Sewickley Academy's Kleeman wins another WPIAL doubles title
Will Kleeman may be the No. 2 singles player at Sewickley Academy this season, but when it comes time for the WPIAL tournament, he is a doubles player through and through.
“I was raised a doubles guy,” Kleeman said. “I think doubles comes more naturally to me. I started playing tennis at age 10 and played doubles for the most part, and I just stuck with it.”
On Tuesday, the Panthers senior proved once again how dominant a doubles player he is, pairing with Colin Kaye to defeat Mars' freshmen duo of Josh Raymundo and Aaron Gruber, 6-3, 6-2, to win the WPIAL Class AA title at North Allegheny. It is the third consecutive doubles championship for Kleeman, who has won three titles with three different partners.
Kleeman won in 2011 with Daniel Martchek and last year with Patrick Dellinger.
“I think a better doubles team will beat two good singles players in every match,” Kleeman said. “Doubles is about chemistry, first-serve percentage and having a variety of shots in lobs and volleys. Colin and I are a good doubles team fundamentally, and I think that was the difference in the match.”
Kleeman wasn't the only repeat winner, however, as the Shady Side Academy tandem of senior Alok Nimgaonkar and junior Chris Grubbs became just the third team in the last 15 years to repeat as WPIAL Class AAA doubles champions by defeating Fox Chapel's Sid Rajupet and Ben Short, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.
Shankar Rajupet and Brad Portnoy of Fox Chapel were the last to do it in 2009-10 and, prior to that, Dan Hersh and John Nichols of Mt. Lebanon won from 1998-2000.
“We had said before the season that we wanted to play together, and it's such a great feeling and I forgot how good it was,” Grubbs said. “We came in, we knew what our strengths are and we just kind of honed in on it.”
They'll hope to keep that chemistry going as they head into the PIAA tennis finals at Hershey Racquet Club on May 24-25. The two finalists in Class AAA and the top three pairs in Class AA qualify for the state tournament.
“We're just going to keep training and work on our return of serves,” Nimgaonkar said. “Playing more matches is the key thing.”
They got extra practice against the Fox Chapel pair, playing longer than expected thanks to an outstanding effort from Rajupet and Short, who was paired with Dylan McCullough in 2012 and lost in the finals to Nimgaonkar and Grubbs. The two were up a set and leading 5-3 in the second, serving for the match, before the Indians duo rebounded to win the next two games to put the match back on serve, eventually forcing a tie-breaker.
“Whenever we were up 5-3, we just kind of lost our focus, and after the tie-breaker they had all the momentum,” Short said. “We just couldn't do a lot after that.”