Boys tennis: Grayslake Central slips past Grayslake North

By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/29/2021 8:22 PM

Grayslake North boys tennis coach Matt MacDonald feels for anyone who has to face junior Christian Abban's confounding kick serve.

The spin-heavy delivery from Grayslake North's No. 1 singles player doesn't just bounce high. It also darts abruptly, to your right -- if it doesn't bean you first. That the Knight is a lefty adds to the weapon's nastiness.


An Abban serve often turns netters into four-limbed pretzels, minus the salt.

"The first time I tried to return it at a practice I tripped and had to catch myself before falling and hitting the court," MacDonald recalled at Thursday's afternoon Northern Lake County Conference dual against visiting Grayslake Central. "It does so many things at once.

"It's a killer, Christian's serve," added the coach, who, as a senior at Prairie Ridge in 2008, went undefeated at No. 4 doubles.

Abban skipped to a 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Rams junior Milan Patel on a mild Wednesday, nearly two years after reaching the 7th-8th-place singles match at the Class 2A state tennis meet. The No. 1 singles champion at last weekend's Lake Park Invitational, he improved his record to 7-2.

"I'm trying to be more consistent," said Abban, whose father, Eben, is a tennis pro at North Shore Racquet Club in Northbrook. "Too often I was a loose cannon on the court, always hitting hard, harder, really hard.

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"I'm putting more thought into my shots now."

But the Rams, playing their NLCC opener Wednesday, left the courts with 1 more win than GL's total and upped their overall mark to 8-3. Grayslake Central's No. 3 doubles team of Pradnyan Khodke and Isaac Cieslak clinched the 4-3 victory with a taut 3-6, 6-4 (10-6 super tiebreaker) decision over Knights juniors Joey Saum and Jake Nardomarino.

Khodke -- a varsity rookie, like his partner -- came up big in the middle of the tiebreaker, belting a blistering first serve for a 7-4 lead and then thumping a low overhead smash on the next point.

"Nice boys, true gentleman," Rams coach Chuck Lawson said of Khodke/Cieslak.

Grayslake Central also netted triumphs at No. 3 singles (Archan Sriselvakumar), No. 1 doubles (Nick Zador/Joaquin Feria) and No. 4 doubles (Ty Diaz/Marcus Hansis).

Grayslake North (5-3, 1-1) picked up its other wins at No. 2 singles (Dylan Clausen) and at No. 2 doubles (Jacob Marshall/Varun Gullapalli).

But the No. 1 highlight in Grayslake's crosstown matchup was Abban's slurvy-like, stupefying serve.

"It's tough, with a bunch of spin ... so much spin," said Grayslake Central's Patel, who earned a significant promotion from a No. 3 doubles slot in 2019 to the top singles job this spring. "I've tried working on a kick serve, but it's a difficult one. The wrist movement it requires -- not easy."

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