Monday, June 19, 2017

Jackson beats heat, Chari for NorCal boys 18 title

Champion Ryder Jackson, left, and runner-up Siddharth Chari show the effects
of their marathon in brutal heat on Monday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The final was sizzling in more ways than one.
   In a match as intense as the heat, Ryder Jackson rallied to edge Siddharth Chari 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 23 minutes today to win the Northern California Boys 18 Junior Sectional Championships.
   Chethan Swanson, the top seed who lost to Jackson 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, watched the grueling battle.
   "It was incredible," said Swanson, a friend of Chari's from Folsom in the Sacramento area. "I've been watching junior tennis obviously for so many years, and I can confidently say that was probably the tightest match I've ever seen. What I mean by that is nobody ever had a lead for more than a couple games for the entire match."
   The match at the Natomas Racquet Club began at 9:10 a.m. in 85-degree (29.4 Celsius) heat. By the time it ended at 12:33 p.m., the temperature had soared to 99 degrees (37.2) on the way to a record high of 107 (41.7).
   Can you say climate change?
   Chari, 6-foot-3 1/2 (1.92 meters) and only 160 pounds (72.6 kilograms), began cramping in both hamstrings while holding serve for 3-2 in the third set. At about the same time, his right (playing) forearm tightened up.
Ryder Jackson, left, rallied to edge Siddharth Chari
4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 23 minutes for the
Sectional boys 18 title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jackson, seeded fifth, then held serve despite soreness in his left leg. After the ninth-seeded Chari held serve for 4-3, he took a medical timeout and proceeded to break Jackson. With Chari serving for the match, Jackson broke back on a return-of-serve cross-court passing shot. 
   Jackson broke Chari again to lead 6-5, but Chari valiantly saved three match points in a game featuring several long, exhausting rallies to break back and send the match to a decisive tiebreaker. Chari survived two more match points before netting a down-the-line backhand on the sixth one.
   Jackson roared triumphantly, and the combatants shook hands at the net. Then Chari slumped in a chair in the shade next to the court and buried his head in his arms. Jackson sat next to Chari and grimaced in pain.
   "The heat was really tough," conceded the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter), 141-pound (64.0-kilogram) Jackson, from Nicasio in Marin County north of San Francisco. "I play a lot in San Francisco, so I'm not really used to intense heat. But the adrenaline is going, you want to win, and you just push through. I was thankful I didn't have a major injury and was able to keep going."
   Jackson, 16, admitted he had extra incentive after losing to towering Keenan Mayo of Roseville in the Sacramento area 6-1, 6-1 in last year's boys 16 Sectional final at Natomas.
   "That was a rough match," sighed Jackson, who won a gold ball in 14-and-under singles in the 2015 USTA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz. "I played as well as I could, but he played better than me. This year, I definitely wanted to do better than I did last year, and winning a Sectionals is a major accomplishment.
   "It's like the biggest tournament in all of NorCal, and it's 18s, too, so this is huge for me because I'm going to probably start traveling more and playing some high-level tournaments now that I've kind of cemented the NorCal with this win."
Ryder Jackson had extra incentive after losing in
the boys 16 final last year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Chari, a 17-year-old resident of Saratoga (near San Jose), eventually withered in the heat.
   "My legs gave out of me when I was serving 5-3 (in the third set)," he allowed. "The heat was exhausting. I haven't been in this situation much, especially in this 100-degree heat. That really got to me."
   Jackson and Chari had met twice previously, both three-setters in the last month in high school matches. Jackson, then a sophomore at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, won the first time and Chari, then a junior at Menlo School in Atherton, the second.
   "I knew coming in it was going to be tough," said Chari, ranked 12th in Northern California and 116th nationally in the 18s. "I had a feeling it was going to be a three-setter."
   The final essentially pitted Chari's offense against Jackson's defense.
   Chari has a booming, high-kicking serve and powerful forehand, and moves well.
   "He moves really well, especially to his forehand," agreed Jackson, ranked first in NorCal and 13th nationally in the 16s and 18th in the NorCal 18s. "His running forehand I think is his best shot, besides his serve. He has an incredible running forehand. I always had to watch out for that. I couldn't hit it to the corner and think (the point) was over. I always had to be ready for the next ball."
Siddharth Chari will enroll at Yale in the fall of 2018.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jackson countered with a strong return of serve, often getting back balls that bounced over his head, and consistency, frequently chasing down Chari's lasers.
  "I love my return of serve," Jackson gushed. "That's one of my best shots. That definitely helped a lot today, because he has a big serve and he's used to a lot of free points, so my goal was to try to make a lot of returns. It worked out great today."
   Jackson wore a soccer shirt to begin the match and switched to one advertising Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi for the third set.
   "I always wear soccer jerseys and visors (for matches)," Jackson said. "I've been doing it since I was 10. That's kind of my look, my signature.
   "I like the World Cup, the big events. I like Real Madrid; Ronaldo is my favorite player. I played soccer when I was 11, then I quit to focus on tennis. I think I have like 25 (soccer shirts)."
   Both of Jackson's parents starred in college, Steve Jackson at Fresno State and Elizabeth Evans at Harvard. Steve is the director of tennis at the California Tennis Club in San Francisco.
   Ryder said he'll take online classes as a junior and perhaps return to St. Ignatius as a senior. He hopes to land a scholarship to a Division I school.
   Chari's father, Ranga, and mother, Vidya, are software engineers. Vidya stays home to travel with Siddharth, who will enroll at Yale in 2018. He plans to major in economics while playing on the tennis team.
   Said Swanson, who will play at UC Davis: "I'm really proud of him for getting a spot in an Ivy League school. It's going to be a great place (for him). He's really talented in tennis, and he's a genius, too, a really smart kid."
At Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento
Boys 18
   Ryder Jackson (5), Nicasio, def. Siddharth Chari (9), Saratoga, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4).
   Stevie Gould, Corte Madera, and Issa Yoshida (1), Campbell, def. Nitzan Ricklis, Sunnyvale, and Dean Stratakos (2), Saratoga, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Boys 16
   Aryan Chaudhary (1), Santa Clara, def. Daniel Papacica, Carmel, 6-3, 6-3.
   Brandon Aprill, Mountain View, and Zachery Lim (3), Vacaville, def. Marshall Leung, Tiburon, and Andrei Volgin (5), Fremont, 6-3, 6-4.
At Copper River Country Club in Fresno
Girls 18
   Ashley Yeah (3), Los Gatos, def. Rachel Eason (1), Union City, 6-4, 6-1.
   Anna Campana and Carolyn Campana (3), Hillsborough, def. Jillian Taggart, Fair Oaks, and Elena Van Linge (4), Menlo Park, 8-4.
Girls 16
   Vivian Ovrootsky (4), San Jose, def. Avantika Willy (5), Dublin, 6-0, 6-1.
   Allura Zamarripa and Maribella Zamarripa (4), Saint Helena, def. Yuu Ishikawa, Mountain View, and Avantika Willy (3), Dublin, 8-2.
At Arden Hills Resort & Spa in Sacramento
Boys 14
   Brian Chong (2), Cupertino, def. Max Fardanesh (1), Albany, 7-5, 3-6 [12-10].
   Luvdeep Bal, Yuba City, and Brian Bilsey, Belmont, def. Max Fardanesh, Albany, and Jake Vassel (1), Danville, 8-5.
Girls 14
   Anushka Khune (2), Palo Alto, def. Priya Nelson (4), Sacramento, 6-1, 6-1.
   Tara Chilton, Reno, and Karis Kim, San Ramon, def. Audrey-Marie Rafols, Vallejo, and Isabel Santiago (3), Hayward, 8-3.
At Sunnyvale Tennis Center
Boys 12
   Raghav Jangbahadur (1), Palo Alto, def. Mason Nguyen (3), El Dorado Hills, 6-0, 6-2.
   Mason Nguyen, El Dorado Hills, and Lleyton Okada-Alonzo (1), Marina, def. Mitchell Lee, Oakland, and Julien Simonian (2), Redwood City, 6-4, 6-2.
Girls 12
   Ria Bhakta (1), Saratoga, def. Lauren Joyce (3), Lodi, 6-4, 6-1.
   Ria Bhakta, Saratoga, and Lauren Joyce (2), Lodi, def. Caroline Beard, Santa Rosa, and Anya Murthy (1), Fremont, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (6) [10-8].


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