Boys tennis: Doubles duty crucial

Top program Cherry Creek knows importance of team play

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Cherry Creek has dominated Colorado boys high school tennis for the past four decades.

The explanation for the Bruins’ supremacy is simple – good doubles play.

Creek has won 38 Colorado state tennis championships in 41 years. The Bruins have crowned 117 state champion doubles teams, 28 in No. 1 doubles, 34 in No. 2 doubles, 31 in No. 3 doubles and 24 in No. 4 doubles.

“Doubles is interesting,” said Creek coach Kirk Price. “High school-level tennis players generally love singles. There are those few boys that just thrive in doubles. They love it, love the strategy and enjoy what goes on in winning a doubles match.”

Over the years, Price has adjusted the way he selects his doubles teams.

“Historically, I always used singles to determine the varsity team,” admitted Price. “Over the years there were half dozen great, great doubles players who never got to play varsity because they were never good enough in singles to break into the top 11 but they were among the top two or three doubles players on the team.

“A few years ago we changed. Now we use the singles challenges for only the singles positions. We use what we refer to as doubles clusters.”

It takes a different kind of player in doubles to be successful.

“It takes kids that are able to evaluate their opponents and the weaknesses of their opponents,” said Price. “I’ve had kids that were mentally so good in doubles and yet physically are not even close at times to the skills of the opponents.

“They are not as good of tennis players with their strokes or tennis game but they are so much smarter and know how doubles works that they become state champions defeating people that are significantly better.”

Senior Jake Miller was half of the 2012 state champion No. 2 doubles team with Connor Petrou, who has graduated.

“Doubles are fun but I really would like to play singles,” said Miller. “We won last year because we worked well together as a doubles team. Cherry Creek tennis philosophy is to be aggressive and we usually both moved up to take control of the net and the tempo of play. Of course, we both had to be ready to move back quickly if the opponent hit a deep shot.”

Harshil Dwivedi is a junior who played last season with graduated Gifford Mellick on Creek’s state champion No. 4 doubles team.

“I like to play singles but my experience in doubles helped me improve my skills as a tennis player,” said Dwivedi. “I learned how to make the transition from deep in the court to controlling the net. Chemistry is a key for a doubles team. Last year my partner and I clicked and worked together to cover the entire court, sometimes both at the net and sometimes one at the net and one back near the baseline.”

Creek and Fairview are the expected to be the top contenders for the state championship this season but Mountain Vista has five returning state qualifiers plus outstanding freshmen Ben Antonsen and transfer Austin Groyoncowski.

“Doubles pairings are very important in trying to catch those teams in the state of Colorado,” said Mountain Vista coach Jim Flanigan. “I believe that finding players who mesh well together is very important in doubles and that means in personality style as well as in playing style.

“For my players it is very important to be good at the net and be willing to close off the net when playing doubles. Also high school tennis is one of the only places where players are part of a team and sometimes one must sacrifice to be part of that team and sometimes that means playing doubles.”