Title tilt

GJ's Weinberg earns rematch with Sabatka for No. 1 singles state crown

Grand Junction’s Spencer Weinberg will play for his second No. 1 singles state title in three years today after a straight-set win Friday in the Class 5A tournament in at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.

DENVER — Spencer Weinberg doesn’t feel the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Despite playing in his third consecutive No. 1 singles finals match at the Class 5A state boys tennis tournament, the Grand Junction High School senior doesn’t view this morning’s title match as pressure-packed.

“It’s going to be fun,” Weinberg said of playing Highlands Ranch senior Hayden Sabatka for bragging right’s as the state’s top boys tennis player.

This morning’s pairing will mark the second consecutive year the two have played for the No. 1 singles title. Sabatka won the 2011 match in straight sets.

Weinberg, who won the state title as a sophomore, earned a shot at his second championship by defeating Matt Sayre of Denver East in 6-2, 7-5 in Friday’s semifinals. Sabatka also took a straight-set victory, beating Loveland’s Joey Diaz 6-3, 6-1.

With the first set tied 2-2, Weinberg won the final four games to take the set and seemed on his way to an easy victory over Sayre, who had defeated Weinberg in a dual match earlier in the season.

The players each held serve through the first six games in the second set, but Sayre broke to take a 4-3 lead. Thus began a streak of four consecutive service breaks. With Sayre leading 5-4, Weinberg knew one more service break could turn the match.

“The return’s a big factor now,” Weinberg said of returning serve against a baseline player. “Unless we’re hitting aces, we’re going to return.”

And return Weinberg did to tie the set

At that point, “I just told him, you’ve got to be aggressive at the service line,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said.

“Physically I felt if I could get a break, then I could grind it out,” Weinberg said.

Although he stuck to the baseline through the remainder of the match, he varied the pace and angle of his shots, keeping Sayre on the run.

“The key to Spencer is he’s got so many skills he can utilize,” Elliott said.

Despite losing to Sabatka in last year’s final, “I felt like it took the pressure off,” Weinberg said.

In fact, he took six months off from the game while recovering from tendinitis in his wrist and studying for a semester in South America.

“I feel like that break made me train harder,” he said.

As for this morning’s championship, “I’ve won one (state title), and he’s won one,” Weinberg said.

Whatever the outcome, “It’s a great feeling to be back in the finals,” he said.

Grand Junction had three other entries in Friday’s semifinals, but only one advanced to today’s session.

The No. 2 doubles team of Aaron Gossage and Max Proietti fell in straight sets to a team from Cherry Creek. Likewise for the No. 3 team of Matthew Prinster and Brian List. Both lost their subsequent consolation matches.

The No. 4 team of Matthew Ness and Charlie Ruckman dropped a straight-set match to Fairview in the semis, then rallied in consolation for a straight-set victory and the opportunity play for third place today.

Caleb Gartner, who lost in Thursday’s quarterfinals, was eliminated in straight sets in consolation by Thomas Van De Pas of Mountain Vista.


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