Watts cruises as Bears win ITA regional title
Entering the 2009 Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regionals this past weekend in St. Louis, senior co-captain John Watts was unbeaten in ITA Singles Regional play.
He exited the tournament unscathed.
“He’s definitely put his legacy…down as one of the best athletes ever to come to Wash. U.,” head coach Roger Follmer said. “We’re not even talking about tennis. I mean guys and girls that are in the hall of fame like Meredith Nordbrock…Alia Fischer…or Amy Albers. These are some of the best athletes ever to come to Wash. U., and now John [Watts] will be mentioned.”
Improving to 28-0 in his career in regional singles play, Watts won his fourth consecutive regional singles championship. Juniors Isaac Stein and Max Woods won the regional doubles championship to give the Washington University’s men’s tennis team a clean sweep of the tournament.
“All the way from our seniors to our freshmen, everyone competed hard,” Stein said.
On his path to winning the singles draw, Watts, the No. 4 singles player in Division III tennis, defeated all seven of his opponents in straight sets. In the semifinals, Watts faced the No. 14 seed and teammate Adam Putterman. The senior knocked off the freshman 6-1, 6-4. In the championship, Watts squared off against the No. 3 seed, senior Tomas Piskacek of Kenyon College, but won decisively, 6-2, 6-1.
“A lot of it is getting a good draw. Several times over the years, my opponents were very tired from playing some my fellow Wash. U. teammates, so a little bit of the credit has to go to [them] as well,” Watts said. “Some of it is just luck that I haven’t gotten got hurt during this tournament.”
Stein and Woods had a more difficult draw. In the round of 16, the two narrowly edged Depauw University’s 12th-seeded duo of Andrew Kahn and Michael Rardon, 9-7. Stein and Woods won the championship match, however, against second-seeded juniors Will Gates and Scott Sandager, another Depauw squad, in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5.
“The first couple of rounds, Max [Woods] kind of carried me through. I wasn’t feeling too great. Then we started getting into the swing of things, getting back into our rhythm of matches,” Stein said of his championship run. “The wins started coming and we started playing much better.”
Five Wash. U. players made it to the fourth round of the 128-man singles draw, while three Bears teams reached the quarterfinals of the doubles draw.
In the St. Louis Collegiate draw, freshman Zach Sarnoff took the singles title, while Sarnoff teamed up with junior David Zhu to take the doubles championship.
“We lost several seniors last year who graduated, but we had a good showing by our new freshmen,” Watts said. “The team has a lot to look forward to…Hopefully, we can keep performing well in the spring and have some good results come next May.”
Watts, Stein and Woods advance to the ITA National Small College Championships on Oct. 15-18 in Mobile, Ala. The tournament features participants from small colleges in two NCAA divisions, the NAIA and junior colleges. Watts won the ITA Division III championship in 2007.
“I’m super pumped [about the Championships]. I think Max [Woods] and I are looking forward [to] it. We have two more weeks of practice before we get to head down to Alabama,” Stein said. “It will be our first time there, but I think both of us are super amped to be able to compete more in the fall season.”
For the rest of the team, play resumes Feb. 13 against UAA conference opponents Case Western Reserve University and the University of Chicago.