Sports

Ball is in Menlo's court again with another CCS tennis title

 

Being the third of four tennis-playing brothers at Menlo School, David Ball has watched his older siblings achieve a lot of success over the years.

He watched the eldest, Jamin, close out a 4-3 win over Saratoga in 2010 while playing No. 1 singles. And he watched brother No. 2, Andrew, win at No. 1 last year as Menlo defeated Serra.

Thus, it was only fitting that David played on center court at Courtside Club in Los Gatos on Friday while taking a step closer to wrapping up his prep career.

Ball didn't know he was going to play at No. 1 in the CCS finale against Saratoga until Thursday.

"Once I heard I was going to play on center court, I thought it would be super awesome to carry on the tradition, for my team and my family," Ball said.

Like his brothers before him, David carried the tradition well as he won at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0, to help lead the top-seeded Knights (21-3) to a solid 6-1 triumph over previously unbeaten Saratoga (20-1).

The victory gave Menlo its sixth straight CCS title and 13th overall. The Knights now have won six in a row twice, last accomplishing that from 1998-2003. Palo Alto (1991-1996) and Monta Vista (1997-02) also have won six. Gunn holds the record with seven straight from 1972-78.

That's about the only CCS tennis record Menlo doesn't own. The Knights will go after that mark next year with yet another Ball, current freshman Mark.

While David sees carrying on the family tradition as something important, it ranks No. 2 to something else.

"I think it's important, but I think the team comes first," he said. "I'm proud to be a part of this winning tradition and represent Menlo. It was an honor to take center court today."

Ball had prepared himself to face Saratoga's No. 1 player, Neel Bedekar, but the Falcons' first-year coach switched up his lineup in hopes of ending Menlo's streak. Bedekar played at No. 2 singles and his No. 3 singles player played doubles.

The switch had no effect on the outcome, at least not for the Falcons.

"It just fired up our team even more," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "It's not a good move on their (Saratoga's) part."

Ball blitzed his opponent and junior Vikram Chari did the same at No. 3 singles, 6-0, 6-0. Menlo's No. 3 doubles team of Clarence Lam and Alex Neumann gave the Knights a 3-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph.

With four matches still on the courts, Menlo's Gunther Matta wrapped up the title with a 7-5, 6-0 triumph at No. 4 singles.

"I knew it would be me or Victor (Pham)," said Matta. "It doesn't really matter who is the clincher. The key thing was to find a way to get the win."

Pham won a few minutes later, 6-4, 6-2, and the No. 1 doubles tandem of Gabriel Morgan and Nathan Safran put the finishing touches on the triumph with a 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 win.

"It's amazing," Matta said of Menlo's string of titles. "Bill does such a good job. The coaches (including assistant David Wermuth) have us practice hard every day, to get us in great shape."

Menlo had to deal with 98-degree temperatures in Wednesday's semifinals, a 6-1 win over Bellarmine. The weather was much cooler Friday to make the day all the more enjoyable for Menlo, which now advances to the CIF NorCal Tournament next week along with Saratoga.

It will be the final stop for Ball, who ranks second in his family for career victories. He now is 104-5 in four seasons. Andrew leads with a remarkable 110-2 mark while Jamin is 97-11.

Since 2007 when Jamin was a freshman until this season, the Ball family has helped Menlo fashion a record of 201-16.

Andrew won four CCS and NorCal titles. David now has four section crowns and needs one more NorCal title to match Andrew, who is a freshman at Harvard. Jamin, who is finishing his senior year at Stanford, had three of each.

David looked at both schools but chose Brigham Young University. He'll be the only senior starter leaving Menlo. But first, there's a NorCal title to win and a CCS title to celebrate.

"I'm happy for all the new kids on the team," said Shine. "It (winning CCS) never gets old; it gets better."

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