It was great to be playing tennis in the Division I district Saturday at Tri-City Park in Rocky River if your last name was Marx . . . or is it Marks . . . or maybe both?
Confusing? Not really, if you chose "both," because Shaker Heights freshman Tommy Marx won the district singles championship, while Kenston freshman Nolan Marks won two consolation-round matches to finish fifth and become the Bombers' first boys state qualifier in singles.
Marx avenged a three-set loss to Solon senior Dylan Schrode with a surprisingly dominant 6-3, 6-2 victory in the finals. Marx coasted past Avon Lake senior Alex Trzeciak in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-0, but Trzeciak came back to finish third by downing Seth Duffy of Wooster, 6-0, 6-4.
Two factors aided Marx, ranked 14th nationally in the USTA among boys age 14. Marx had a dominant first serve and an effective second serve when the first one faltered. Schrode, who will be competing at state a fourth straight year, had trouble with his first serves and an ineffective backhand. In addition, Schrode never broke Marx's serve.
"My serve was good today," Marx said. "I had some double faults early, so I began mixing up serves -- using spinners along with the hard, flat serves -- and that kept Dylan off balance. Also, the first time we played, I didn't hit the ball as well as I did today. I got some shots past him this time.
"I'm going to state with confidence. You gain that when you are able to beat the best players, and Dylan is one of the best. This was no easy victory for me."
Schrode remained upbeat despite the loss to Marx, an off-court friend.
"Honestly, my backhand cost me," Schrode said. "I had no feel on that side of the racket. My first serve got in about 55 percent of the time, which was OK considering the wind. But I didn't catch a lot of Tommy's junk, and when I didn't, he made me pay. He made the shots he needed to. . . . That's why he's an outstanding freshman."
Marks is an unusual story in that he was an outstanding pitcher, but when he started playing tennis three years ago and enjoying it, he gave up baseball. He earned his trip to state by downing standout Cloverleaf sophomore Ethan Dunbar in the consolation semifinals, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, then overpowered Shaker Heights freshman David Gabriel for fifth place, 6-1, 6-2.
"No, those baseball coaches weren't happy with my decision," Marks said, "but it looks like I made the right decision. I played tennis at age 6 but gave it up for baseball, then started playing tennis competitively three years ago. I finished second in my home club championship [Chagrin Valley A.C.] and couldn't put the racket down since.
"My forehand and serve are my strengths. My backhand? Well, let's just say it has its days."
The doubles title went to Boardman's duo of Scott Warden and Robert Salcedo, struggling past Hudson seniors Matt McErlean and Alex Hughes in the finals, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3). Both teams appear strong enough to place at state May 30-31.
Greg Woyczynski and Aaron Robbins of Shaker Heights placed third by downing North Olmsted's Kevin Bus and Alex Kearney, 6-4, 6-2, while Solon seniors Billy Smith and Matt Dunmead placed sixth and qualified for state.
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