Boys tennis: Favorites advance as state tourney moves indoors
The return to the state tournament one year after bringing home state medals went well for Jacobs senior Thomas Nelson and Crystal Lake senior Jackson Schuetzle.
Nelson, fifth in 2021 in the 2A state tournament, needed just under an hour to finish off his opponent to advance into Friday's second round, which will be played outdoors after the opening round was played entirely indoors at several facilities in and around the Chicago area.
"The weather actually cleared up, and it appeared as if we had stayed outdoors, we could have gone one or two rounds more. (But) the tournament officials had to make a decision last night in order to rent indoor time, so I understand what and why they did what they did," said Nelson, who played in Plainfield on Thursday, and will play next fall at Marquette University.
Nelson, now 34-2, said last weekend's three-set loss to another 5-8 seed, Deven Carse (Barrington) in his sectional semifinal, likely came at a good time.
"Coach (Jon Betts) told me ahead of that match that I had won 29 straight, and while I didn't want that streak to end, (it) does take a little pressure off trying to extend the streak," Nelson said. "So I am now starting fresh."
Nelson's teammates at doubles, Justin Cunningham and Jed Sia, won their first with ease. They are a 9-16 seed.
Schuetzle (21-6), who opened inside at the Heritage Tennis Club in Arlington Heights, was third a year ago at 1A. He comes in as a 5-8 seed, along with 2021 fifth-place medal winner Luke Welker from Burlington Central.
"It was good to start and finish early today, and obviously we did not have to deal with any wind or sun. But it was humid in (here) because of all the rain we've had lately," said Schuetzle, who will take on Jeremy Kang (Wheaton Academy) Friday at Vernon Hills High School.
Two-time state qualifiers Mattas Ciabilis (St. Charles North) who was also crowned sectional champion last weekend, as well as Kohl Winkle of Batavia stayed in the front draw, as did the 2A doubles sectional champions from Huntley, Ben Hein and Matt Grubbs, who are now 21-4 overall.
Hein-Grubbs, who dropped just five games en route to its sectional title in Rockford, played their opener at XS Tennis in Washington Park on the southside of Chicago, while Adam and Elijah Hartford (Aurora Central Catholic), sectional champions in 1A a week ago, won their tourney opener at Midtown Tennis in Palatine.
The Hartford brothers are two-time state qualifiers.
Marmion Academy freshman Ben Graft (23-0) enjoyed a solid first tournament appearance with a straight-set victory to move into the second round Friday at Wheeling High School.
"We felt great to get that first match out of the way today. (There) we no issues with me playing indoors, and now the plan is to just focus on my next opponent, and nobody else," said Graft, who was the CCL and sectional champion.
Second round play starts at 8 a.m. Friday at the outdoor sites originally planned for. Tournament officials will look to go three full rounds before the day comes to a close.
To follow along throughout the next two days, go to the IHSA Tennis website where current schedules and up-to-date results will be available.