Boys’ tennis clinches first win against Hillsdale

Junior+Jared+Berkovits+smiles+in+between+a+rally+with+assistant+coach+Doug+Stone+during+the+boys%E2%80%99+tennis+practice+on+March+2.

Michelle Moshkovoy

Junior Jared Berkovits smiles in between a rally with assistant coach Doug Stone during the boys’ tennis practice on March 2.

Michelle Moshkovoy, Head Photographer

Any high school tennis coach likes the sound of leading 3-0 in a best of seven matchup.

That’s exactly where Burlingame head coach Bill Smith found himself in the boys’ varsity tennis (1-1) matchup against Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) Bay Division foe Hillsdale High School on Tuesday, March 1. 

With junior Arihant Mishra-Agoram decisively winning 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1 singles, sophomore Chinmay Rao following suit with a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 4 singles and freshman duo Andy Bracy and Spencer Phonsombat cruising to a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 3 doubles, all the Panthers needed was another two sets under their belt. 

Near the finish line, three of the four remaining matches ended in three-set losses. That left Burlingame’s fate in junior Jared Berkovits’ hands at No. 2 singles. Sophomore Arda Inegol, who usually occupies the No. 2 spot, is out indefinitely with a back injury, moving Berkovits and the rest of the ladder up one spot. 

Berkovits won in an incredibly tight fashion, besting Hillsdale’s George Jiang in two tie-breaks 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5). 

Up 5-1 in the second set tie-break, Berkovits eventually sealed the win before Jiang could force a third set. That gave the Panthers the pivotal number “4” on the scorecard, clinching their first win of the season and in league play. 

“He had a loss earlier this season where he [was] just kind of disconsolate about how he played and came out,” Smith said. “[Berkovits] did a heck of a job. It was a very even match, and he just managed to eke out the last tie-breaker.”

The longest match at about two hours and forty-five minutes, Berkovits’ mental fortitude remained strong until the end, as his teammates watched him navigate the second tie-break. 

“He dropped one point and started smiling. [It’s] so funny. It’s so intense, and Jared started smiling after every point. And that’s the best part about him and his game, he’s not uptight whatsoever,” Mishra-Agoram said. 

“It’s fun,” Berkovits said in response to Mishra-Agoram’s comment. “It’s not really pressure — it’s just high school tennis, but you know, it’s the most pressure you can probably have in a high school match. I don’t know; I like that kind of stuff.”

The win comes after a 5-2 loss against San Mateo High School in a very windy PAL season opener on Feb. 22. On top of Inegol’s absence, junior transfer Luke Amdurksy sat out both games as he awaits his eligibility.  

“I don’t know if he’ll be eligible right when we play San Mateo again at the start of the second round-robin, but I expect us to be a wee bit better when we face them the next time,” Smith said. “[We won] three matches… clean straight-set [against Hillsdale]… so I feel real confident we’ll do much better against Hillsdale the next time we play them.”

Despite being a relatively young squad — the only seniors are Nicholas Losito and Robert Peterson at No. 2 doubles — the team’s spirits remain high. 

“I think we have a great group of guys this year — we’re all pretty close,” Mishra-Agoram said. “[The win against Hillsdale] was a great morale boost, and so far I’ve just been enjoying every minute I’ve been on the court.”