By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
AUSTIN — McKinney North senior Jordan Hart celebrated a UIL Class 4A boys singles state championship for the second consecutive year on Tuesday afternoon.
In 2012, Hart won the tournament as an underdog, but this season he fought diligently to remain on top of the tennis ranks and claim his second state title over San Antonio Alamo Heights’ Jonah Candelario. After losing Tuesday’s first set 6-1, Hart rallied back and through sure will, defeated Candelario 6-1 in the second set and 6-4 in the third.
As the odds on favorite in every one of his matches, his opponents aspired to take down the reigning champ.
“I feel more relief than anything,” said Hart. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited, but I had a lot of expectations this year. I wanted to finish my career on a high note.”
Surrounded by those who care about him the most — family, friends and coaches — Hart embraced the moment as he reclaimed his title. For the humble athlete, the back-to-back titles is the icing on the cake of an already astounding high school career.
Hart left nothing on the court. The battle was nothing short of brilliant as the two played for nearly three hours at Penick-Allison Tennis Center at the University of Texas in Austin.
Hart got off to a slow start losing the first two games of the first set. “I felt like I came into the match too relaxed,” he said.
After winning the third game in the first set, North fans were anticipating a quick turnaround, but Hart was unable to build off of his momentum. Despite losing the first set 6-1, Hart brought Candelario to deuce on many different occasions but failed to seize the break point. Candelario was beating Hart at his own game, slowly wearing him down, and letting Hart’s frustration get the best of him.
Hart let his emotions loose and let out a stern yell at the end of the first set.
“Yelling out after the first set calmed me down,” said Hart. “It actually relieved the pressure that was building up and helped me relax.”
Between sets, North head coach Jon Stein went over to his senior and gave him a pep talk. After listening to his coach, Hart appeared to enter the second set with a different mentality.
Hart’s resiliency and his ability to bounce back made the difference.
“I told Jordan, we all love you,” said Stein. “Just relax and play tennis. We’ll get through this. Jordan was playing well, but he needed to open the court more. I didn’t feel like Jordan was challenging him enough. He was giving him easy shots to return. I told Jordan that he needed to give him something stronger to hit. In the beginning I felt like Jordan wasn’t playing to win. He was playing not to lose.”
Defeating Candelario handedly 6-1 in the second set relived some of the tension that was building in the stands. Hart transitioned his momentum into the third set, winning the first three games. But before he could conjure up a comfortable lead, Candelario responded with three straight wins of his own.
“Tied at three games was a pivotal point in the match,” said Hart. “I knew I couldn’t allow him to pick up momentum.”
Hart kept his composure as he fought off Candelarios’s desperate measures. Trailing 5-4 in the third set and with the match on the line, Canderlario was persistent in his pursuit to catch Hart. Hart stayed poised and held strong, and he was able to fend off Canderlario’s bet efforts.
“I feel great,” said Stein. “I wanted him to accomplish his goal. I had high hopes for him and wanted him to finish his career the way he deserved to.”
Top photo: Jordan Hart, surrounded by his family, displays the state championship trophy.
Photo at right, Hart displays his trophy with Coach Stein, (far left) MISD Athletic Director, Shawn Pratt, (L) and Coach Geenwood (R)
Photos by Colin Bado