Boys tennis: Hersey's Sheldon shines in weather-shortened Pitchford 32
One thing that can be counted on when the annual Tom Pitchford 32-team boys tennis invitational draws to an end is tournament committee members will have a very good idea of how the top 3-4 seeds may look when the state tournament opens in one month.
Maybe not this year.
The "32" as its known to fans of the sport, will not be played Saturday, bowing to what appears to be some nasty weather moving into the area early in the morning.
Last year's state runner-up, Dominick Cuchran of Lyons Township, may have the inside track to one of the 1-2 seeds after cruising past three opponents Friday afternoon, but after the top seeds were sent out of the front draw, it appears the field at singles is wide open.
Sunny but windy conditions welcomed top teams from all over the state, and when the final match was completed near dusk, Hersey sophomore Max Sheldon (16-0) showed he belongs in the conversation for a top-eight seed.
"Max has obviously gotten bigger and stronger from last season, but where he's really made a big step is in his mental game," said Huskies head coach Andy Walton, whose school hosted Friday's competition.
"He is playing at a much higher level but this year, I believe he sees himself as one who belongs in the upper tier of players at singles."
Sheldon advanced into what would have been the semifinal round, where he would have met Zach Kim (Stevenson), who finished fourth a year ago at state, and who Sheldon recently beat to earn a 3-4 seed this weekend.
Of the 16 wins this spring, five or six of those wins have come against state qualifiers from last season, including Jeremy Learner (Highland Park) who fell to the Huskies' star, 6-2, 0-6, 10-8 in the quarters.
Kim, who will attend Northwestern in the fall, beat No. 2 Danny Schmelka (Hinsdale Central) 6-3, 2-6, 11-6, while on the top of the bracket, No. 1 Bradley Yu of Barrington was victimized by Naveen Ramakrishnan of Naperville Central, 6-2, 6-1.
"Naveen had a great year last season as a freshman winning three at state, so we were pleased to see him go out and beat (Yu) in his opener," said Redhawks coach Dan Brown. "But in his second round match with Zach Trimpe (state qualifier from Edwardsville) he complained about not feeling well and he eventually had to retire in his second set."
Brown tweaked his all-star lineup for the 32 making Ammaar Saeed-Joseph Li his No. 1 doubles team and newcomers Blake Roegner-Daanyal Saaed No. 2.
"Ammaar and Joseph were state qualifiers a year ago but with different partners, so we thought we'd take a look at them together for this weekend," said Brown.
Both teams advanced into the semifinals.
Defending state champion Hinsdale Central sent three into the semifinals, beginning with Ansh Shah at No. 2 singles, and both of its doubles teams.
Top seed Joe Daw-Noah Hernandez are through at No. 1 singles, while teammates Rayan Nehme and Mujtaba Ali-Kahn made it through at No. 2.
Stevenson impressed at singles with Kim advancing, while sophomore Eric Perkowski made quick work of all three of his rivals at No. 2.
The Patriots' 2018 state runner-up at doubles would have faced Barrington sophomore Ammar Wazir.
The Broncos failed in their bid to have their doubles teams reach the semifinals after each lost in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
At No. 1, Dylan Er-Matt D'Amore were defeated by the Glenbard West duo of Griffin Foster-Christo Maltby, who were 3-2 at state last spring, while the No. 2 Barrington team of Kyle Shuff-Pranau Gadiraju were no match for Neuqua Valley's Alex Neumann-Jack Considine.