|High Desert Tennis Association|
Tennis Notebook: Who’s really No. 1?
By GERALD TANG / Staff Writer
It’s not always as simple as 1-2-3.
The best singles player on a team is assigned the No. 1 slot; the second-best is No. 2, and so on. But sometimes coaches get tricky and hide their top players in a lower position. It seems trivial because everybody rotates opponents after each set.
Suppose, however, a coach knows he will make a substitution in the second or third round. Or his top player happens to be a slow starter.
Then there’s incentive for a warped lineup card — and technically, no rule against it.
"It’s like if you're playing basketball and your best player can't play in the first quarter, you fix it so that he comes in at the best time against the opposition,” Hesperia coach Jim Taper said. “I don't like to play that little game unless I'm short a couple players and need to adjust the lineup."
In general, High Desert teams use straightforward lineups when they play each other. Familiarity makes hiding players in different slots difficult. Most of the coaches have known each other for years and already watched the area’s top players compete as freshmen or sophomores.
Shuffling the lineup can also backfire and get the opponent’s players in an early rhythm. But the strategy can be practical, especially for preseason matches against teams from out of town.
Even in league battles, the lineup card will be misleading from time to time. Last year against Granite Hills, Silverado coach Suzi Paxton put her top singles player, Nico Combes, at No. 2, so he could warm up his injured shoulder before facing Cougars ace Gustavo Rodrigues.
Not that Paxton is a big fan of the mind games.
"That drives me crazy,” Paxton said. “It’s a little shady if you ask me. I play them how they need to be played."
POISED FOR THE NEXT LEVEL: Granite Hills senior Patrick McCray will take his booming serve to the college game. He plans to accept a scholarship to play for Cal Baptist University next year.
The 6-foot-2 McCray, who sat out his sophomore season to play baseball, has made huge strides in his third year of varsity tennis.
"He’s going to make a very good college player,” coach Pat Jenkins said. “The last two years he has matured so much both on and off the court. The way he carries himself, handles himself on the court — much more patience."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Singles — Ethan Stockton was a bright spot for Apple Valley in a loss to Rim of the World last week. He swept three sets at No. 1 singles, 7-5, 6-1, 6-3.
Gerald Tang can be reached at email@example.com or 951-6281.