Sports

Newman claims third summer tennis tournament title

Riley Newman practices in June for the state tennis tournament.  - Ben Watanabe / Record file
Riley Newman practices in June for the state tennis tournament.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / Record file

Like the song played before every home South Whidbey High School boys basketball game, all Riley Newman does is win. It’s just a shame speakers weren’t set up at the South Whidbey tennis courts, too.

Newman, a 2011 graduate, won his third USTA Champs singles tennis tournament of the summer. He defeated Vicente Varas 6-3, 7-5 earlier this month. It was his second match against Varas this summer.

“I got the first couple points and he just got rattled,” Newman said. “He kind of just gave up at the end.”

Then, he was in line with DJ Khaled’s hip-hop song “All I Do Is Win.”

The outdoor court may have factored into Newman’s breezy sets at the Columbia Tennis Club in Mill Creek. Newman almost exclusively trained on the outdoor courts at South Whidbey.

“I’m used to playing outside,” he said.

Playing on an indoor court at a previous tournament was more challenging. Varas and Newman played in the championship match for Newman’s first tournament title in July on the indoor court at Central Park Tennis Club.

“He was just a banger,” Newman said.

Varas, a senior at Eastlake High School, stuck to his powerful forehand stroke from the baseline during the Washington State Junior Championship match.

Newman won the first set 6-4 behind deep baseline strokes that put Varas on the defensive. Then Varas cruised in a 2-6 second set, taking advantage of Newman’s mental mistakes and shallower hits.

“I lost focus a little bit,” Newman said. “He was hitting winners from everywhere.”

The third set was a first-to-10 points tiebreaker. Newman won 10-1.

“I was a little more consistent than he was,” he said.

Newman’s recent win streak started by claiming the crown in the Kitsap County Summer Champs tournament, but the road to the final match was more difficult. Newman played in a three-set semifinal match that lasted two hours before competing in the championship.

Fortunately for Newman, his opponent had played a marathon match, too. He defeated Redmond senior Dhruv Balakrishnan 6-0, 6-0 at the Bremerton Tennis Club July 24.

“You could tell he was tired,” Newman said. “I had to put the pressure on him; I knew he was going to fizzle.”

Winning is commonplace for Newman. For the past four years, he stacked two undefeated regular seasons, played in four state tournaments, competed in two state championship matches and won one 2A title.

All of the wins this summer qualified Newman for the Junior Championship Sectional Tournament in Portland, Ore. Thursday, Aug. 18.

Winning three tournaments improved Newman’s standing for the sectional tournament, so he will face a lower seeded player.

“I’ll have an easier road,” Newman said.

But there have been some losses, too, this summer. Newman lost in the semifinals at a tournament in Tacoma to the eventual champion.

“That was great competition,” he said. “Some of them were D-I players.”

His plan is to take those winning ways to college and play for Skagit Valley College in spring. These summer tournaments are his way of gaining match experience against better opponents.

“In the college level, all the guys are going to be good,” Newman said. “Playing against better people I’m going to improve.

“In high school I got some match experience, but the talent wasn’t exactly premiere.”

As a continuation of that pursuit, he will compete in singles tournaments in Seattle and Portland.

“It’s going to be crazy,” Newman said.

Newman will partner with his older sister Lindsey for a mixed doubles tournament in Yakima Sept. 2.

The summer tournaments also gave Newman opportunities to alter his serve and improve his volleying. He said he worked to throw his serve higher and farther in front for more pace and power.

“It allows me to pick on their weakness if I want to.”

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