Best of the best: Peers embraces role as top player for men’s tennis

Senior John Peers returns a ball from Mississippi State’s Artem Ilyushin on Feb. 27. Peers won the match, and Baylor beat the Bulldogs, 4-3. Playing at the No. 1 position, Peers has helped the Bears to a 16-3 record.
Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer

By Will Potter

The Baylor men’s tennis team has been on fire as of late and has not lost a match since March 12. During that period, the Baylor men have won eight consecutive dual matches, including six victories over ranked opponents.

While there has been great play throughout the lineup, the leader of the recent success has been senior John Peers and his play at the No. 1 spot. Peers has hit his stride this spring, winning 16 of 19 singles matches and moving his way up to a No. 18 national ranking.

“John has been great at No. 1 for us and we are happy he is on our side,” senior Sergio Ramirez said. “John works really hard and his hard work and determination show on the court every match.”

Peers has matured quickly as he developed into the top ranked player on the team (No. 18 nationally) and has had to carry the burden of facing the opposing team’s best player each time he takes the court in the team’s dual matches.

“The good thing about John is that he can play many different styles of tennis,” sophomore Roberto Maytin said. “He can adjust his game to give each opponent his best shot, and that is something special.”

For the first time in Baylor history, Peers also garnered Big 12 conference player of the week honors for two consecutive weeks, last week and the week before. Junior Julian Bley took the award before Peers with his late-match heroics against former No. 1 Tennessee.

“That is a huge deal for me and it is great honor,” Peers said. “I am working really hard every day and it is good to see the results and get some recognition for the work I put in.”

Peers’ journey to Baylor was not typical by any standards, arriving at Baylor shortly before the fall of 2010 as a transfer student from Middle Tennessee State. Peers came to Baylor looking to improve his game and have a chance to compete for an NCAA title. Coach Matt Knoll has seen him develop and is impressed with his growth.

“His maturity has really been impressive,” Knoll said. “He has grown a lot, become more disciplined and taken a lot of pressure off of him. In doing so, he has become a more patient player and he has become a smarter player.”

This spring, Peers has enacted revenge upon losses in the fall by defeating Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech in a rematch. He also was able to top defending NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn in a dual match win over then No. 8 ranked Stanford and help prove that he and the Bears could compete with and beat the best.

“John feels like he can play with the best players in the country every time he steps on the court, and that has been a major reason for his success against his opponents,” Knoll said. “He knows that he is going to get everyone’s best shot every time he steps on the court, and he is prepared for that now.”

The team will close out Big 12 play with a three-match home stand stretching over the next two weeks. Baylor hosts Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Friday at the Baylor Tennis Center.