Lincoln High standout sets sights on more state titles in final season

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Lincoln High's Goutham Sundaram enjoys his 2013 Class 6A singles championship victory with Cardinals teammates at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.Goutham Sundaram is going for three consecutive state tennis titles. And he says he has three main weapons — mental strength, competitiveness and movement.

His weakness? He’s 5-7.

“When you’re smaller, you can’t throw away points,” the Lincoln High senior says. “You have to be out there longer than anyone else.”

Sundaram has stayed on the state tournament bracket longer than anyone in Class 6A the past two years, winning in the finals both years.

Though he doesn’t possess overt power, he exerts as much energy as needed to win points, often utilizing loopy topspin and angles to get the job done.

“I’m definitely a grinder,” he says.

Sundaram’s parents moved to the United States from India after his dad got an engineering job. Sundaram was born in Baltimore, but he has lived mostly in Oregon.

“We still have our traditions, but we’ve adapted well here,” he says.

Sundaram credits his family for supporting him over the years and driving him to practice until he recently got his license.

Though he hasn’t committed, he is strongly leaning toward joining the Oregon Ducks’ tennis program next year.

“They’re a great team, and the coaches are really nice,” he says. “I know they take tennis really seriously down there.”

Lincoln coach Steve Yeager says he will savor his final season with Sundaram.

“It’s been a real treat having Goutham the last four years,” Yeager says. “He’s won state two years in a row because he is the one working the hardest. He’s the kid you want on your side.”

Sundaram decided to play for his high school team instead focusing solely on United States Tennis Association events and national tournaments. He chose the path taken by two former prep champions he looked up to — four-time 5A champion Alex Rovello of Cleveland and four-time 6A champion Zhenya Pereverzin of Clackamas.

“There are so many great players who did play high school tennis,” says Sundaram, who doesn’t play many USTA events these days.

“I gained a lot in the beginning,” he says of USTA competitions, “but it starts to slow down senior year. The cost was a really big issue. One tournament might cost $60, but then you have to pay for gas and hotels. It’s tough, for sure.”

A year ago, Sundaram led Lincoln to third place at the 6A tournament, behind winner Jesuit and Sunset. The Cardinals look primed for a championship run this year.

“I think we have as good a shot as we’ve had for a while,” Sundaram says.

Yeager cautions that “it’s still up in the air. I still don’t know exactly what I have yet.”

Along with Sundaram, Lincoln boasts juniors Kieran McTague and Michael Stevenson, who are battling for the No. 2 singles spot. McTague lost in the second round of state singles in 2013, but he took a set off the eventual state runner-up, Connor Leahy, then a Jesuit senior. Stevenson has returned to Lincoln after a year’s move to Los Angeles with his family.

Lincoln also returns its No. 1 doubles team — junior Alex Johnson and senior Jeremy Nuss. They made it to the finals of last week’s Oregon Tournament, losing the championship match 1-6, 6-3, 3-6 to Ryan Chin and Jonathan Chu of Sunset.

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Goutham Sundaram of Lincoln High returns a volley in his 2013 state championship finals victory over Connor Leahy of Jesuit.The Cardinals’ No. 2 doubles team consists of freshmen Riley Wilson and Elliot Nuss.

Lincoln must be prepared to buckle up for a grueling ride through the Metro League, with Jesuit and Sunset strong again. Jesuit nipped the Cardinals at the Oregon Tournament, 72-68, with Roseburg third but well back at 39 points in the event at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

“There is no doubt it is the deepest league in state,” Yeager says of the Metro.

Sundaram cruised through the state tourney last year without dropping a set, but he lost two weekends ago 8-5 in a one-set match at Salem to Collyn Erion of South Salem.

Still, Yeager believes Southaram has improved since last year.

“He’s matured as he’s gotten older,” Yeager says. “He’s more intelligent, more savvy and more experienced.”

Sundaram rattled off a list of contenders in and outside of the Metro League this year, including Sunset’s Andrew Nakajima; 2013 third-place 6A finisher Avi Vemuri of Westview; Sunset’s Jared Lin, who played on the third-place doubles team; Erion, a who lost 6-1, 6-1 as a junior to Sundaram in last year’s Oregon School Athletic Association 6A semifinals, and Stefan Ball, a Roseburg sophomore who fell to Leahy in the ‘13 quarterfinals.

Sundaram bounced back last weekend at the Oregon Tournament, winning the individual title. He beat Jesuit’s No. 1, Andrew Newell, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals, and then topped Ball 6-1, 6-3 in the finals. Ball downed Erion in the semifinals 6-4, 6-4.

“There’s so many great players,” Sundaram says.

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