Perhaps James Wade's start was a bit too good in the CIF Southern Section Boys' Tennis Individual Tournament semifinals Saturday.
San Marino High's ace came into the final four match with University's Gage Brymer at the Seal Beach Tennis Center as a big underdog, but found himself with an early lead in the first set after breaking the top seed's serve.
“For the first time Gage was frustrated,” San Marino Coach Melwin Pereira said, “I couldn't believe it.”
Wade couldn't maintain the pace, however. Brymer took the next five of the next six games to win the opening set en route to a semifinal sweep, 6-3, 6-3. University's UCLA-bound star took the second set by the same score to advance to championship round for the third year in a row and end Wade's career-best campaign.
“I was playing so well early in the set, it was really great,” said Wade, who advanced to the semifinals in his senior year after being knocked out in the round of 16 in 2012. “I was just killing him and then I couldn't really keep it up.”
Both players held serve to split the first two games of the day and Wade was all smiles after breaking Brymer (40-30) to take a 2-1 lead. Instead of serving as something to build on, Pereira felt that might have started Wade's skid.
“I think he got very excited,” Pereira said. “I can see that, that's normal because I don't think he's broke Gage's serve before. He got excited and instead of focusing he got a little deflated.”
Wade held serve to win the first game of the second set, but then dropped the next three. He bounced back to pull within a game, 3-2, and then split the next two. A tightly contested eighth game went to deuce with Brymer eventually pulling it out and breaking Wade's serve to clinch the match.
While it ended earlier than hoped Saturday, Wade put together a tremendous final high school season – individually and with his team – before he moves on to play for UC Davis next year. The Titans won the CIF Southern Section Division II championship and advanced to the CIF United States Tennis Assn./Southern California Regional Championship round, while Wade enjoyed new personal success.
“This was nice, I was looking forward to senior year, I put in a lot of work before the season playing tournaments and stuff and I feel like I've improved a lot this year,” Wade said. “We had a great run as a team, winning CIF and in regionals and I had a good run here losing to Gage in the semis.”
It was Wade's finest showing against Brymer, who he'd faced twice before in this year. The San Marino standout had never taken more than two games off Brymer in any set, but managed to top that in both sets Saturday.
“Each time I played him I think I've played a little better,” said Wade, who lost to Brymer in the regional championship on May 25 (6-1, 6-1), in the semifinals of the Ojai Tournament (6-0, 6-2) on April 27 and in the 2012 Division I quarterfinals (6-2). “Today I made him work for it and played even better than I did last time, so I'm excited about that.”
If nothing else, Pereira felt the match would benefit Wade, as he takes the next step in his career.
“For what James did today, it was all heart and it's good for him to get him ready for college,” Pereira said. “I think today's match is a great indication.”