Canon-Mac's Gladden, Sewickley's Ross capture WPIAL singles titles
The championship round of the WPIAL boys singles tennis tournament featured matchups between opponents familiar with each other, and these meetings followed their past scripts.
Playing at Shady Side Academy on a breezy Tuesday afternoon, Canon-McMillan senior Chris Gladden won the Class AAA event, and Sewickley Academy's Luke Ross took the Class AA title.
Gladden, the top seed, bested Fox Chapel's Sidd Rajupet, 6-3, 6-1, in a rematch of the 2015 PIAA consolation match, which he also won in straight sets, to earn his first WPIAL title, after finishing as runner-up in 2015.
“I knew this year was my year,” Gladden said.
Rajupet said he needed to play aggressive to counter Gladden's speed and overall consistency, which he did early on, jumping out to first-point leads in most of the nine first set games. But in the second set that competitiveness waned, a result, Rajupet said of him struggling with his serve and failing to extend points into lengthy rallies as he had done starting out.
The serving difficulties also affected Gladden, who described his mindset as wanting to get the ball in play while battling the wind.
“The wind was such a hard factor,” Gladden said. “Especially on the one side, you almost felt like you were on a downslope.”
Gladden began to hit with more depth in the second set, pinning Rajupet near the baseline rather than giving him the chance to turn the wind into an advantage or neutralize it, depending on his position.
“Once I could do that, I felt like I could close two sets pretty easily,” he said.
In Class AA, the top-seeded Ross defeated Carlynton junior Luke Phillips in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, for the second time in a week, having beat him in the Section 4-AA championship. It is Ross' second WPIAL championship, having won as a freshman in 2014 before missing last year's tournament following a training stint in Florida.
He said he served better this time around, in spite of the wind, which was an aspect of his game he has focused on recently.
“Conditions weren't perfect, but we both had to play through (the wind),” Ross said. “I think we both fought through it.”
Phillips said his own lack of consistency and inability to keep the ball in play kept him from reversing his recent history against Ross.
“I've been playing him for so long, I kind of know what I have to do against him,” said Phillips, who continues to recover from a broken collarbone suffered in January. “I didn't do those things today.”
The top three finishers from both brackets advanced to next month's PIAA tournament, adding significance to each consolation match.
In Class AAA, Fox Chapel freshman Robby Shymansky defeated Pine-Richland junior Ben Vinarski, 6-2, 6-1.
Sewickley Academy junior Sam Sauter secured a return trip to the state tournament after defeating California junior John Monroe, 6-4, 6-1, in Class AA.
Jasper Wilson is a freelance writer.