Even though a lingering shoulder injury kept Blue Valley High School senior Anil Patel out of competition for the first half of the boys tennis season, he bounced back and won an Eastern Kansas League singles title on Saturday.
Patel, who entered as the No. 2 seed, defeated top-seeded Max Kurzban of Blue Valley West, 6-4, 6-2, to avenge two earlier losses and capture the league title. He is 13-3 in his senior season and is looking to improve on last year’s third-place finish at the state tournament.
“Right now, Anil’s total game is working,” Blue Valley coach Kimberly Francis said. “His impressive quickness and ability to cover the court frustrates his opponents, while keeping them on the run with his accurately placed winners and line shots.”
Francis said Patel reinjured his shoulder just before joining the Tigers this season, but added that Patel has been dedicated to his physical therapy.
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Patel had a first-round bye at the league tournament and dropped only four games in his next three matches to reach the finals. He also defeated Blue Valley Northwest’s James Lowe in a rematch of a state tournament consolation final. Patel helped the Tigers win fourth place behind BV Northwest, BV North and BV West.
“Anil can physically overwhelm opponents with his speed and shot placement, (and) he is also a very smart player with tremendous mental control,” Francis said. “He just steadily goes about his business, identifying opportunities and executing them with precision.”
BV Northwest, which is ranked first in the Kansas Tennis Coaches Association Class 6A state poll, used its depth to win the Eastern Kansas League team title.
The tournament format allowed BV Northwest to enter three singles players and three doubles teams and five of the six qualifiers reached the quarterfinals.
The top finishers for the Huskies were doubles runners-up Jonathan Lowe and Brett White, who lost to BV North’s Carson Fournier and Brady Flanagan 6-7, 6-4, 10-8. James Lowe was third in singles and Yash Mylavarapu placed fifth.
“It was a whole team effort,” BV Northwest coach Ted Fabiano said. “The nine players performed really well and we needed all nine of them to score points if we were going to win. I feel like, at each position, we either came close to or exceeded where we might have been expected to be.”
The Eastern Kansas League teams will split into three different regionals this weekend, as teams attempt to earn spots in the state tournaments. BV Northwest, BV North and Blue Valley will compete at the College Boulevard Activity Center. BV Southwest, BV West and St. Thomas Aquinas will play at Mill Valley, and Bishop Miege will compete at Spring Hill.
The top six finishers in both singles and doubles will advance to state tournament competition.
“I think you’ve got three pretty strong teams going into the 6A regional and then Blue Valley West should do really well in 5A,” Fabiano said. “They have two very good doubles teams that took third and fourth in the league and I imagine they will be very competitive in the state at 5A. Max Kurzban should be, as well.”