Benzal shakes off nerves, Dulaney

Exchange student defeats Dawson

Franklin rolls, 9-0

Tennis

High Schools

April 11, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Before the season started, Franklin's Warren White said that in his 21 years of coaching the Baltimore County public school, he has never seen a tennis player as talented as senior exchange student Jake Benzal.

Benzal, who hails from Cabrils, Spain, 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, is quickly backing up his coach's claim. Yesterday afternoon, Benzal improved to 4-0 with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Dulaney junior Chase Dawson, a state finalist last season, in the No. 1 boys singles match as the Indians cruised past the host Lions, 9-0.

Before last month, Benzal had played just sparingly over the previous two years as a result of an injury to his right shoulder. At the age of 16, however, he said he had competed on the Spanish junior national team and played in the qualifying rounds of two ATP Tour tournaments.

This season, Benzal opened with three straight 6-0, 6-0 victories to lead a Franklin team that has won all four of its matches by 9-0 scores. Yesterday was Benzal's first test, facing in Dawson the two-time defending Baltimore County singles champion.

After a shaky start, Benzal took control with a powerful baseline game and crushing first serves, hitting 34 winners. Dawson managed just 12 winners, but stayed close in the first set thanks to an erratic start by Benzal, who also committed 25 unforced errors and double-faulted seven times.

"I was really nervous in the beginning," Benzal said. "And then I said to myself, `What do you have to be nervous about? It's just a high school match.' So I relaxed and played better."

With the first set tied 5-5, Dawson had three consecutive break-point opportunities to take control. But Benzal won the next seven points to hold serve, and then broke Dawson at love to take the set 7-5 (Baltimore County high school tennis plays with no-ad scoring). Shellshocked, Dawson fell behind 5-1 in the second set.

"At 15-40, he came up with two big serves," Dawson said. "He just came up with the goods there. Then I kind of let it fluster me on my service, and I just lost focus. When you're playing someone like that, just two minutes of not focusing and it's gone."

In other matches, defending girls county champion Brooke Rogers of Franklin defeated Dulaney senior Elaine Derrer, 6-1, 6-1, in the No. 1 singles match. In the No. 2 singles matches, Franklin senior Matt Bondroff outlasted Matt Blauvelt, 6-4, 7-6 (2), and Franklin sophomore Megan Blick defeated Megan Goldman-Petri, 7-4, in a third-set tiebreaker after the two had split sets.

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