Put on hold the last two years, the state's premier regular-season boys tennis tournament finally returned last weekend.
Many of the state's top teams and players convened at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center for the Oregon High School Tennis Championships on Friday and Saturday. The eight-team event – run by Jesuit since its debut in 1985 – provided a boost for the tennis community after having the state tournament canceled in 2020 and 2021.
“It's the first time we've had that energy in the air of state and districts, and playing toward some culminating events, and having all the top teams and players in one place,” Jesuit coach Jeff Wood said.
Central Catholic senior Gus Krauel won the No. 1 singles title by outlasting Lincoln sophomore Will Semler in three sets in the final. Lincoln's tandem of senior Sean Miller and junior Cooper Lahti prevailed in No. 1 doubles, defeating the Jesuit team of seniors Ethan Tran and Chase Baldocchi in straight sets.
Jesuit, the four-time reigning 6A champion, scored 74 points to beat Lincoln (54.5), Sunset (41) and Central Catholic (35) for the team title.
It was a big tournament for the Gonzaga-bound Krauel, who played doubles in the last state tournament as a freshman in 2019.
“He played pretty darn well,” Central Catholic coach Nate Ford said. “His hope was to get a win and secure himself a good seeding for state. I imagine we'll see a lot of familiar faces from that tournament out there.”
On Friday, Krauel beat Lakeridge junior Daniel Kaukonen 6-0, 6-4 in the first round and dug deep to hold off Beaverton junior Tannor Binder 7-6 (1), 6-7 (2), 6-3 in the semifinals. In Saturday's final, Krauel came from behind to oust the highly regarded Semler 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Semler dictated the action early, running Krauel all over the court. But Krauel was able to gain traction by hitting winners in the second set and pulled out the third set as fatigue set in and the action slowed down.
“If you play groundstrokes with Will, he's got this humongous forehand that's probably going to keep going his way,” Ford said. “So you either need to drop him early, or go for the winners, just to get some momentum going. And Gus started doing that, started painting some lines. He kind of took the momentum back and ran with it.”
Semler reached the final by defeating Sunset junior Kei Watanabe 6-3, 6-0 and Jesuit senior Siddu Chava 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (0). Semler is rated as a five-star prospect by Tennis Recruiting Network.
“Will's going to be an absolute phenom. He's incredible,” Ford said. “He doesn't have many holes in his game, which sort of made the win all that more impressive.”
Lincoln's Miller and Lahti entered as the top doubles seed and cruised through their first two matches without dropping a game. They got more of a challenge in the final from Baldocchi and Tran, the No. 2 seed, before winning 6-2, 6-3.
The tournament featured four eight-man singles brackets and four eight-team doubles brackets. Jesuit showed its depth by capturing titles in each bracket except No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.
The Crusaders got titles from sophomores Aaron Yan (No. 2 singles) and Reif Larsen (No. 3 singles) and junior Rohan Varma (No. 4 singles). They got doubles titles from the teams of senior Yohan Pandya/junior Jake Paulson (No. 2), juniors Declan Doan/Richard Anderson (No. 3) and sophomore Alex Tran/junior Victor Li (No. 4).
“The nice thing about this tournament is it being a flight system, it truly lets your 3-4 singles and doubles contribute,” Wood said. “It doesn't come down to a couple guys qualifying and racking up points. I think it's a very good indicator of depth for a team.”
Considering the state tournament was canceled the last two years, the Oregon High School Tennis Championships “will have major implications for seeding at state,” according to Wood.
“Singles is a wide-open field,” Wood said. “Gus is the guy to beat, but these kids, any one on any given day can beat them.”
More than anything, though, providing a forum for high-level competition made the tournament a raging success.
“It was great to get back and do something normal,” Wood said.
Added Ford: “It felt like it's been a long time coming.”