Sewickley Academy senior captures national platform title
Flashbacks to a match three years ago helped Will Kleeman of Sewickley and Brian Faig of Gillette, N.J. win the boys 18-and-under title at the American Platform Tennis Association Junior National Championships last month at the Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli, Chester County.
Also known as paddle tennis, platform is played on a heated court that allows outdoors competition in all weather conditions.
In the final, Kleeman and Faig beat Gardner Tregellas and Will Burger of New Canaan, Conn., 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
It was the same team that defeated Kleeman and Patrick Dellinger of Sewickley in the boys 14-and-under division final in 2010.
“Everything came back to me,” said Kleeman, 17, a senior at Sewickley Academy. “I remembered how to beat them.”
After falling behind, 5-2, in the first set, Kleeman and Faig made adjustments in the second.
“We became more patient,” Kleeman said. “We were trying to convert from defense to offense too quickly.”
Dominant in pool play, Kleeman and Faig reached the final with a lopsided victory over Austin Holmes and Reed Schultz of New Canaan in the semifinals.
Tregellas and Burger also won their semifinal match easily.
“This will be the last time Will and I will play (in the 18-and-under division),” said Faig, a freshman at Miami University of Ohio who turned 19 last month. “We wanted to go out on top.”
“I was determined not to be runner-up again,” Kleeman said.
Kleeman and Faig were among 20 teams that competed in the boys 18-and-under division, tournament director Tom Safford said.
Kleeman and Faig lost in the semifinals last year, their first playing together.
Searching for a partner after missing the 2011 championship due to illness, Kleeman met Faig through a mutual acquaintance.
Kleeman and Faig have modest expectations heading into the men's national championship this month at Franklin Lakes, N.J.
“It will be harder to win there,” Kleeman said. “We're going in with an open mind and just want to have fun.”
A member of the Edgeworth Club in Sewickley, Kleeman shows promise as a men's player, said Bill Dollard, the club's racquets professional.
“He's learning a skill set that will help him compete with the best men in the (Western Pennsylvania Platform Tennis Association),” Dollard said. “On our top men's team, he's winning most of the time.
“He'll absorb what older players teach him.”
Impressed with his work ethic, Dollard is not surprised Kleeman is a national champion.
“Will would sooner pass out than quit,” Dollard said. “He works as hard as he can, even on a bad day.”
Kleeman will attend Lafayette College, with plans of playing at a platform tennis facility nearby.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.