ROCHESTER HILLS — Sometimes it’s unfair to ask a coach where a particular player ranks in the program history of a sport, mainly because that particular coach simply hasn’t been around the school long enough or record books aren’t up to date.
But the question of where senior Clayton Anderson ranks in program history certainly can be a fair one to Rochester High School tennis coach Jerry Murphy.
This fall marks Murphy’s 52nd year coaching tennis at Rochester, so if there is any historical perspective that resonates more than others, it’s his.
Given that, his word is as good as anybody’s as to whether Anderson is the all-time best to play for the school’s boys tennis program.
“When it’s all said and done, I think I’m going to have to say that,” Murphy said.
Murphy said Anderson is approaching 100 career wins and will have the school record for the boys program by the time the season is over.
Rochester has never had an MHSAA Finals individual champion in boys tennis, but Anderson certainly has come as close as possible the last two years.
Anderson has advanced to the Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship match at No. 1 singles two years in a row, falling both times to Northville’s Sachiv Kumar.
After winning a Regional title on Wednesday, Anderson will be back for another crack at next week’s Finals tournament in Midland.
“I think that my approach to the tournament will be a little different,” Anderson said. “Just take it one match at a time. Try and feel good in the early rounds, and hopefully as I get to the later ones, I’ll be well-adapted to hit the hardest and play my best tennis.”
Anderson’s only loss so far this fall was to Kumar in a dual match, so it’s likely he’ll be the No. 2 seed.
Last year, Anderson defeated Kumar in the regular season before Kumar avenged that loss in the championship match, so Anderson will try and do the same this time.
Murphy said he has noticed a big difference in Anderson’s game since that most recent match against Kumar, saying that it almost “woke him up” a bit.
In particular, Murphy said there’s one part of Anderson’s game that has noticeably improved.
“He’s always been a great baseliner,” he said “He loves to sit back and play from the baseline. This year, what he’s added to his game is that his serve has really improved.”
Anderson’s father, Greg, actually was a standout in the 1990s at rival Rochester Adams.
Clayton Anderson said he started playing competitive tennis when he was 10 years old, and has loved the individual component of the sport his entire life.
“I love competing by myself,” Anderson said. “I think it’s unique. You don’t really get that with other sports you grew up with. You learn values through playing that you would not pick up playing a sport with teammates to rely on.”
Anderson, who will play in college at Cal Poly, might have an immediate threat to any tennis records and accolades he continues to accrue at Rochester.
His younger brother Chad is a sophomore and is in line to take over at No. 1 singles when Clayton is done.
“I try to give him wisdom and experience that I’ve picked up along the way,” Clayton Anderson said. “I think it’s good, and I think he’s on a good track to be similar to how I am right now.”
Indeed, maybe Murphy in a couple of years will have a debate as to which Anderson was the best to play at Rochester.
But for the moment, all eyes are on Clayton to see if he can finish a historic career by doing something nobody at his school has done before.
“Maybe he’ll top his older brother,” Murphy said of Chad. “But right now Clayton is the man of the hour in terms of whether he can do it next week and become the first in our history.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Rochester's Clayton Anderson returns a volley during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Anderson gets to a ball along the baseline. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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