Spring Fling Tennis: Brentwood’s Hernandez plays with motivation of injured friend

Friday, May 22, 2009 at 2:07am

MURFREESBORO — Drake Hernandez is playing his matches in the state tennis tournament this week for much more than himself.

One of the best friends of the Brentwood High freshman is Ian Chadwell — the reigning three-time state singles champion — who saw his chances for four straight go up in smoke recently. That came when the Centennial High senior shattered his ankle in two places during a match in the district tournament earlier this month.

“At this point, I’m playing for Ian,’’ said Hernandez, just after he beat Kelly Lane of Rhea County in the Class AAA semifinals of the BlueCross Spring Fling event on the Middle Tennessee State University courts.

“Every match I play is for him. I feel so badly about what happened to him, that’s about the worst luck anyone could have,’’ said Hernandez, who is a neighbor of Chadwell’s.

“I played well (Thursday),’’ said Hernandez who plays No. 4 singles on the Bruin team, yet finds himself in the state finals Friday.

“In my first match (Thursday), I was very aggressive (in a 6-4, 6-4 win over Oak Ridge’s Xan Witherington, and I felt I had a good matchup in my semis match with the styles we play (a 6-4, 6-4 win over Rhea County senior Kelly Lane).

“It was tough losing in the team finals to Science Hill, but they are a great team,’’ said Hernandez of the 4-0 loss to the Toppers on Wednesday. Hernandez was in the second set of his singles match when the team match ended.

Hernandez will go into Friday’s finals a decided underdog to Science Hill senior Chris Smith, one of the state’s premier players. Smith closed fast to beat Henry County freshman ace Nick Slavik 7-6, 6-0 in his semifinal match.

Bruin doubles finalists: Hernandez’ teammates Alex Howard and Beau Blacksheer have also advanced to the AAA doubles final. The Bruin duo gained a little revenge when they beat Science Hill’s Drew Kerr-Michael Chen 7-6 in the third set in the quarterfinals Thursday. They will meet Lucas Kelly-Riota Yoshida of Maryville in Friday’s final.

Lipman advances: Battle Ground Academy eighth-grader Maxx Lipman is one of the youngest players in the state tournament and is showing his wares in the DII-A event.

Lipman, who plays No. 1 singles for the Wildcats, was 12-0 during the season before he lost his first match of the high school season in the region tournament to Brandon Fickey of Webb. Thursday, Lipman beat MUS senior Walt Wepfer 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

“I didn’t know he was a senior, but I’ve played against a lot of seniors during the season, so it’s not that big a deal,’’ said the 5-11 Lipman who is the younger brother of nationally ranked junior and Vanderbilt bound Ryan Lipman."

Asked if he had ever coached a player that good so young, Coach Norm Kalkoff said, “I’ve never seen anything like him — not when I was playing at Belmont, coaching at Austin Peay, never before. He is so calm and composed for an eighth-grader. He’s already one of BGA’s best players ever.

Although he lost to Fickey in three sets later, Lipman became the first BGA player in at least three decades to reach the state singles semis in tennis.

USN teammates meet: Continuing their domination of DII-A boys tennis, University School of Nashville teammates, senior Sreyas Reddy and freshman Alex Metzman, have reached the finals, both taking two straight-set wins Thursday and will face each other today. The Tigers won the team title Wednesday.

Also, Sathvik Reddy, Sreyas’ brother, and Micahel Stephanides have reached the doubles finals. Both matches are at 11 a.m. today.

USN senior Olivia Doochin and junior Caroline Awh won their two matches to roll into the DII-A girls doubles final today.

Ezell’s Hale in finals: Ezell-Harding senior Erick Hale won his quarterfinal and semis matches in straight sets to vault into the boys A/AA state singles final. He will meet Colton Norton of University School of Jackson in Friday’s 11 a.m. final.