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Jesuit's Newell takes second in Metro


by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit sophomore Andrew Newell placed second at the Metro League boys district match on Saturday.

Back and forth they went on center court, the king of Special District One and the heir apparent to the throne.

Lincoln’s Goutham Sundaram — the back-to-back 6A boys’ tennis state champion — thundered a backhand winner down the line for a point early in the second set of the district championship match on Saturday at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

Andrew Newell — Jesuit’s upstart sophomore with a world of promise — retorted with a Roger Federer-like, in-between-the-legs winner that soared over Sundaram’s head and landed softly inside the backline for the score.

Newell had an abundance of highlights such as the high-risk, crowd-pleasing shot through his wickets. In his first year ever playing district singles, the Crusader sophomore looked at home sending commanding shots at Sundaram, making the Metro monarch fidget from time-to-time by bouncing along the baselines and ripping returns across the net.

Newell went point-for-point with the tireless Sundaram, competing hard against the back-to-back 6A state champ, and even broke the Cardinal in the first set to take a 2-0 lead.

However, Sundaram’s seasoning and calm in tense moments that come from years of playing under pressure shined through.

The senior steadied himself, breaking Newell back in the second game to steer away from what would’ve been a 3-0 hole. Then, Sundaram persisted in his pursuit of a three-peat, eventually taking a 6-4, 6-1 district championship.

Newell’s time as a solo champion could be fast approaching. In fact, it just might be a matter of Sundaram throwing on a cap and gown this June and moving onto the collegiate level that opens the door for someone like Newell to step in and star.

For now, however, the Crusader sophomore is praiseworthy of Sundaram, though he can’t wait to get one more crack at the Cardinal at the 6A state championships on Saturday at Tualatin Hills.

“It’s a great feeling being here, but I’m looking to get it done at state and get (Sundaram) back,” said Newell. “At state I’m going to swing through my shots, play aggressive and play my best tennis. That’s all I can really ask for.”

Newell’s a dynamic showman on the court, a positive, never-stop player who likes to pump up the crowd and raise its energy level to match his. Tennis — for how seriously the sophomore takes it — should be played for fun, the Crusader said. So, even when Sundaram put a chokehold on the match, Newell never lost his positivity or sadly sulked around the court.

“I realized my opponent feeds off the negative energy,” said Newell. “And, I think having my team out here supporting me really helps keep me positive. I try to stay calm because I don’t want to lose the energy, especially against a guy like him who makes you play for so long.”

Newell said he was still fatigued from his dragged-out semifinal match earlier on Saturday, but saluted Sundaram for playing a great match.

The sophomore noted he could’ve done a few things differently like move his feet more and get Sundaram out of position. In the second set Newell said he should’ve tried to drain Sundaram by keeping the points going a little longer.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” said Newell. “Against (Sundaram) he makes you play a ton of balls, so I knew that going in. I tried to angle him a little bit, tried to give him a few different looks. But, he did a good job defending. Next time, I have to make him play a little bit more and a little bit longer.”

A former doubles’ star who reached the 6A state championship with partner Tommy Mulflur last year as a freshman, Newell said he and Jesuit head coach Jeff Wood decided it was the best for the team that Newell played singles this season. The switch to solo tennis is a “whole different realm” according Newell, and he’s looking forward to picking up more experience against elite competition this summer.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to do as well as I did, so I was perfectly happy with that,” said Newell. “I’ve always been referred to as an ‘all-around guy’. I don’t have a specific weapon, but I can do a lot of things well. I think that’s why I’ve had a lot of success this year because when one thing’s off, I can use another thing to counterpunch.”

Westview’s Avi Vemuri beat Southridge’s Andy Nakajima, 6-3, 6-4 in the consolation bracket to take third overall. Vemuri and Nakajima will both compete at the 6A state championships as the Metro’s third and fourth-placers, respectively.