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Covington Latin tennis player wins marathon match to capture school’s first 9th Region boys singles title

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

It took him more than two hours to do it, but Covington Latin tennis player Toshi Watanabe won his school’s first 9th Region boys singles title on Friday at Five Seasons Sports Club.

Watanabe defeated Max Cook of Covington Catholic, 10-8, in a tiebreaker after the two juniors split the first two sets in the marathon title match that was played in 80-degree heat.

Toshi Watanabe

CovCath had won the 9th Region boys regional singles title for 13 consecutive years, but Watanabe broke that streak by winning the final three points in the 10-point tiebreaker.

“It was simply nerve-racking to be honest,” he said after the dramatic victory. “I played each point patiently and I’m glad I squeezed out the last point to win 10-8.”

The CovLatin junior advances to next week’s state tournament along with his younger sister, Sarah, who was 9th Region runner-up in girls singles. The season finale will begin Thursday at the University of Kentucky.

This is the third consecutive year that Cook has been regional runner-up in singles. He lost to his former CovCath teammate Anthony Bosch in the 2016 and 2017 regional finals.

Last spring, Cook defeated Watanabe in the regional semifinals and the second round of the state tournament. But Watanabe received the top seed for this year’s regional tournament because he beat Cook in straight sets during the regular season.

In the regional rematch between the two players, Watanabe won the first set, 7-6, in a tiebreaker. But Cook came on strong in the second set and won, 6-2, to set up the third-set tiebreaker.

After Cook took an 8-7 lead, he hit a shot into the net that tied the score. Watanabee won the final two points with well-placed shots to the back corner that his opponent wasn’t able to return.

“I think patience won for me today,” Watanabee said. “And endurance was a key factor, especially in this 80-degree weather.”

Two CovCath teams met in the regional doubles final with brothers Benito and Cristiano Trojani defeating Evan Gardner and Luke McHale to take the title. The brothers qualified for the state tournament last year with different doubles partners.

CovCath won the 9th Region boys team title for the 17th consecutive year with 16 points. Villa Madonna finished second in the team standings with eight points.

Here is a list of the local players who qualified for the state tennis tournament by reaching the semifinals of the 9th and 10th Region tournaments.

BOYS DOUBLES — Benito and Cristiano Trojani (CovCath), Evan Gardner and Luke McHale (CovCath), Robert Spicker and Yamaan Ahmad (Villa Madonna), John Taylor and Garrett Jordan (Beechwood), Chris Fox and Mason Neises (Campbell County), Matthew Erickson and John Laskey (Highlands).

BOYS SINGLES — Toshi Watanabee (CovLatin), Max Cook (CovCath), Jon-Michael Schulte (Villa Madonna), Cole Moss (Calvary Christian), Anderson McDowell (Campbell County), Brad Reed (Bellevue), Luke Williams (Campbell County), Peter Laskey (Highlands).

GIRLS DOUBLES — Elizabeth Schwalbach and Rachel Hoffmann (Highlands), Elizabeth Hamilton and Hali Mae Laurino (Ryle), Lauren Fley and Isabell Bailey (Notre Dame), Shane and Iuragato (Ryle), Bailey and Moellering (Notre Dame).

GIRLS SINGLES — Natalie Smith (Campbell County), Brooke Hodory (Highlands), Ellie Zureick (Cooper), Sarah Watanabe (CovLatin), Katherine Taylor (Beechwood), Christine Li (Ryle).

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