By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
AUSTIN — Jordan Hart is one victory away from his second consecutive 4A state tennis title.
The McKinney North senior won two matches Monday at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center in Austin to advance to Tuesday’s 9 a.m. championship match. Hart will compete against San Antonio Alamo Heights player Jonah Candelario for the boys title.
Hart gets his opportunity thanks to the toughness he showed Monday, when he defeated Zan Rive of Fort Worth Arlington Heights, 6-2, 6-2, then defeated Brad Henkelman of Montgomery, 6-0, 6-2.
It started in the quarterfinal match against Region 2 chamipon Rive. Hart’s performance appeared to be dominant on paper, but in actuality both individuals contended for every point. The match was closer than he would have liked.
Hart’s ability to stay focused and minimize mistakes proved to be the deciding factor. Games lasted upward of 10 minutes as both individuals struggled to capture the advantage point.
Rive’s forehand kept him in the match, but his insistent disposition opened the door for error. Frustration settled in, and Rive was unable to deter his inevitable collapse.
“There’s an upside and a downside for players who are strong and play aggressively,” said McKinney North coach Jon Stein. “He (Rive) was able to keep himself in the match with big hits, but Jordan kept to his game and persevered.”
Hart’s semifinal match against Henkelman was delayed three hours due to rain and finally began at 4:30 Monday afternoon. Henkelman placed third in his region and should have been at home reading about the state tournament, but he earned his way to the Austin after the first seed was disqualified due to academics.
But don’t tell Stein that Henkelman didn’t deserve his spot in the semifinals against Hart. “Brad may have gotten here through the back door, but he managed to defeat his quarterfinal opponent,” Stein said.
Hart obviously understood, too. He didn’t take his opposition any less seriously. “He (Henkelman) may be weaker, but I have to treat every opponent the same,” said Hart.
After a nerve-ridden first match, Hart settled down during the semifinal. He was able to shake off his anxiety and settle into his game.
“Jordan played more to his ability. He’s the returning state champion. He has a target on his back. Every opponent wants to defeat him,” said Stein.
Hart picked apart Henkelman, wearing him down mentally. Once again, Hart defeated his opponent in straight sets.
Hart said he was nervous and wasn’t used to the courts, so the day started a little tougher for him than he expected. He wants to wear down his opponents both mentally and physically. Stein provided a terrific analogy for this.
“We use the analogy of a boa constrictor with our players,” Stein said. “We want to slowly choke down our opponents, and when they show a weakness, we clinch down even tighter.”
Hart’s persistency was apparent as both opponents exhibited their frustration with clamoring of their racquets and sighs of despair.
If you missed TSB’s feature story on Hart, previewing the state tournament, please click here. And check back to TownSquareBuzz.com on Tuesday for coverage of Hart’s state championship match.