ON-COURT GROWTH SPURT
Mental game leads Cesark to semifinals
Jackson Cesark didn’t mince words Friday about how far he’s come as a tennis player since his freshman year.
“If I would have played that match my freshman year, I would have lost,” the Fruita Monument senior said of his 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 victory over Denver East’s Patrick Berzins in the second round of the Western Slope Open.
“I was up in that first set 4-1 and lost 6-4 and as a freshman, mentally, my head would have been gone. That goes to show how much stronger I’ve become as a player.”
It also goes to show how much his diversified prep tennis resume has helped him. Cesark has played all over the Wildcats’ lineup, splitting time as a singles and doubles player last year before establishing himself at No. 3 singles this season.
His growth from that experience helped put him in today’s semifinals against Grand Junction’s Luke Aubert, a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) winner over Brian Benson in another second-round match. The winner faces either Phillip Albright of Regis or Josh Baker of Chatfield in the final at 10:30 a.m.
Cesark’s experience is showing, too. Friday’s two victories moved him to 3-0 after he compiled a 1-7 record in singles play the past two years, although he had a 7-6 record last year when he played at No. 1 doubles last year with now-No. 1 singles player Daniel Lastine.
Cesark also made the big jump to No. 1 singles as a sophomore one year after playing doubles as a freshman.
The inconsistency in the lineup, assistant coach Randy Hurshman said, came partially because of his inexperience.
“I feel like this year he better understands how to develop points,” said Hurshman, who coaches the Wildcats’ singles players. “Younger players just love to hit the ball hard, and they don’t understand that tennis is really all about just getting the ball over the net one more time than your opponent.
“He understands that a little more as a senior, and he’s a little more, well, a lot more mentally tough than he was when he first started playing.
“The biggest part of growing mentally is just becoming more mature, and typically that comes with age and experience.”
That showed in the third set. Rather than rush the net and smashing the ball into the ground like he said he’d done in the past, Cesark stayed near the baseline, trying to outlast his opponent.
It worked. Eight of his first nine points in the tiebreaker came on Berzins’ errors, including a pair of double faults and three points where Cesark simply volleyed the ball back and forth until Berzins either hit out of bounds or into the net.
Berzins closed within 9-8 on an ace that followed a fault on the previous serve. Cesark closed out the match when Berzins’ service return went into the net.
“That’s what Coach told me, was to let him make mistakes and to stay consistent,” Cesark said. “That made a big difference, and I knew even at match point I needed to stay focused. That was a big part of the win.”
Aubert, a junior who played all of last year at No. 3 singles, is one of three Grand Junction players in the semifinals.
Cal Hegstrom claimed a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Naman Kapaski of Mountain Vista 6-1, 6-2 in a No. 1 singles semifinal, and Cameron Weckerly beat Chase Walters of Heritage 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2.
Hegstrom, Weckerly and Aubert each earned straight-set victories Thursday against Regis Jesuit in a nonleague dual.
The Raiders, who beat Grand Junction 4-3 after defeating their previous four opponents 7-0, are in position to win the team title after advancing all of their doubles teams and two singles players to this morning’s semifinals.
The Tigers’ No. 3 doubles team of Joseph Hirschbuhl and Max Weckerly were beaten 6-2, 6-3 in the second round, and Fruita’s August Pomrenke and Jon May dropped a 6-3, 6-1 second-round decision.