Boys tennis: Stevenson (tied for second) keeps focus at state

By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/24/2019 9:16 PM

Stevenson senior Ozzie Viswanathan found a shuttlecock Friday afternoon and could not wait to thwack the badminton projectile around -- with his tennis racket.

His tennis doubles partner, senior Arjun Sheelvanth, found a seat in a set of indoor bleachers at Hersey and barely said a word.


The two Patriots had chosen two completely different ways in the same venue to kill some time during a 2-hour, 26-minute rain delay on the second day of the three-day Class 2A boys tennis state meet.

"I needed to stay loose, plus, by doing that and having some fun, I knew I wouldn't overthink before returning to the court," said Viswanathan, who smashed and lobbed that startled shuttlecock with Patriots sophomore singles player Eric Perkowski and Sheelvanth's little brother, Ajai.

"I needed the quiet; it helped me stay focused," Ajai's big brother said.

Each decision in downtime was a sound one. The pair of Pats, seeded 9-16, trailed New Trier's Colin Fox/Brent Saltzman, a 5-8 seed, 6-2, 6-5 when lightning in the area and ensuing rain suspended action in their doubles quarterfinal.

Viswanathan/Sheelvanth stormed back in dry, cloudy conditions after the stoppage, recording a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory worth 4 points in the team standings. Two other Patriots entrants, 9-16 seed Perkowski and 5-8 seed Zach Kim, each absorbed a singles quarterfinal loss moments before Viswanathan/Sheelvanth's big win in Arlington Heights.

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"It came down to us being mentally prepared for the end of that second set and for the third set," Viswanathan said. "We stayed focused and kept thinking, 'This is our year.'

"We wanted it."

But Hinsdale Central's top-seeded duo of Joseph Daw/Noah Hernandez superseded Viswanathan/Sheelvanth's craving in a semifinal Friday afternoon. The Red Devils tandem won the first 8 points of the match en route to a workmanlike 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Daw and Hernandez set each other up beautifully and ended most of the points quickly.

Sheelvanth held serve twice in the second set.

Viswanathan and Sheelvanth play HC's other doubles team, Mujtaba Ali-Khan and Rayan Nehme, in the match for third place Saturday at 9 a.m. at Hersey.

Reigning state runner-up Stevenson, with 28 points, was in a tie for second place with New Trier in the team standings, behind reigning state champ Hinsdale Central (40).


Patriots sophomores Daniel Tulchinsky and Payton Adkisson won two more matches in the doubles back draw Friday, giving them a 4-2 mark at their first state meet; Kim, fourth in singles at state last spring as a junior, fell 7-5, 6-1 to second-seeded Jeremy Learner of Highland Park in a quarterfinal Friday; and Perkowski, half of last year's state runner-up doubles team, lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 to 3-4 seed Robert Daniel Schmelka of Hinsdale Central in another quarterfinal.

Perkowski had lost the first set but owned a 5-2 second-set lead, with Schmelka serving at ad-in, when Hersey's lightning-warning system blared and halted play.

The Patriot had seized control in the second set by patiently dictating the construction of the points and going for risky shots at opportune times. Perkowski also did a fine job of keeping the Red Devil off balance, pounding a clean winner with a snappy down-the-line groundstroke and occasionally following that up with an unreachable drop shot.

"I liked the way Eric stayed in the points longer in the second set than he had in the first," Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. "He then took some chances and turned those into winners. They got him going.

"But [Schmelka], he anticipates so well. You saw that in the third set, the way he quickly got himself into a favorable position. It seemed like he knew exactly where Eric wanted to go with most of his shots."

Perkowski packed his things and headed to Buffalo Grove for a consolation match with Edwardsville's Zach Trimpe, another 9-16 seed. The Pat prevailed in an 8-5 pro set, netting his team 1 point.

Perkowski faces New Trier's Jake Zipoli in a consolation semifinal Saturday morning, while Kim resumes his consolation-quarterfinal match against Hinsdale Central's Ansh Shah, with Kim up 3-2.

In Class 1A, Grayslake North freshman Christian Abban, an unseeded entrant, shook off a third-round loss Thursday afternoon and won three consecutive 8-game pro sets in the singles back draw on Friday, including a 9-7 defeat of 9-16 seed Joe Demirjian of Mt. Zion. The Knight is scheduled to play in a state consolation semifinal Saturday morning.

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