Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 18
 
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GRAND SLAM: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star Neil Karandikar blasts a forehand last Friday in his 6-4, 6-4 win over Hun’s Chris Seitz in the first singles title last Friday in the Mercer County Tournament. It was Karandikar’s second straight MCT first singles crown and fourth title overall at the event, as he won the second singles titles as a freshman and sophomore.

PDS’s Karandikar Wins MCT 1st Singles Crown; Accomplishing Rare Feat of Four Career Titles

Bill Alden

Neil Karandikar didn’t allow himself to celebrate much after he won the boys’ first singles title last Friday in the Mercer County Tournament.

The wiry Princeton Day School senior made a quick fist pump and his face broke into a smile for an instant after the last point in his 6-4, 6-4 win over Chris Seitz of Hun.

Despite Karandikar’s placid exterior, he was feeling some deep emotions after taking his second straight MCT first singles crown and fourth title overall at the event, having won the second singles titles as a freshman and sophomore.

“It means a lot to have four MCT titles, not a lot of people have done that,” said Karandikar afterward as he lingered on the stadium court at the Mercer County Park. “It is highly emotional. I have a lot of memories from the MCT. It was fun.”

Karandikar didn’t have much fun earlier in the day as he nearly got knocked out in the semis, outlasting Vinit Palayekar of Hightstown in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Coming into the championship match, Karandikar was hoping that his booming serve would be on target.

“I was a little fatigued,” said Karandikar, who lost to Seitz earlier this spring when he had to retire after being hit with cramps.

“I knew that Chris was a really good player; I have seen him the last two years. The serve was definitely a big part of my game plan. I was a little tired coming in after a long match and it helped me get a lot of free points.”

In Karandikar’s view, increased power has made a difference in his game.

“I think my serve has improved and I think I have gotten a little stronger,” maintained Karandikar. “I can go to the net a little more easily.”

PDS head coach Rome Campbell pointed to Karandikar’s serving prowess as the difference in the championship match.

“I thought Neil’s serve was stronger in the eighth and 10th games of the second set,” said Campbell.

“It certainly came up a notch; we were attacking. We were trying to come inside to Chris’ backhand on service. We wanted to stay off Chris’ strong forehand.”

Karandikar displayed some mental strength in overcoming Palayekar and Seitz.

“Neil had a two hour and 35 minute match in his semis,” said Campbell. “He was really tested; he was down in the third set and managed to get back into the match and hold on. Seitz fought off two match points in that 10th game. It tested Neil’s poise and tested Chris’ resolve. Neil managed to pull it through.”

Campbell marvels at Karandikar’s diligence and character. “Neil is a dedicated player; he plays 365 days,” said Campbell.

“He’s committed to the game; it is a passion for him. He has certainly grown into a fine young man as a result of his experience in tennis and gained a lot of life lessons from that. He is a very supportive teammate. His teammates respect Neil for the stature and the positive qualities he brings to tennis. He is a great champion.”

Despite Karandikar’s heroics, PDS struggled a bit in the MCT team competition, placing eighth of 17 schools.

“We are not as deep as we used to be; we were never too deep after third singles,” added Campbell. “Our strength over the last few years has been the singles lineup.”

If the Panthers are to win their sixth straight state Prep B team title, they will need to get stronger over the last few weeks of the season.

“We have a real challenging two weeks coming up,” said Campbell. “I think we play eight matches in 10 days. We have already lost to a couple of Prep B schools. We are going to have to step up and play really well.”

Karandikar, for his part, believes PDS can step up when it counts. “I think our second singles player, Max Gebhardt has been playing better and better,” said Karandikar, who is the defending Prep B first singles champion. “I hope we can build on this; the Prep B is our next big goal.”

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