Murad Nawaz had a solid freshman season playing first singles for Fairmont and advancing to the district tournament. But he frequently dropped matches to the top players in the GWOC and bowed out quickly at the district tournament.
That was then.
Saturday, the Fairmont sophomore became the school’s first boy to win a sectional tennis title since 1993, eight years before he was born. He edged defending sectional champion Josh Giambattista of Centerville, 6-3, 6-3, in the Division I singles final at Centerville High School.
Stronger and more skilled than a year ago, Nawaz topped Giambattista for the second time this season. The Elks junior made quick work of Nawaz last season.
“Over the off-season, I did a lot of training, especially on my strokes,” Nawaz said. “I’m also more fit than I was last year and I’m mentally stronger.”
Nawaz, 15, is the first to admit his mental game needed work.
“Last year, if I lost a point that I shouldn’t have, I’d let that bother me for a while,” he said. “This season, I’m having more fun, I’m more relaxed and I’m able to shake it off when I make a mistake.”
Mistakes weren’t a problem for Nawaz at the sectional tournament as the top seed won all five of his matches in straight sets. Two more wins and Nawaz will have achieved his primary goal for the season.
“My main goal is to qualify for state,” he said.
Being a No. 1 seed, as opposed to a third seed last year, should be helpful at the district tournament.
“I will probably play a four and then a two or three,” he said. “It gives me a better chance.”
Division II: Colton Morehart has more to contend with than just opponents, he has his sister to surpass — specifically her records.
While sister Rheanna graduated three years ago, Morehart, a junior, is still playing catch-up to her many high school tennis accomplishments. The Miami Valley School junior captured one more of the Morehart family bragging rights Saturday by netting his third sectional title — two in singles — with a 6-1, 6-1 win over teammate Michael Perevozchikov in the D-II championship match. Big sister only won two sectional titles.
Rheanna, who attends Northern Kentucky University, was there to cheer Colton on and doesn’t mind at all that he would like nothing more than to top all of her achievements.
“I think it’s really cool,” she said.
Doubles: The third seeds took it all in the D-I doubles final as Beavercreek’s Austin Staiger and Austin Chong, the Beavers first and second singles players, respectively, edged top-seeded Zachary Holbrook and Ryan Murphy of Centerville, 7-5, 6-4, to claim the sectional title.
In D-II play, the Rams collected their second sectional title of the day as Miami Valley’s top-seeded team of Makul Sharma and Niyanth Reddy finished the tournament in the same place they started — No. 1. Sharma and Reddy — like Morehart — had to beat their own teammates, Joe Keller and Reece Quigley, for the title as the dominating Miami Valley team finished first and second in singles and doubles.