The Wildcats start their season at 3-0 after beating Tigard last week
by: JOHN LARIVIERE, BACK AT IT — Westview's Minje Shin rips a backhand return during his team’s 6-2 home win over Tigard last Thursday.

ROCK CREEK - A season after winning the consolation finals in doubles at the boys state tennis tournament, Westview seniors Jeff Cero and Prateek Bhide have split forces in hopes of doing twice as much damage.

The Wildcats' No. 1 and 2 singles players, Cero and Bhide succeeded in as much in last Thursday's match against Tigard, leading a sweep of singles play in a 6-2 victory at Westview High School.

Cero fought off big-hitting junior Anthony Breitenbach to win 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, while Bhide quickly got past the Tigers' Kevin Xiong 6-0, 6-0. The Wildcats didn't drop a set and lost just four games total in going 4-0 in singles play with junior Sean Crawford defeating Tigard senior Tyler Minetto 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles and No. 4 Daniel Ogata, a senior, winning 6-0, 6-0 over Will Shiau.

Breitenbach was able to get some serves past Cero, but the Westview senior was resilient in earning the straight-set victory, which he finished with a powerful winner into the back left corner on match point.

'He was pretty powerful so I relied on my speed to run and play consistent,' Cero said. 'It's more of an endurance thing for me. I try to stay strong and wear my opponents down.'

After breezing to the 6-0 win in the first set, Bhide stayed consistent in the second game to finish off his quick 6-0, 6-0 win.

'I hate winning 6-0 the first set,' Bhide said. 'After that, the guy has nothing to lose and tends to jump out and pound away. It's tough to play guys like that.'

Xiong did, but Bhide fought him off, staying focused and never letting Xiong back into the match.

'He definitely was good and hit as hard as me,' Bhide said. 'I was able to stay consistent. When you have a lead, most guys can't wait to get off the court, but I kept the mentality to stay out there as long as it took to get the job done.'

Both Cero and Bhide have found success this preseason despite making the adjustment to singles play after teaming up in doubles the past two springs.

'It's been a little nerve-racking, but I've been practicing a lot and have a good coach,' said Cero, who has earned his rise to No. 1 singles after getting cut from the team as a freshman. 'We knew it was going to be a younger team so we had to step up and become leaders.'

'Personally I like doubles a lot more,' Bhide said. 'You can talk things over with your partner and figure it out. In singles it's just you and your guts out there. It's a good experience. I'm glad to be playing singles as a senior.'

At least for now. The pair plans to rejoin forces for the postseason and make a push through the state championship bracket this season.

'It makes us mentally tougher,' Bhide said of playing singles. 'We have to duke it out on our own. Then when we get together we can build on each other's mental toughness.'

Westview coach Colin Arnold acknowledged the pair's leadership has made this season more enjoyable. He also has been impressed with Crawford, who is a solid No. 3 behind Cero and Bhide.

'He's really picked up his game the last couple years,' Arnold said. 'Sean knows his role is the third spot, but he could be 1 or 2 any given match if we need him to be.'

Westview split in doubles play with sophomores John Lee and Jumpei Nishida winning 6-3, 6-2 at No. 3 and sophomore Nick Sanford and junior Erik Wu combining for a 6-3, 6-4 victory at fourth doubles.

With a 3-0 record, the team has enjoyed some success this year, due in large part to an improved atmosphere and determination.

'The guys we have are hungry to prove themselves and that raises everyone's level,' Bhide said. 'The team is full of guys that have fun but are definitely motivated to do our best.'

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