Boys’ Tennis Player of the Season: Concord High’s Liam Grennon

  • Concord High’s Liam Grennon cracks a forehand at Memorial Field on April 5 in his No. 1 singles match against Hanover’s Aidan Biglow. Grennon won that season-opening match, which set the tone for a high school season that saw Grennon reach the quarterfinals in the boys’ singles tournament, the boys’ double tournament and the boys’ team tournament. All those quarterfinals made Grennon an easy choice as the Concord Monitor Boys’ Tennis Player of the Season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Concord High’s Liam Grennon tries to control a volley during the Crimson Tide’s Division I quarterfinal match at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. Grennon also reached the quarterfinals in the boys’ singles tournament and the boys’ double tournament, and all those quarterfinals made Grennon an easy choice as the ‘Concord Monitor’ Boys’ Tennis Player of the Season. STEVE NORTON / Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2019 5:33:52 PM

Liam Grennon is a tennis purist.

The Concord High junior would rather practice than play a competitive match. His favorite tennis memories aren’t about big wins. They’re about hitting against a wall for hours while listening to his dad’s old iPod or working on his one-handed backhand in his basement or staying after lessons and messing around with old wooden rackets.

“I just love rhythm hitting and getting into that tempo when it’s just you and the ball,” Grennon said. “It’s awesome.”

Grennon didn’t start playing until eighth grade, but his industrious practice habits put him on an accelerated learning curve. He was No. 13 on the Concord ladder to start his freshman season. As a sophomore, he worked his way up to No. 2 and finished the season at No. 3 for a Crimson Tide team that reached the Division I semifinals. This year, Grennon was No. 1 for Concord, which finished the season 10-5 after losing to Pinkerton Academy in the quarterfinals.

“It’s a huge jump to go from a solid number three player on your own team to one of the top players in the state,” Concord coach Dave Page said. “That Liam was able to make a transition that most players wouldn’t even attempt is a credit to his love for the game and his desire to keep challenging himself to improve.”

Grennon also reached the quarterfinals of the boys’ singles tournament before losing to the eventual champion, Souhegan’s Sam Goodard, 8-4. Goodard also happens to be the kid who would stay after lessons with Grennon at Jasper Valley Swim & Tennis in Amherst and mess around with those old wooden rackets.

After building a foundation for his game at Jasper Valley, Grennon started playing with two of his Rundlett Middle School classmates, Anders Norton and Ethan Crandlemire. Norton was No. 2 for the Crimson Tide this year and Crandlemire was a top-three player for Concord before transferring to Kimball Union Academy in 2018. The three of them improved as they practiced together, although Grennon’s ideas about practice weren’t usually shared by the other two.

“The three of us would hit at Memorial all the time, and I never understood why they wanted to play,” Grennon said. “We would be hitting, and they would say, ‘When are we playing our match?’ And I was just like, ‘I hate this.’ I play so much better when I practice.”

Before he was his tennis coach, Page was Grennon’s French teacher at Rundlett, “unfortunately for him, because I’m really bad at French,” Grennon said. “But I always brought up how much I liked hitting and he always told me how important match play is and how important it is to play in tournaments.”

Grennon listened to that wise advice, started playing more USTA junior tournaments, and eventually gained enough in-match experience to make the dramatic leap up from No. 13 to No. 2 during his sophomore year.

This season, Grennon made another big leap with his mental game. While his love for tennis fueled his improvement, it could also spill over into excess emotion. Like many tennis players, Grennon was prone to frustration and fits that would shatter his focus and wind up costing him points, games and matches. This season, the fits were kept to a minimum.

“I felt like my emotional game improved a lot over the last year. Again, that increased match play over the offseason with tournaments really let me practice implementing some of the mental tools I learned from Alan (Chandronnait, the coach who has worked with most of the top players in this area for decades), and leading into the season I never felt out of control on the court, though of course there is always room for improvement.

“Teaching myself to come down and come up to each point has taken a lot of time but has been one of the most beneficial parts of my game and is a skill that I notice myself using off the court, as well. It’s a part of the game almost no one sees unless it’s a problem, and so it definitely took me some time to get that it was a problem I had, and a huge part of that was Alan.”

With a new sense of calm to go along with his monster forehand, heavy serve and all-court touch and shot-making, Grennon put together a quality season. He beat Hanover’s talented No. 1, Aidan Biglow, in Concord’s season-opener, and that set the tone for the rest of the campaign for Grennon.

He earned the No. 5 seed in the boys’ singles tournament, but Grennon was challenged in the first round by Portsmouth Christian’s Bill Shao, who pushed Grennon before losing, 8-4. That led to a match against Pinkerton’s No. 2, John Marineau, a scrappy player who forced Grennon to work for every point in his 8-5 win.

Those two long matches left Grennon with little gas in the tank for his quarterfinal match with Goodard. Grennon tried to keep the points short, and the strategy worked early. But Grennon got leg cramps midway through the match and Goodard pulled away for an 8-4 win.

A week later, Grennon and Norton reached the quarterfinals of the boys’ doubles tournament before losing to the eventual champion, Pinkerton’s Marineau and Seb Tonini, 8-5.

Grennon and Norton would probably be the favorites to win the doubles title next year, and Grennon would be one of the favorites to win the singles title, but he won’t be in New Hampshire. With the hopes of gaining even more high-level match experience, and an eye on college tennis, Grennon is moving to Texas for the next school year to go to the John Newcombe Tennis Academy.

“I went down there with my mom on winter break just to prep for the season, but I really enjoyed it and so I went back with my mom on spring break. So it all came together pretty quickly,” Grennon said. “The goal is definitely college tennis, that’s always been really attractive to me.”

Considering how much Grennon loves to practice, college coaches will probably be attracted to him, too.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)




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