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Sheng Hamstrung in Bid to Repeat

Southern Section tennis: He wins in semifinals but cramps force him to default to Corkery in final.


HUNTINGTON BEACH — Philip Sheng's style was cramped in a three-set match in the morning.

Another three-set match in the afternoon sent cramps through Sheng's legs and put a crimp in the Thousand Oaks High junior's attempt to become the first boys' tennis player in 34 years to repeat as the Southern Section singles champion.

Junior K.C. Corkery of Mira Costa claimed the championship when Sheng retired while trailing, 4-6, 6-4, 3-0, because of debilitating cramps in his right hamstring in the final Saturday at SeaCliff Tennis Club.

"My hamstring was just buckling up," Sheng said. "There was no way I was going to make it. I just saved myself three games. He would have won that set, 6-0."

Sheng's condition and decision to retire put a damper on a fine, full day of tennis. Sheng, who defeated Nick Weiss of Calabasas for the 1999 championship, was bidding to become the first player to win two boys' singles titles in a row since Tom Leonard of Arcadia did it in 1965 and 1966.

Corkery became the first champion for Mira Costa since Jeff Tarango won in 1986.

"It was unfortunate it happened [Saturday]," said Corkery, a Manhattan Beach resident who lost in the first round of the Southern Section tournament as a freshman while playing at Chadwick and was ineligible to play last year after transferring to Mira Costa.

"I'm not going to say it makes it any less of an achievement for me. I felt fresh. I felt fresh out there. I felt bad for Phil, but I wasn't going to miss any shots that I shouldn't."

He didn't, not after a struggling Sheng took a medical timeout at 4-4 and 15-all in the ninth game of the second set.

Corkery won the next three points easily, holding serve to go up, 5-4. He followed by breaking Sheng in the next game to win the set and pull even.

Sheng, No. 1-ranked player in the U.S. Tennis Assn.'s boys' 18 division in Southern California, struggled the rest of the way.

He took a bathroom break before the third set, stretched and applied bags of ice to his legs during it, and tried to continue.

But Corkery, ranked No. 2 in Southern California in boys' 18s, took command while his drained opponent struggled to move around the court and labored to catch his breath between serves.

Corkery held serve in the first game of the third set, gained four break opportunities and converted the last one when Sheng hit long on a cross-court forehand in the second game, then went up, 40-15, in the third game before the defending champion called a halt.

"I stayed out there as long as I could," Sheng said. "That morning match just killed me."

Sheng had to rally to win, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a 2 1/2-hour semifinal match against Joseph Kao of Sunny Hills.

Corkery defeated Portland-bound Quinn Borchard of Rio Mesa, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) in the semifinals.

"That's not an easy match," Borchard said. "K.C. came out really hot, and he's about as good as it gets. I couldn't ask for a better tournament. I'm way happy."

Goh Fukugaki and Tiege Sullivan of Peninsula won the doubles title with a 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-2 victory over Brian Swatt and Raymond Hekamat of Beverly Hills.

Swatt and Hekamat defeated Aron Gortman and Allan Haldeman of Harvard-Westlake in the doubles semifinals, 6-3, 6-3.

Fukugaki and Sullivan beat Tim Mullane and Amir Nejad of Agoura in another semifinal, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-3.

Mullane, a junior, and Nejad, a senior, were the Chargers' No. 1 and No. 2 singles players during the regular season, but made for a successful team in the postseason.

They won the Marmonte League doubles title to earn a berth in the Southern Section tournament.

"We're kind of disappointed," Nejad said. "We thought we had them. We're not superstars like Phil Sheng or Corkery, but we know we can beat anybody when we're playing good."

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