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Palisades Still Has Granada Hills' Number

City tennis: Highlanders lose in final for third time in four years to Dolphins, who capture fifth consecutive title.


Ron Wood, Granada Hills High boys' tennis coach, must be wondering what it takes to beat Palisades.

For the third time in four years, Wood's Highlanders lost to Palisades, 20 1/2-9, Thursday in the City Championship final at Meridian's Tennis L.A.

Though Granada Hills (14-2) has narrowed the margin of defeat by one point each time, it still has a long way to go to dethrone the five-time defending City champions.

Palisades beat Granada Hills, 21 1/2-8, in 1997 and by a 22 1/2-7 score in 1996.

"We had to take them big in doubles, [but] they were just too strong," Wood said. "We didn't play that bad, they are just better than us. There are no weaknesses in that lineup."

The top-seeded Dolphins (17-5) won 13 of 16 singles sets, led by No. 1 singles player Artin Tafazoli, who lost only one game in four sets despite playing on a sprained right ankle.

"The kid could hardly run and he still took down everyone we had," Wood said of Tafazoli, one of the top 10 ranked 18-year-olds in the nation. "We tried to drop-shot him, lob him, move him--everything. But when you have a big serve and a great forehand like he does, you can win a lot of points on the first ball."

Tafazoli lost only three games in winning all 12 of his sets in the playoffs.

"I went out there wondering if I could even play," Tafazoli said. "I had [the ankle] taped right before the match, and it hurt pretty bad in the first set. But it started loosening up after that."

Granada Hills' No. 2 doubles team of Brad Steinberg and Brian Mintz won two of three sets, rallying from a 5-1 deficit to beat the No. 2 team of Matt Berman and Alex Leb in a tiebreaker, 7-1.

But the Highlanders' No. 1 team of Anand Murthy and Dan Lim, which had dominated its Valley opponents, won only one of three sets against Palisades.

"Their doubles were stronger than any team we've seen all year," Wood said.

The same schools met for the City Championship girls' title in November, with Palisades edging Granada Hills, 4-3.

Palisades won its 24th City boys' championship and its fifth in a row, tying the record it set from 1969-73.

In the City Division final:

Hamilton 18, Van Nuys 11 1/2--Sammy Choo and Alex Mangu each won three of four singles sets, but defending-champion Van Nuys (11-6) lost six of nine doubles sets.

Eugene Han and Jeff Kudishevich won two of three sets at No. 1 doubles for seventh-seeded Van Nuys. The Wolves' No. 3 team of Mark Guerra and James Chu beat the Yankees' No. 2 team of Max Bransky and Ben Lippman, 6-0.

Kasey Crews, the No. 1 player for fourth-seeded Hamilton (11-5), won his four singles sets, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5, in the round-robin format.

The Yankees' No. 3 doubles team of Alex Bermier and Oliver Lee lost to Han and Kudishevich, 6-0, but recovered to win their last two sets.

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