May 8, 2019

Phogat’s Play at Third Singles a Highlight As PDS Boys’ Tennis Finishes 7th at MCT

GOING FOR IT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Aaron Phogat chases down a backhand in action last week at the Mercer County Tournament.  Sophomore standout Phogat took third at third singles at the MCT, helping PDS placed seventh of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star Aaron Phogat got off to a rough start in the last day of action at the Mercer County Tournament last week.

Sophomore Phogat suffered a tough 6-3, 7-5 loss to Pennington School rival Deon Kraft in the semifinals of the third singles last Wednesday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

But Phogat didn’t let the setback dampen his competitive spirit as he returned an hour later to face Siddbanth Deepak of WW/P-North in the third place match.

“Playing against Deon is always nice; he is a nice kid and is great sportsman,” said Phogat. “I wasn’t too harried about the loss. I am OK,  good for him, he has a really good shot at winning the finals so it didn’t feel too tough to bounce back actually.”

Bouncing back nicely, Phogat posted a solid 6-2, 6-3 win to earn third place.

“In this match I was just trying to have some fun, my shoulder wasn’t on my side,” said Phogat. “If I got a ball, I just tried to attack it.”

For Phogat, excelling at the MCT was a confidence builder. “It is nice to get third place, I have definitely become more consistent over the past few years,” said Phogat, whose heroics helped PDS finish seventh of 17 schools in the team standings in the event won by WW/P-South.“Playing with guys like Deon has really helped me.”

In becoming more consistent, Phogat has refined his backhand and benefitted from being more battle-tested.

“I switched from a two-handed backhand to a one-handed backhand so that was probably the biggest change; it feels better for me,” said Phogat.

“I have definitely learned how to play against different kinds of players a bit more. I play a decent amount of USTA tournaments too so that has added more experience under my belt.”

With the state Prep B tournament on the horizon, Phogat is looking to keep learning.

“We have preps coming up; I am probably going to face Deon again in Prep Bs so it is good to have more experience playing him,” said Phogat. “It is just more notes on him for me.”

PHS head coach Jen Johnson enjoyed watching Phogat put up a good battle against Kraft.

“He had a great match against Deon, who is a great sportsman and a great player,” said Johnson. “I was a fun match to watch, they both hit hard and were going for the shots.”

Johnson was not surprised to see Phogat come through in the third place match.

“Deon was the better player today and Aaron didn’t lose the match, Deon beat him,” said Johnson.

“When you are coming off a loss like that, it is a lot easier to rebound and get going into your next match. I saw that self confidence right there. He was able to finish it off and put it away. It was a really great tournament for Aaron. It is nice to see him get his self-confidence and game back and really pull it together.”

At first singles, PDS freshman Neel Adusumilli showed some game, advancing to the consolation final where he fell in straight sets to Simon Hwang of Princeton High.

“Neel showed some sparks of the player that he is and we will be working on that,” said Johnson. “He played a good competitor and it was a good match.”

In Johnson’s view, her players derive benefits from the MCT in both the short and long run.

“The team spends the entire two days together; it is fun to sit back and watch the kids interact and pick each other up,” said Johnson.

“The great thing about this competition is it really brings out the sportsmanship and that is what you want. You are here to win as a team, but the majority of these players are not going to go on to play in college so it is important to learn how to play as part of a team and how to win and how to lose.”

Phogat, for his part, sees a bright future for the PDS squad. “We have a nice young team,” said Phogat. “We have a lot of potential in the next few years which is good.”