By winning two matches on Saturday, Skowhegan’s Devin Lachapelle earned a spot in the Round of 48 boys state singles tennis tournament. Lachapelle is a senior, so it’s a natural question to ask whether he plans on playing tennis in college.
“If I had known I was going to do this well, maybe,” Lachapelle said, laughing. “But I mean, I did so poorly last year.”
Lachapelle played No. 1 singles for Skowhegan last year, and won just once in 11 matches. He was determined to change that and worked with local tennis guru Jim Began and new Skowhegan coach Dave Martin to redefine his game.
“I worked a lot over the fall and summer — working on my backhand, especially — trying to get extra topspin and stuff,” Lachapelle said. “Jim Begin, he helped me a lot this summer. I went to some scrambles with him. He taught me a lot. Mr. Martin helped me out a lot, too.”
The biggest change was forcing Lachapelle’s opponents to react to him, instead of the other way around. Lachapelle seemingly faced nothing but seniors at first singles last season. He doesn’t dispute the notion that he was predominantly a backboard.
“A lot of slicing, a lot of just kind of getting the ball back,” Lachapelle said. “Waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. That didn’t always work too well.”
“He’s more aggressive now,” Martin said. “He used to push the ball all the time, but now, he’ll go for winners. And his serve’s better. He worked with Jim Begin on coming to the net and being more aggressive, and not backing up to hit the ball. He’s done that much better this year.”
To reach the Round of 48, Lachapelle defeated Morse’s Stephen Tapia, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Martin said Lachapelle’s mental stamina is a key: He doesn’t let down or get flustered, no matter how long the match goes.
“He’s never in a hurry, so he’s never really tired,” Martin said. “And even if he was, you wouldn’t know. When he’s upset, you don’t know. When he’s winning a match is no different that when he’s losing a match. He’s really bright. He’s able to think his way through a match, so he doesn’t get real flustered about anything.”
Lachapelle also has the mental makeup to be a strong thinker on the court. He’s one of the top students in his class and plans to study biological engineering at the University of Maine.
“I just watch for the opponent, see if he has some sort of weak area,” Lachapelle said. “If I can exploit it, I just go after that over and over. If he starts to fix that, I try to switch somewhere else. I’ve just always tried to pay attention and see what the other guy’s doing, and that’s helped me a lot.”
Lachapelle, who is 6-3 this season after Saturday’s qualifying round, said his only goal at the boys singles tournament is to reach the round of 32.
“To be honest, I was just excited to make it this far,” Lachapelle said. “Not even the Round of 48, but make it to the sets. Last year, I didn’t even make it to that, so I was super-excited to make it this year.”
While Martin believes Lachapelle could be a solid Division III player, Maine doesn’t have a men’s tennis team. But after putting in the work to become competitive, Lachapelle won’t completely give up the sport.
“I’ll play club tennis,” Lachapelle said. “There are some other guys I know that play on different teams that are going up there. I’ll hit around with them. Maybe we’ll play some other school’s club. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”