After all he did to get back in town for the Virginia AAA Northern Region tennis tournament, Herndon senior Philip Nelson was going to make the most of his chance to play.
Nelson spent Sunday night in the car traveling from a USTA tournament in Georgia to make his first round match Monday. In the tournament final at the Fairfax Racquet Club on Wednesday, Nelson beat Madison senior Dan Sablik, 6-3, 6-1, to win his first regional singles championship.
“I wanted to play for my school,” said Nelson, who had to forfeit the regional final last year when he couldn’t get back in time from a USTA event. “School pride is very important to me. I didn’t get to play last year and I wanted to try my luck.”
Both Nelson and Sablik played off of tremendous first serves, and early on Wednesday it seemed like any service break would be pivotal.
The players held serve for the first six games of the match, but Nelson broke Sablick twice in a row to win the first set.
Nelson got stronger as he went along, and broke Sablick twice more in the second set to put himself in a position to win the match.
Nelson never lost his serve, and he hit nine aces in the second set to help him stay in control.
“It was really tough to get a read on his serve because he was mixing it really well,” said Sablik, who endured a three-and-a-half hour match Tuesday in the semifinals. “I had a tough time picking up on patterns, and he was just really efficient on holding serve.”
In the doubles final, Jefferson’s Chris Vrabel and Ben Rosenblum beat Lake Braddock’s Ian Hung and Dave Kim, 6-1, 6-4.
Vrabel is one of the area’s top singles players, but he withdrew from the Liberty District singles tournament to play in a USTA event, and qualified for the Northern Region tournament in doubles instead.
“Chris is really good at tennis,” Rosenblum said when asked what made the Jefferson duo such a potent team. “He can keep a rally going for as many balls as he needs.”
Both finalists in the singles and doubles tournaments qualified to compete in the Virginia AAA state tournament scheduled to take place next month.
The Northern Region team tournament will begin Thursday and conclude next week.