As two hungry tennis players exchanged shots on one of Warren’s Almond Road campus courts, a plastic platter full of subs and a bag of more sandwiches arrived.
Simultaneously, Stevenson’s players — all but Jeremy Bush, who was just thirsty from chasing Kristiyan Trukov forehands — and the Patriots’ three, equally grateful coaches gobbled down dinner.
On the court, Bush was hungry to avenge last year’s loss in the North Suburban Conference No. 1 singles final. Fellow senior Trukov of Warren was hungry to prove that his upset of Bush was legitimate.
In the end, after nearly three hours of wonderful tennis, Bush got to enjoy a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4 win — and a sandwich.
His thoughtful teammates had saved him a sub.
“He showed a lot of guts,” Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said of Bush, whose win completed the Patriots’ 7-0 victory on a sunny-turned-cold Tuesday in Gurnee. “Kris is a great player too.”
Despite falling short, Trukov knew he battled Bush, last year’s third-place finisher at state, and knew he competed.
“I used to think he’s better than me, but now I think I’m catching up,” said Trukov, a two-time all-stater who will sign today with Marquette University. “At conference (last year) I was able to win the match, and this year I was anxious to see if that was a fluke or if I’ve actually caught up to him. Even though I didn’t play my best game, by far, we still had a three-set, close match.”
Both Bush and Trukov played in short sleeves and shorts, even as the temperature continued to drop more and more as their match went longer and longer. By the time they started their third set, every other match was completed, so all of their respective teammates got to watch and cheer two of the best players in the state.
“My hands weren’t cold, but everything else was,” said Bush, who will continue his education and tennis at Washington University, where he’ll be a teammate again of Ross Putterman, who along with David Packowitz, won the state doubles title for Stevenson in 2011.
“It was a really grueling, long match,” Bush added. “Up and down. Crazy. I didn’t know if I was going to win or lose. I was exhausted physically. I started cramping in my calves in the third set. I just fought through as hard as I could. My team was really great cheering me on. That helped me a lot.”
“It got pretty cold, but you play through it,” Trukov said. “It’s the same for both players.”
Bush broke Trukov’s serve to go up 5-4 in the third and then held serve, finally winning the match on an ace, one of the few for either player.
“I decided at the end to just go for my shots, instead of being tentative,” Bush said.
“Jeremy’s gained more weapons than he had last year,” Warren coach Greg Cohen said. “Jeremy’s a great player and a great kid. The first set, he really dictated to Kristiyan how the set was going to be played. He played it more on his terms. I thought the second set, Kristiyan got more patient again and realized, ‘I got to work so much harder.’ ”
Trukov did exactly that, and both players seemed to frustrate each other at times.
“It’s good to see him tested,” Stanhope said of Bush. “He’s had a bunch of blowouts, and it’s good to see him finally get down, come back and then, even losing the ‘breaker’ (in the second set), to have to come out and play a third set. It’s a good test for him, especially with the elements that you’re going to see a lot during state, as the day goes longer and longer.”
Stevenson (5-1) lost only 10 games in its other six matches. Freshman Ben Bush (Jeremy’s brother) and Michael Sims each won 6-0, 6-0 at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, respectively. The Patriots received doubles wins from Colin Harvey/Andrew Komarov (No. 1), Josh Lieberman/Pawel Jaworski (No. 2), Adam Marynivk/Rudy Viswanathan (No 3) and Josh Cheng/Lukasz Jaworski (No. 4).
Trukov at least went home knowing where he needs to improve. His loss to Bush will make him work only harder.
“I just couldn’t hit my backhand as well as I wanted,” Trukov said. “That was probably the key to him beating me. He obviously attacked my backhand.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.