Champions are made in Kalamazoo.
The site of the USTA Boys National Championships, the town saw the emergence of players including John McEnroe and Andy Roddick.
The site of the 2013 USTA/ITA Central Region Championships, the town saw the emergence and potential of the University of Chicago tennis squad.
Third-year Deepak Sabada advanced to the singles final, where he fell 7–5, 7–6 (4). Sabada, along with first-year Sven Kranz, also advanced to the doubles final before falling 5–7, 6–4, 1–0 (8).
“I thought it was fantastic,” said head coach Jay Tee. “We’re going in the right direction.”
Sabada cruised his way through the singles draw, losing no sets until the final.
But both Sabada and Kranz were on the same side of the singles draw, resulting in an all Chicago semifinal.
“If [the tournament directors] would’ve done the draw right, [Sabada and Kranz] would have been in opposite halves,” Tee said. “We could’ve had two semifinalists on the two sides, but they screwed the draw up.”
Having endured 11 matches prior to the singles semifinal, Kranz cramped early in the first set.
“It’s that feeling that you can’t run for balls,” Kranz said. “I like to move around the court a lot; that’s part of my game, and I couldn’t do that as well as I wanted to.”
The pain was too much for Kranz to overcome as Sabada won 6–3, 6–3 and represented the Maroons in the prestigious final against Kenyon’s Sam Geier. In what was a test of nerves for both players, Geier edged out Sabada.
“Deepak didn’t play his best,” Tee said. “[Geier] made a couple more big shots—big points—just keeping the ball in play, keeping it deep. Any other day the advantage goes to Deepak, but maybe a case of the nerves got to him.”
In doubles, Sabada and Kranz lost only a combined four games in their first two matches. But they were put to the test in the quarterfinal, down 6–0 against Naveen Chadalavada and Max Franklin of Wash U.
“They were playing flat, they weren’t making balls, and they just didn’t look good,” Tee said. “They looked like they were both playing singles out there and not doing the right things we’ve been working on.”
The Maroons then did the improbable.
“We got a pretty easy break, and then we held my serve after facing a couple break points, and we turned it around after facing a couple break points,” Kranz said. “Then, we started to believe we could do it.”
With the 8–6 come-from-behind victory, the Maroons went up against the potential No. 2 doubles of Wash U.
The match headed into a tiebreaker and after Wash U dumped an overhead volley into the net at 3–3, Chicago won three straight points to secure their finals bid (9–8 (3)).
Facing their third, but best, Wash U team in a row, the Maroons found themselves in another tiebreak situation after winning the first set 7–5 and losing the second 6–4. A ten-point tiebreak would decide the champion.
Tied at 3–3 and then 6–6, Wash U eventually pulled ahead with a 9–7 lead. The Maroons saved one match point, but the Bears clinched the title one point later.
Sabada and Kranz said they were pleased with their improvements throughout the tournament.
“We got better every single match we played,” Kranz said. “Eventually, it started clicking.”
Tee lauds not only the efforts of Sabada and Kranz, but also the entire Maroon squad, especially the first-years.
“It’s been incredible what the freshmen have done, not only on the court, but the energy and excitement they brought to the team this year,” he said.
Without any more matches scheduled until January, Tee said he looks forward to seeing Chicago’s improvements.
“There’s a couple sparks but we don’t have any flames yet,” he said. “This offseason will be huge for the guys. What they do with their time will really tell how they do in the spring.”