Olympia native Kyle McMorrow could have just walked away after beating Mitch Stewart, 6-2, 6-3, in the quarterfinals of the 123rd annual Pacific Northwest Open.
Instead, McMorrow gave Federal Way’s Stewart a few pieces of advice on how to improve his game — and one resounding compliment.
“(McMorrow) said he was dead tired and that’s exactly how I should be playing the game to make people feel like that,” Stewart said.
McMorrow, 23, is a former University of Washington All-American and professional tennis player who competes on the International Tennis Federation men’s circuit. The ITF is incorporated into the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings, which enables young players to progress toward the ATP World Tour.
McMorrow is working toward a more permanent presence on the ATP, which features prestigious tournaments such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
“To be consistently in ATP tournaments you have to be (ranked) around the top 100 — I’m 700 right now,” McMorrow said, “I hope that in a year that I’ll consistently be in challengers, and then a year or two from there I’ll consistently be in tournaments. I’m just taking it one day at a time, trying to get better.”
While earning the first place prize of $4,000 is the reason McMorrow entered the tournament, he hopes he can benefit from playing solid competition while also focusing on improving aspects of his game.
“I said 100 percent of the reason is to get a paycheck and that’s true, but at the same time I want to have my game be going in the right direction when I’m in a tournament like this,” McMorrow said. “It’s easy to kind of get settled in and not be aggressive against guys who are at slightly lower level in the pros. I want to be working on my game, hitting the right shots, really dictating most of the points against these guys, so when I go back to the pro tournaments I’ll be ready to go.”
Stewart, a UW commit and recent graduate of Federal Way High, gave the tennis pro a run for his money.
McMorrow committed seven errors in the first game, which Stewart won handily. Stewart won the next game in similar fashion to lead the first set, 2-0. But McMorrow quickly adjusted and rallied to win the next four games and eventually the match.
“It was a physically tough match even though the score would indicate that it was easy,” McMorrow said. “Mitch is really quick and gets a lot of balls back. He made me work hard on every point.”
A few of McMorrow’s errors came on his serves. But it wasn’t long before his serves began traveling through the air with a distinct “whoosh” and made returning a challenge for Stewart, who ran from side to side on almost every point.
“His ball lands deeper than mine does right now and that comes with age, experience and strength,” Stewart said. “I felt like I was moving around the court just as well, if not better than him. He just had a ball that he could put away at the end of a point, where I was kind of hoping I would just run around and he would miss a ball.”
McMorrow won the first two games of the second set before Stewart made a small comeback. He cut the deficit to 3-2, but McMorrow broke serve and then held his own for a 5-2 lead, finishing the match strong. But during the match, he was well aware that Stewart’s legs showed no signs of deterioration, which forced him to put a significant amount of effort into each point.
“I actually had that thought during the match — his biggest weapon is his fitness,” McMorrow said. “I think I was more tired than he was at the end even though I was making him run almost every point.”
McMorrow will face No. 4 Garrett Brasseaux, a recent University of Georgia graduate, in the semifinals. The other semifinal features No. 3 Joel Kielbowicz against No. 2 seeded Ben McLachlan.
“All four of them are capable of winning this tournament,” tournament organizer Nick Moxley said. “Those are going to be straight up battles. We just got the courts resurfaced and that makes for the best tennis possible.”
After reaching the same point in the tournament that he did two years ago — the quarterfinals — Stewart will have to wait until next year to make it further. For now, he’s heeding the advice from a professional that he couldn’t beat, but succesfully exhausted.
“(McMorrow) said if I had that extra little ‘oomph’ on the ball that I could really be deadly out there on the court and people would not want to play me,” Stewart said. “He gave me some good pointers.”