A Spanish invasion has overtaken Maryland tennis.
Senior exchange student Jake Benzal of Franklin completed his run to the 2002 Maryland singles title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over defending champion Jason Pinsky of Winston Churchill yesterday afternoon at CCBC-Essex.
Meanwhile, in the girls final, Glenelg junior Marianne Baker defeated Franklin junior Beatrice Grasu, 6-0, 6-3, to capture her second consecutive state crown.
Benzal became the first state tennis champion ever at Franklin, according to coach Warren White, who has led the Indians' program for the past 21 years. The Cabrils, Spain, native did so by using a classic European-style baseline game and a powerful forehand with plenty of topspin that helped him to 31 winners.
"At the beginning of the season I said Jake is the most special player that I have seen in my 21 years," White said. "Now, after this event, the whole state knows what a special player Jake is."
Throughout the match, Benzal attempted to maneuver around his slice backhand, clearly favoring his forehand side. Pinsky, who hit 24 winners and 36 unforced errors, often tried to force Benzal (34 unforced errors) to hit his backhand. But that strategy backfired, causing the Churchill sophomore to make many mistakes.
"I don't have a lot of confidence right now with my backhand," said Benzal, who said he is considering a scholarship offer from the University of Texas. "So I had to do something, and my forehand has been going great."
Pinsky led 4-2 in the first set before Benzal stormed back to take the final four games. In the second set, Benzal broke Pinsky's serve in the third game to take the lead. It was the only service break of the second set.
In the girls final, Baker continued her two-year streak of not losing a set by easily handling Grasu for the second straight season. "I just go out there and play the best that I can," Baker said. "It works."
It was the second straight season Grasu overcame adversity to reach the state final. This season, Grasu missed considerable time with mononucleosis after having surgery on both her feet last year.
In girls doubles, Severna Park junior Lindsay Suller won her second straight state title, but with a different partner. Replacing junior Jamie deGraffenreid, who moved to Florida, was Allison Daciek. They defeated Holly Schaefer and Kristen Kibler from Broadneck, 6-4, 6-4, in the final.
In boys doubles, the Wootton tandem of Krishna Potarazu and Victory Ng defeated teammates Adam Freedenberg and Jeff Handelsman, 6-4, 6-4. Freedenberg and Handelsman had beaten Potarazu and Ng, 6-0, 6-2, in the final of the regional tournament.
In mixed doubles, Lesley Price and Chris Jacob of Eleanor Roosevelt downed Jessica Woolfolk and Brendan Kincaid of Cambridge-South Dorchester, 6-3, 6-4. The Cambridge-South Dorchester team reached the state final despite the fact that Kincaid, a sophomore, was born without a right arm.
Singles semifinals: Pinsky (Churchill) def. Nabar (Mount Hebron) 6-4, 6-3; Benzal (Franklin) def. Coleman (E. Roosevelt) 6-1, 6-0. Singles finals: Benzal def. Pinsky 6-4, 6-4. Doubles semifinals: Potarazu-Ng (Wootton) def. Hamlington-Taylor (South Carroll) 6-2, 6-2; Freedenberg-Handelsman (Wootton) def. Mayhew-Wozny (Cambridge-South Dorchester) 6-0, 6-3. Doubles final: Potarazu-Ng def. Freedenberg-Handelsman 6-4, 6-4.
Singles semifinals: Baker (Glenelg) def. Samios-Uy (Joppatowne) 6-1, 6-4; Grasu (Franklin) def. Johnson (Severna Park) 6-3, 6-0. Singles finals: Baker def. Grasu 6-0, 6-3. Doubles semifinals: Daciek-Suller (Severna Park) def. Lauroesch-Kukura (Whitman) 6-4, 6-3; Schaefer-Kibler (Broadneck) def. Brown-Carter (E. Roosevelt) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Doubles finals: Daciek-Suller def. Schaefer-Kibler 6-4, 6-4. Mixed doubles: Price-Jacob (E. Roosevelt) def. Haas-Blake (Towson) 6-1, 6-2; Woolfolk-Kincaid (Cambridge-South Dorchester) def. Fry-Sholes (Poolesville) 6-1, 6-1. Final: Price-Jacob def. Woolfolk-Kincaid 6-3, 6-4.