It didn’t take long for Tyler Hack and Zack Kleiman to develop into a formidable doubles pair.
Thrown together just before last week’s Mercer County Tournament, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title.
The triumph helped PHS place fourth in the team standings as WW/P-S won the title for the third season in a row and the ninth time in the last 10 years.
Sophomore Hack had a feeling that he and junior Kleiman could do some special things together.
“We played one match together as a team before this tournament,” said Hack.
“We won that match and we have known each other for a few years. We have been good friends for a couple of years now and I thought we had good chemistry.”
The pair utilized that chemistry as they endured a tough three-set match in the final, topping Pratyush Trivedi and Felix Su of WW/P-N, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.
“It certainly had a lot of twists and turns,” said Hack, reflecting on the championship match.
“I was really worried in the second set. I knew that if we played the way we did during our first three matches here, I knew we could come out on top in the third.”
Kleiman, for his part, believed that the pair needed to bear down to prevail in the third.
“I think we lost focus in the second and we tried to have the mentality in the third that the first two sets never existed,” said Kleiman. “We tried to stay in each point and I think that showed in the last set.”
In assessing the third set, Hack attributed playing conservative tennis with making the difference.
“In the third, it was just stay consistent and play safe doubles, get our serves in and make our returns and not let them beat us down,” said Hack.
The PHS duo jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set and cruised from there.
“I think my hold in the third game was really crucial,” said Kleiman. “We just couldn’t let them back in. It was crucial to keep the consistency, the mentality, and focus.”
PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believed that the pairing of Hack and Kleiman had a chance to be something special.
“I was really proud of the way second doubles played this whole tournament,” said Hibbert.
“They played their first match on the Friday before the tournament. I definitely knew they had potential. Tyler has the groundstrokes and he plays well at the net. Zach volleys well. I thought they could have a good shot. Obviously any time you win a flight, you are really pleased, especially when the team hasn’t played together.”
Noting that she has been forced to juggle her lineup all spring due to injury, Hibbert was pleased to see the Little Tigers take fourth at the highly competitive MCT. The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Eddy Zheng took fourth while Rishab Tanga placed third at third singles.
“To have three flights go into the second day was good,” said Hibbert. “The first doubles ended up getting fourth. There were a few things here or there we are still trying to settle. Rishab did a great job as well. He had a tough match this morning against Neeraj [Devulapalli of PDS]. Neeraj played first singles last year so that is definitely a tough match. I think Rishab did a great job of coming back in his third place match. He fought hard through that match.”
In Hibbert’s view, PHS can make things tough on its foes with its balance.
“Our strength is depth; we don’t necessarily have a nationally ranked player,” said Hibbert.
“We have seven solid guys that we rely on different days to come through for us and I think with our depth, we have to make sure that our doubles teams are solid.”
Hibbert believes her players will draw strength from their play at the MCT.
“Any time you get good competition, it can only help you for what we have coming up with North (WW/P-N), South (WW/P-S), and the states,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N on May 1 before playing at Hightstown on May 3 and Nottingham on May 6.
Kleiman, for his part, feels that his pairing with Hack can help the team be better.
“The lefty/righty combination is always helpful when you have the forehand on either wing,” said Kleiman, who is a righty while Hack plays lefthanded. “We want to stay together.”