Woodland’s Beynor serves up wins

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Woodland’s Kyle Beynor, the defending NVL singles champion, has helped lead the Hawks to two straight NVL titles. –FILE PHOTO
Woodland’s Kyle Beynor, the defending NVL singles champion, has helped lead the Hawks to two straight NVL titles. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Kyle Beynor has been the driving force behind a pair of the most impressive feats in the recent history of Naugatuck Valley League tennis.

His Woodland squad hasn’t lost a conference match in its last 50. And he hadn’t lost a league singles match in even longer than that — until last Thursday.

Beynor dropped his first match to an NVL opponent in his entire career when Naugatuck’s Julian Milek earned an 8-4 victory May 2. Beynor had knocked off Milek, 8-3, earlier in the season but the exchange student from Germany finally got the best of the Woodland senior.

“It’s the sport of tennis,” Beynor says of the loss. “Everybody has their days. It was just an off day. You can’t stay perfect forever. Otherwise you’d be like Roger Federer.”

The NVL’s own Roger Federer has been Beynor, who won the NVL singles title last year by sweeping through the semifinals and finals. He’s helped lead his Hawks to two straight NVL titles, which will likely become three in about a week.

Amid it all, Beynor doesn’t think about anything in perspective.

“I don’t pay attention to it,” Beynor says of the streaks. “It was one of the last things on my mind. You have to play every game like it’s your last.”

Unlike most elite tennis players, Beynor doesn’t have a long history with the sport. He didn’t play as a youngster and only finally picked up a racket the summer before high school.

“I was too short to play any other sport,” says Beynor, who is 5-foot-9 now but was closer to 5-foot-6 then. “My stepdad played tennis and I picked up a tennis racket to see if I liked playing. My freshman year, we had a great team and I wanted to stay with it.”

For his first two seasons at Woodland, he played behind No. 1 seed Mike Krakowski, who won the NVL singles title in his senior year. Beynor became the No. 1 seed last season and has lived up to every bit of that ranking.

Win after win, though, Beynor doesn’t point to the technical aspects of tennis as being most important. Serves and backhands are important and all, but what happens upstairs is paramount for Beynor.

“You can have the most perfect strokes in the world, the best footwork, but if you don’t have your head in it, there’s no way you can win,” Beynor says. “I’m not as strong mentally, and that’s something I will always work on. I have good ground strokes from practice, but my mental game will never be perfect.”

To help with that occasional weakness, Beynor relies on coach Jim Amato. When Beynor found himself on the brink of defeat to Wolcott’s Alex Gauthier earlier this season, Amato took a few minutes to talk to Beynor and essentially hit the reset button. Beynor went on to win the match.

“My coach comes out and knows when the precise moments are that I need a little kick-start,” Beynor says. “He’s always the one right there and that helps my mental game and changes a match.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Beynor, though. As Woodland has steadily become the undisputed team to beat in NVL tennis, the Hawks have ventured both out of league and into the postseason for stronger competition. It hasn’t always worked out in Beynor’s favor, including a double-bagel loss to East Catholic earlier this season.

“My first thought is, Oh my God, they’re machines,” Beynor says about facing players more dominant than he. “How is it possible to hit the ball that hard and with that much precision and to not be a pro yet?”

He hopes to improve on his third-round showing in last year’s state tournament, when he fell to eventual champion Chandler Libby in straight sets.

“I’ve been looking forward to the state tournament ever since the last one,” Beynor says. “I got an unlucky draw with Chandler Libby. I hope I don’t get that draw again. My goal is definitely to make it as an all-state player.”

In the meantime, team competition will continue, and the Hawks will close in on another NVL title — and zoom past 50 wins in a row.

“The record doesn’t speak for how great this team is,” Beynor says. “It’s the depth of our ladder and how hard they want to work. They give it their all and they learn something new every day. It’s such a great team. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”