In a crucial no-ad point in a singles semifinal at Saturday's Liberty Bell boys tennis invite at Glenbrook North, Vernon Hills junior Ismail Kadyrov did everything right.
The Cougar was up 5-4 on Warren junior Kristiyan Trukov at the time. But Kadyrov's "reward" for hitting stellar shots in the highly competitive exchange was a point -- for Trukov.
The Blue Devil had come up with a resounding winner on game point. Trukov then won the next two games to take the first set 7-5.
"Ismail was able to forget about that first set and focus all of his attention on the second set," VH coach Doug Gerber would say later.
Kadyrov claimed the second set 6-3, after trailing 3-1, and advanced to the final with a 10-7 decision in the super tiebreaker.
"I hit deep balls to pressure him, and I didn't want to give him anything," said Kadyrov, who chose not venture to the net in the second set as often as he did in the first.
The adjustment shifted the momentum of the match to the Cougar.
"I wasn't able to move him around like I wanted to when he stayed back," said Trukov, who ended up in third place with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Lyons Township's Jake Elliott.
Kadyrov bowed 6-3, 6-1 to Glenbrook South junior Konrad Zieba (10-0) in the singles final. Zieba spent the last two years at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., and his game certainly reflects that. The Titan blasted clean winners with the heart of his racket's sweet spot all day, relying mostly on whippy forehands that froze foes.
"His forehand is a total slap," marveled Kadyrov, who tweaked his left knee while hustling for a drop shot early in the second set. "It's a great shot."
Kadyrov's effort in his semifinal was far from the only rally on Saturday. Three of Carmel Catholic's four entrants won a combined seven matches after first-round losses, as the Corsairs finished runners-up (9 points) to Glenbrook South's Titans (13) at the eight-team invite.
Carmel freshman Brandon Dechter skipped to three consolation-round victories after a loss to Zieba; the doubles teams of Geoff Butler/Bryan Hunt and R.J. Paulson/Stephen Feely each won twice in the back draw.
And Carmel freshman Kevin Hunt won once in the main draw and ended up seventh in singles when his final opponent defaulted.
"Kevin has very good court awareness and his focus is so good," Corsairs coach Nancy Fehn said. "You rarely find him in the wrong spot on a court during a point.
"We expect good things from him."
Libertyville junior Jack Springgate and Eric Klein had not played doubles together before this season. But they battled like a seasoned tandem on Saturday, finishing second to Glenbrook South's Michael Sellitto/Michael Levin at Glenbrook South. Springgate/Klein edged Vernon Hills' Darren Hoveydai/David Dobrik 2-6, 6-1 (10-5 super tiebreaker) in a quarterfinal before defeating Glenbrook North's Bill Angel/Adam Spector in a 6-3, 6-3 semifinal.
The pair switched service-return positions after losing the first set to VH's top duo. Klein shifted from the deuce side to ad territory.
"We got in a groove and stayed in it," Springgate said of the Wildcats' semifinal win.
Klein's steadiness often sets up Springgate's finishes around the net. Klein likes to strike heavy-topspin forehands at opponents' feet. The only answer is usually a floater toward Springgate.
"Then it's 'hammer time,' " said Springgate.
But Glenbrook South's Sellitto/Levin nailed winner after winner in a 6-0, 6-2 final.
"They controlled the points," admitted Klein.
Libertyville freshman Ben VanDixhorn contributed two team points by going 2-2 in singles on Saturday.
"I like competing and I really like the team atmosphere," the rookie said between matches. "High school tennis is fun and intense at the same time."
Glenbrook North and LT tied for third place with eight points apiece. Warren and Rockford Guilford each finished with seven points to tie for fifth place, ahead of Libertyville (six points) and Vernon Hills (six points).
VH's Hoveydai/Dobrik took sixth in doubles. Warren's Matt Matheny/Samuel Gudeman won two doubles matches in the back draw.