STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Jonathan Gu blasts a forehand last Thursday in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. Junior Gu defeated East Brunswick’s Jack Wong 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 to win the title and cap an undefeated season. Gu is the first state boys’ singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Christina Rosca won the girls’ state singles crown in 2013 to earn the most recent title for PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Jonathan Gu had just gone to a new racket tied, 3-3, in the first set tiebreaker of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match when he dropped three straight points to fall a point away from losing the set.
As was a theme all day, the Princeton High junior rallied when he needed it most. He won the next three points, held off one more set point for East Brunswick’s Jack Wong, then won the final three points of the set to build momentum for a 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 marathon win to earn the singles state crown last Thursday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.
“It feels pretty good,” said Gu. “I didn’t expect it at all, but with the withdrawals and a couple of matches that could have gone either way it feels pretty good.”
Gu becomes the first state singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Mark Leschly was the last Little Tigers male to reach a state final in 1986. Gu joins Christina Rosca, who won the girls state singles crown in 2013, as state champions coached by Sarah Hibbert.
“It’s absolutely fantastic for Jonathan,” said Hibbert. “He really works hard. He has had an amazing season this year. Obviously Christina winning it in 2013 was super exciting for the school. We hadn’t had a champion in certainly my time and looking back in the record books, it’s been since 1984 since we had a boys’ champion. It’s been decades since we had a state champion be able to put it all together.”
Gu’s state title capped an unbeaten season for him. He also won his first Mercer County Tournament title — in his first time playing in it because of prior year’s cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gu was a guaranteed point for the Tigers at first singles, who reached the Group 3 state final, and he appreciated the return of a full season schedule.
“It’s definitely fun,” said Gu. “Last year we didn’t have the county tournament. This year the county tournament was a new thing for me since freshman year it was canceled. That felt pretty good winning that. Last year, in the state tournament, I had a tough loss. I was glad I could play better and get farther this time.”
Gu fell to eventual state finalist Newark Academy’s Nicolas Kotzen last year in the fourth round of the state singles tournament. This year, Gu was seeded in the 5-8 range. He went through four opponents on his way to the final without dropping a set, including a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over Kotzen’s brother, Andrew, in the semifinals last Wednesday while Wong needed three sets to overcome top-seeded Eric Li of Montgomery High.
“I felt good,” said Gu. “I played pretty well yesterday (Wednesday). And I know that Jack beat Eric, which is a huge match but they played a while so he might have been a little tired.” more