoover, initially from Winfield, performed at Ok-State within the Nineteen Sixties, when there was nonetheless a males’s crew. He and Randy McGrath took second within the Large 8 in doubles. Winfield was a tennis powerhouse, producing amongst others Steve Snodgrass, who went on to educate tennis at Ok-State and construct Cottonwood Racquet Membership at Hudson and Claflin roads. That facility — now referred to as Physique First — is one other widespread ingredient. Heart and Harkin each skilled there. Heart truly performed the very first match on these indoor courts.
One other commonality: They’re two-sport athletes. Heart was a starter on a powerful MHS basketball crew, and Harkin is a state champion in monitor and cross nation.
Hoover himself was a multi-sport athlete at Winfield Excessive; his son Grant and his grandson Tyce have been as nicely at MHS. Tyce began on the baseball, basketball and soccer groups, graduated a yr in the past and now performs soccer at Butler County.