Boys tennis: Stevenson in 3rd, but not far behind at state tournament

  • Stevenson's Eric Perkowski lunges forward to return a volley during his match with Hinsdale South's Jacob John at the boys state tennis tournament at Barrington Thursday.

      Stevenson's Eric Perkowski lunges forward to return a volley during his match with Hinsdale South's Jacob John at the boys state tennis tournament at Barrington Thursday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Eric Perkowski returns the ball during his match with Hinsdale South's Jacob John at the boys state tennis tournament at Barrington Thursday.

      Stevenson's Eric Perkowski returns the ball during his match with Hinsdale South's Jacob John at the boys state tennis tournament at Barrington Thursday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/23/2019 9:43 PM

Tennis, an individual sport?

Nonsense.

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Stevenson's squad of netters proved it's all about the collection of guys wearing the same school colors at the boys tennis state meet on Thursday.

Patriots senior Zach Kim, a 5-8 seed battling at Hersey, was tired and ailing and sweltering in between the second and third sets of his Round of 16 singles match against Glenbrook South sophomore Marc Blekhman in suddenly tropical Arlington Heights.

Kim needed something, anything, to lift his spirits.

He got it as soon as he heard Stevenson seniors Ozzie Viswanathan and Arjun Sheelvanth, a 9-16 seed in doubles, had edged 5-8 seed Naveen Ramakrishnan/Ammaar Saeed of Naperville Central 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a Round of 16 match at Fremd.

"That news," Kim said, "rejuvenated me."

So did the raucous cheering from Viswanathan, Sheelvanth and the rest of Team Stevenson throughout the deciding set between a resolute Kim and a relentless Blekhman. Kim went up 5-2, lost the next two games and then broke the Titan's serve at love to cap a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 triumph and secure a state quarterfinal berth against Highland Park's Jeremy Learner Friday morning at Hersey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When your teammates are loud and there for you, there are benefits," Patriots coach Tom Stanhope said.

The beneficiaries of Kim's up-down-up win: tennis fans who find the time to check out the quarterfinal tests Friday morning and watch the continuation of a highly competitive team race. Kim's third triumph of the day put Stevenson's point total at 21 after Day One. That's good for third place, behind the 22 points amassed by both Hinsdale Central and New Trier.

All Class 2A state quarterfinal matches start Friday at 9 a.m. at Hersey. Each quarterfinal win is worth 4 points -- 2 more points than a win in the other championship-draw rounds.

Viswanathan-Sheelvanth will face New Trier's Colin Fox-Brent Saltzman in one doubles quarterfinal. Kim and sophomore teammate Eric Perkowski won't be separated by too much green asphalt, either. Perkowski, a 9-16 seed, also gets to vie for a state semifinal berth on a Hersey court, thanks to his cruises -- 6-1, 6-1; 6-1, 6-3; and 6-0, 6-1 -- in Rounds 1-3 Thursday at Barrington.

Perkowski plays 3-4 seed Robert Daniel Schmelka of Hinsdale Central in a quarterfinal.

Stevenson's fourth state entrant, the doubles team of sophomores Daniel Tulchinsky-Payton Adkisson, split its first two matches in the main draw at Conant and then raced to a 6-0, 6-0 defeat of a Lincoln-Way Central duo in a consolation-round match.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tulchinsky/Adkisson continues its state run at Wheeling on Friday morning.

"They picked up a point in the back draw for us," Stanhope said. "A valuable point. They didn't sulk (after their 6-4, 6-4 loss to Conant's Roberto Macher/Rameen Marzban)."

Sheelvanth didn't hold back at any point in his three doubles matches with Carleton (MN) College-bound Viswanathan on Thursday.

Viswanathan plans to play college tennis.

Sheelvanth does not.

"These are my last three days of competitive tennis," Sheelvanth said following the reigning Stevenson sectional doubles champion's 6-2, 6-1 second-round win over Conant's Andrew Milas-Kaahan Motwani at Fremd. "I have nothing to lose. I'm enjoying this. I'm playing aggressive tennis."

Indeed. As Viswanathan was about to start serving for the match against Naperville Central's top tandem, he neared Sheelvanth and ordered him to attack.

Sheelvanth did just that, finishing 3 points emphatically at the net. Look for more poaches from Sheelvanth after his breakfast Friday morning.

"Arjun is excited," Stanhope said. "And he's happy, really happy, to be here, to do this for the team. Had a great sectional with Ozzie. During this weekend he does not want to ask, 'Did I play tight tennis?' He does not want to ask, 'Did I play nervous tennis?'

"Arjun, more than anything else," the coach added, "wants to play winning tennis for the team."

Meanwhile, in Class 1A action, Grayslake North freshman Christian Abban upset 9-16 seed Wade Baillon of Champaign St. Thomas More 6-4, 6-3 in the second round. The Knight lost his next match but will return Friday for a consolation-round singles match at Schaumburg. Vernon Hills junior Pranav Vaswani and sophomore Eric Rodriguez won a first-round doubles match in the championship draw and netted a victory in the back draw, earning an encounter with a Champaign Centennial pair Friday at Conant.

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