Weinberg’s prep career ends with loss in title match

Spencer Weinberg of Grand Junction plays in the CHSAA Class 5A state boys tennis final at No. 1 singles Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. Weinberg lost 7-6, 6-3 to Hayden Sabatka of Highlands Ranch. Photo by Cliff Grassmick, Boulder Daily Camera

DENVER — The tears flowing from Spencer Weinberg’s eyes after Saturday’s title match at the CHSAA Class 5A state boys tennis championships weren’t because Weinberg lost.

No, they were more a reflection of the realization the Grand Junction High School senior’s prep tennis career had come to an end.

Weinberg put up a valiant effort against Hayden Sabatka in the No. 1 singles championship match Saturday morning, but the Highlands Ranch senior’s power game was too much, and he prevailed 7-6, 6-3, denying Weinberg a second state title for the second year in a row.

Light rains Friday night led to wet court conditions on championship Saturday. As the players in both the championship and third-place matches fidgeted nervously, play was delayed about 90 minutes until the courts dried.

Weinberg was playing in his third consecutive No. 1 singles state title match, having won the championship as a sophomore. Last year Sabatka easily prevailed in the title match.

Weinberg made Sabatka earn this year’s crown.

“I was trying to match him,” Weinberg said. “I was ready to work.”

He never trailed in the first set until the tiebreaker, each player holding serve through 6-6.

Weinberg led 5-3 in the tiebreaker, but Sabatka broke serve, then held and scored two of the next three points to take a nail-biting 7-6 win in the tiebreaker.

“I thought that first set was mine,” Weinberg said.

He consistently returned Sabatka’s booming serve and powerful ground strokes, something no other opponent had been able to do in the tournament as Sabatka ceded just seven tournament games entering the final.

Weinberg earned the match’s first service break to open the second set, but Sabatka immediately returned the favor, then won straight games to take control

His first serve, the strongest in the tournament, caused problems for Weinberg all morning.

“He stepped up big when he had to,” Weinberg said, giving credit to Sabatka for earning the victory. “That first serve was really an issue for me.”

Sabatka gave credit to Weinberg for consistently pinning him against the baseline with deep return shots.

“His consistency and how many times he got it deep made it hard,” Sabatka said. “He came out more solid (than in last year’s title match) and was crushing his serve.”

Tigers coach Carol Elliott praised Weinberg’s effort against a physically imposing opponent.

“Spencer really played well,’ Elliott said. “It was a great match.”

Grand Junction’s other entry in Saturday’s medal round, the No. 4 doubles team of Matthew Ness and Charlie Ruckman, lost their third-place match 6-4, 6-3 to the duo from Regis Jesuit.

The Tigers finished with 27 points, placing fifth in the team standings. Cherry Creek won the team title with 80 points and Fairview was the runner-up with 64.

Weinberg said he will graduate in December from Grand Junction and begin taking classes at Colorado Mesa University in January, when he will join the men’s tennis team as a walk-on. CMU’s gain will be the Tigers’ loss.

“It was all about the team,” Weinberg said of his four-year run at Grand Junction and crediting his teammates for their support during the championship match.

“Talk about class, integrity, sportsmanship. I’ve never had a player like Spencer,” Elliott said.

More to the point, she added, “As good a player as he is, he’s a better person.”


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