Rust removed

After six months off, GJ's Weinberg wins first match

Fruita Monument’s Nick Rutan returns a shot Tuesday during his 6-2, 6-0 No. 1 singles loss to Grand Junction’s Spencer Weinberg.

It’s not exactly like riding a bike. Maybe more like driving a stick shift again.

Grand Junction High School No. 1 singles player Spencer Weinberg offered that comparison to his first competitive boys tennis match after his recent six-month absence from tennis to heal tendinitis in his right wrist.

Yet Weinberg’s opponent Tuesday at Fruita Monument, Nick Rutan, took a 2-1 first-set lead.

“After that (Weinberg) turned it to another level,” Rutan said. “He’s just dominant. I was hoping he was going to be a little rusty. He was a little off the first three points. Then he just shook it off.”

The “rust” became painted and waxed and ready to race. Or something like that.

“Or like driving a stick shift,” said Weinberg, a state champion as a sophomore and runner-up as a junior. “Or like I just came back doing math or science or another subject after the summer.”

Regardless, Weinberg won the next 11 points after going down 2-1 to defeat Rutan, 6-2, 6-0, and Grand Junction followed suit in its 7-0 win over the Wildcats.

Jacob Lapkin, a precocious freshman and the Tigers’ No. 2 singles player, knew what it was like to rattle away rust. His 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over Fruita’s Matt Harris marked Lapkin’s first varsity match and first team-oriented match.

Lapkin previously has played only individual tournaments, including a USTA National Championship in Little Rock, Ark., when he was 12. Lapkin said he lost in the first round to a player who placed fifth in the tournament, “by a score of 6-4, 6-3 or something,” Lapkin said.

Yet he was just as nervous Tuesday as he was at that national-level match.

“Yeah, because he was fifth in the nation, and if you lose it doesn’t matter as much,” Lapkin said. “Here, it’s a little more expected.”

Lapkin’s strength is his ability to rip baseline winners. But since that wasn’t working so well in the first set — Lapkin said tightness and nervousness caused him to be more erratic than usual — he began charging the net.

“I was just nervous about losing my first varsity match,” Lapkin said.

Harris knows the feeling. Last season against Grand Junction, Harris also was a freshman playing his first match.

“I didn’t do very good,” Harris remembered.

The Harris-Lapkin match could be a heated local rivalry for several years.

“It was their freshman phenom,” Fruita coach Clint Davis said, “against our sophomore sensation.”

Of course, this was Fruita Monument vs. Grand Junction, and the spirit of rivalry is a given.

Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said Weinberg and Lapkin were dealing with a similar need to “shake off rust.”

And, in particular, she said Weinberg has some improving to do if he is to return to a state final.

“Spencer has a lot of history that will carry him through matches,” Elliott said. “He’s not there yet. But we hope to get him there, and he definitely needs to get there, but it might take a while.”

If anyone can get there, it’s Weinberg.

“It’s just been this feeling that there’s weight on my shoulders that I’m putting on,” Weinberg said. “But it’s not there.”

Meaning: He’s been putting unnecessary pressure on himself.

“I want to represent my school, my teammates,” Weinberg said. “I feel like I’m starting over. ... but I’m not.”


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