TUCKERS 7, BLUE WAVES 0
Like updated computer software or the latest release of a video game, the 2013 version of Garrett Malave, the tennis player, can be advertised as bigger and better.
It’s fun to watch Malave play tennis — unless you’re the player he’s playing against.
Malave, a freshman in his second year as Mattituck’s first singles player, is one of the better players in Suffolk County and quite possibly the best in League VIII. Physical maturity has something to do with that.
“Little boys grow up,” said Mattituck coach Mike Huey.
And young players grow into their game.
Malave said he has worked on his footwork and is doing more bending to return low shots. The results so far speak for themselves. Malave, along with two of the team’s other top three singles players, Parker Tuthill and Andrew Young, all raised their records to 4-0 Monday with wins in the Tuckers’ 7-0 defeat of visiting Riverhead.
As expected, Malave was impressive, using 17 service aces and 14 winners to help him to a 6-0, 6-2 win over eighth grader Jens Summerlin in a first-singles match that was completed in 43 minutes. Malave limited Summerlin to only 5 points in the first set, which was over in 15 minutes.
Putting 86 percent of his second serves in play, Malave committed only three double faults.
Summerlin, who earned Riverhead’s top singles position after senior Seth Conrad sprained an ankle, has had an eye-opening experience. Monday’s match was only his second at No. 1 singles, and it was an education for him. He said he had never played against a player of Malave’s caliber before.
“He plays very well, a lot of topspin on his balls, and his serve was just outrageous,” Summerlin said. “I could barely handle it.”
To his credit, Summerlin produced some nice shots of his own, and won back-to-back games in the second set to pull to within 3-2. But Malave’s quality was too much for the young Riverheader.
“He’s grown up, and he’s getting bigger, stronger and faster, and he’s making those adjustments,” Huey said of Malave. “As you can see, he doesn’t get cheated on his swing. He’s going for broke on every single shot.”
Plus, Malave has something else in his favor. He has talented teammates in Tuthill and Young, who give him good competition in practice.
“They have the ability to play Garrett tough, so every practice is a challenging practice,” Huey said. “He doesn’t get any days off. He’s got to work hard and he’s pushed every single day, and that makes you match tough.”
Tuthill and Young turned in two-set wins as well. Tuthill, playing second singles, blanked Nick Toharz, 6-0, 6-0, and Young beat Steve Velasquez, 6-1, 6-0.
Thomas Chatin (3-1) brought Mattituck (4-0 overall and in League VIII) a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Dillon Fava Wiggins at fourth singles.
The two-set theme continued in the three doubles matches, which were also swept by Mattituck: Charles Hickox and Kevin Schwartz defeated Mike Haynia and Kyle Helgans, 6-1, 6-2; James Rabkevich and Steve Urwand recorded a 6-0, 6-2 win over Kurt Divan and Edgar Garcia; and Nick Rabkevich and Tyler Rozhen downed Nick Giannillo and Jordy Perez, 6-0, 6-0.
Mattituck was coming off a significant 4-3 triumph over Longwood on Friday, a result that gave the defending league champion the inside track on this year’s league crown.
“That was huge for us,” said Huey.
Nick Rabkevich, playing in his first varsity match, and Rozhen provided the decisive point, getting the better of Longwood’s Jon Cruz and Matt Covati, 6-3, 6-2, at third doubles. Malave did his part that day, scoring a 6-1, 6-2 result over Indranel Mitra.
The temporary loss of Conrad is one Riverhead (0-4, 0-4) can ill afford. The team’s three returning players from last year are the only ones with any prior tennis-playing experience at all.
Riverhead coach Bob Lum said he hoped to have Conrad back in a week or so. In the meantime, Summerlin is getting a tennis education at first singles.
“He is talented,” Lum said of Summerlin, whose older brother Adrian and older sister Robyn both played for Riverhead. “It’s just that he needs some drive time out there. He needs to play more. It’s a learning process. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to get a beating now and then if you want to get good.”
Malave can relate what it’s like since he, too, played first singles as an eighth grader. “You’re versing the best tennis player in every school,” he said.
Summerlin, asked how he thought he did Monday, replied, “Not that well.”
Surely, though, there are better days ahead for him. Malave thinks so.
“He has really nice form,” Malave said. “I just feel that once he gets stronger, he’ll be able to return a lot of balls. He’s going to be good in a few years, like really good.”