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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS
ROUNDUP

Smith Assists Crespi on the Double

May 13, 1999|PAIGE A. LEECH

As it turned out, the decision was tougher for Michael Smith of Crespi High than the competition itself.

Filling in for one of the best doubles players in the region, Smith teamed with Carlos Gil, and the Crespi pair breezed through the final two rounds in straight sets to win the Mission League doubles championship Wednesday at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana.

Gil's regular partner, Ray Purwadihardj, was forced to miss the competition because of academic testing, but Smith proved to be a more than capable replacement.

Gil and Smith, the No. 4-seeded team, upset No. 1 and No. 2 teams from Loyola in the semifinals and finals.

They defeated Chris Cooley and Ray Santos, 6-3, 6-2, in the semifinals and Justin Levy and Eric Smith, 6-4, 6-3, in the final.

It was the first doubles competition of the year for Michael Smith, who was 39-12 as the Celts' No. 2 singles player.

When Coach Jeff Cortez realized Purwadihardj would not be available, he gave Smith the option of teaming with Gil or playing singles.

"It was really a tough decision, because this was my best year ever in singles," Smith said. "I felt I had to do it for Carlos. He's done a lot for Crespi tennis."

The only other time Gil and Smith had teamed was two years ago, when they lost in the semifinals of the same tournament. Cortez knew the duo would make a formidable team.

"They're a strong pair," Cortez said. "Plus, they're both left-handers, so that's always an advantage."

In singles competition, there were no surprises.

Top-seeded and defending champion J.J. Stewart of Loyola defeated Prakash Amritraj of Harvard-Westlake, 6-3, 6-1, in the final.

Ninety minutes earlier, Stewart defeated David Frankel of Harvard-Westlake, 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals.

"I played really solid today," Stewart said. "I didn't let the guys get into a groove at all."

Stewart first broke Amritraj in Game 7 of the first set to take a 4-3 lead, winning a deuce game with consecutive forehand passing shots.

Amritraj, a sophomore, won only his first service game of the second set, a love game won on three unforced errors by Stewart and a drop shot by Amritraj.

Stewart won the next five games by mixing booming forehands and terrific backhands down the line.

"I thought I could have played a lot better, but I have to give J.J. credit," Amritraj said. "He was serving too big and he passed really well off his backhand."

Amritraj defeated his cousin, Stephen Amritraj of Crespi, 6-4, 6-2, in the semifinals.

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