Bedford's HoSang takes state singles title
Bedford's Mark HoSang makes a return shot to his opponent Concord's Peter Rouvalis during the semifinals of the NHIAA tennis singles hosted at the Derryfield School in Manchester Tuesday afternoon. (MARK BOLTON / UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — Somehow, some way, Mark HoSang found a way to regain his momentum to retain his title.
In what started out as a lopsided match turned into a nail-biting finish, HoSang of Bedford held on for a 6-0, 5-7, 10-2 tiebreaking win against gritty Harrison Max of Londonderry for the NHIAA boys' singles tennis title at Derryfield School.
“This is why I play,” said HoSang. “I set out to achieve my goals and defending this title was one of them this year. It's self-rewarding and I'm certainly relieved because this wasn't an easy match to win.”
It could have been a lopsided match as HoSang toyed with Max for the easy first set win and held a commanding 3-0 lead in the second set. But suddenly HoSang took his foot off the pedal and Max came to life, showing why he finished his Division I season undefeated in singles play and led the Lancers to a team state title.
“I didn't want to come out here and embarrass myself,” said Max. “I wanted to show why I got here. That's taking nothing away from Mark, who's a great player, one of the best in New England. But I kept telling myself, I'm not going to give it (the state title) to him. If he's going to beat me, he's going to have to earn it.”
In the first set, Max played right into HoSang's hands.
“I tried to out-slug him and that's not my game,” said Max , who acknowledged HoSang was just too physical, strong and consistent around the net. The book on HoSang is that you can't cover the net against him and Max learned it the hard way in the first set.
The 6-0 whitewash turned into a blessing for Max heading into the second set. By that point, his pre-match nerves had left him and he was able to finally settle down and begin playing his game.
Max couldn't outslug or overpower HoSang, but in the second set he showed how resourceful he could be. He stopped attacking the net and slowed the tempo by playing a baseline game. Instead of rocket shots, Max adjusted his game by lofting high lob shots, keeping HoSang from attacking the net.
HoSang admitted he gave Max “new life” when he failed to convert five match game points. “There was one time where I tried to blast the shot down the line because I thought it would make for a great ending,” said HoSang. “I definitely forced some shots when I didn't have to. But to his credit, Harrison took advantage and was resilient to the end.”
Because it was decided before the match started that a 10-point super tie-breaker would be utilized, no one will ever know if HoSang would have regained the momentum from Max in a third and final set.
What HoSang did know was he was comfortable deciding the outcome in the super tie-breaker. “In the USTA matches, I had a very good record in the tie-breakers, so I felt confident” said HoSang, who regained the momentum by breezing his way to the 10-2 decision.
Max, celebrating his 17th birthday, said the break between the second set and the start of the tie-breaker disrupted his rhythm, but he tipped his cap to HoSang.
“I don't think many thought I could win a set off him, because he's that good,” said Max. “I have one more chance to return here to win this title and I plan on working hard during the off-season to do it.”
As for HoSang, he will team up with McKinley Grimes in hopes of winning the state doubles tournament next week. HoSang, who will be attending the University of Connecticut this fall, said his high school experience at Bedford under coach Shawna Morley (2012 USTA New England Coach of the Year) was fulfilling.
“I had an opportunity to compete against some great players and win championships at the same time,” he said. “Hopefully I'll get to add one more with McKinley next week.”
In the semifinals Tuesday, HoSang defeated Peter Rouvalis of Concord, 6-2, 6-1, while Max beat Grimes, 6-4, 6-3.