Ninth Region boys tennis finals set, CovCath clinches team title

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One of the boys Ninth Region tennis finalists goes for his third straight singles title. 

The other is in the finals for the first time.

Two-time defending champion Brady Hussey of Covington Catholic takes on Beechwood freshman Neel Reddy at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Colonels’ courts.

Hussey and Reddy had little trouble dispatching their semifinal opponents Wednesday. Hussey dispatched St. Henry’s Carson Kute, 6-0, 6-1, and Reddy eliminated CovCath’s Will Kreutzjans, 6-1, 6-2.

That Hussey is walking without a limp is saying a lot. He tore two ligaments in his right ankle during a basketball practice and only returned to the tennis court two weeks ago; he wore a brace Wednesday.

“It’s better, it’s feeling really good right now,” Hussey said. 

Hussey said he hurt his ankle in February. 

“We were doing a drill, and (I) came down on a rebound and landed on freshman Donovan (Bradshaw’s) foot and totally twisted it.”

Hussey scored 10 points in CovCath’s 66-55 win over St. Henry in the opening round of the regional tournament March 1 and another 10 in the Colonels 57-54 loss to Cooper four days later.

Does Hussey not regret playing basketball and potentially hindering his tennis season?

“No,” he said. “I love basketball.”

CovCath coach Al Hertsenberg remembers Hussey’s first post-injury match, a doubles match in Centerville, Ohio.

“He’s moving better,” Hertsenberg said. “You could see he was a little timid starting out. I don’t blame him, ‘cause it was a long haul to get back to where he could on the court.”

There was no timidity against Kute; he even uncorked a back-to-the-net-between-the-legs volley to keep a point alive.

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Beechwood freshman Neel Reddy advanced to his first regional final. Photo provided | Ray Schaefer

Reddy carries a 34-19 record. He said his strength is trying to move opponents off the court from the baseline.

“I think I’m terrible at the net, so I think if you bring me in, I can’t do much,’ Reddy said. “ … Playing Brady, I don’t have anything to lose, so it’s just go out there and have fun.”

In doubles, CovCath’s Alex Yeager and Kalei Christensen defeated Highlands’ John Laskey and Eli Back, 6-1, 6-1. They’ll meet Villa Madonna’s Joey Case and Shayaan Ahmad, who eliminated Ryle’s Matthew Marlette and Navneeth Salvaraju, 6-2, 6-4.

Yeager and Christensen were a doubles tandem as eighth-graders two years ago. 

“I’d say my serve and my forehand are definitely my strengths,” the left-handed Christensen said. “… I feel like more topspin is what I need; I feel like I have enough pace.”

Yeager’s father, Dixie Heights graduate Jason Yeager, won the state title in 1989 and 1990. Yeager the younger said he hits the ball with enough pace and topspin, but his serve needs work.

Villa Madonna’s Joey Case prepares to serve. Case and Shayaan Ahmad advanced to the finals with a 6-2, 6-4 semifinal win over Ryle’s Matthew Marlette and Navneeth Salvaraju. Photo provided | Ray Schaefer

“I feel if I get a few miles per hour on my serve, I can get to the next level,” Yeager said.

It’s the first year Case, a senior who plans to attend the University of Mississippi next fall, and Ahmad, a freshman, have been a doubles tandem.

“My strengths are definitely my groundstrokes,” Ahmad said. “Challenges are … finishing at the net and staying calm at the net when someone blasts the ball at me.

“(Case’s) forehand is stronger than my forehand,” said Ahmad, who said his backhand is better than Case’s.

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All semifinalists automatically qualify for the state tournament beginning May 30 at Top Seed Tennis Club in Nicholasville.

CovCath clinched the team title; the Colonels defeated St. Henry, 13-8. Ryle, Beechwood and Highlands are tied for third with 7.

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