Marlborough holds off Grafton in boys tennis matchup

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Marlborough holds off Grafton in boys tennis matchup
Marlborough tennis player Sumair Singh fires a forehand shot down the line during the Panthers’ game against Grafton. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

GRAFTON – Max Schmidt and Sumair Singh occupied Grafton’s far tennis court for two hours on Thursday afternoon.

Back and forth they went, and as other matches wound down, the crowd began to accumulate around the court. Singh, the third singles player for the Marlborough Panthers, had opened the match strong, winning the first set in dominant fashion. However Schmidt, a Grafton sophomore, refused to accept defeat, forcing a second-set tiebreak.

Seeing an opportunity to end the match, Singh gave everything he had. While Schmidt was one unforced error away from losing the match several times, he evened the score, winning the tiebreak 11-9. The Grafton onlookers wildly cheered. The two were going to be on the court together for a little bit longer.

“Max played awesome in that match. I think he had at least 25 or 30 match points there. He’s got a no-quit mentality. He’s always going, and he’s always looking to stay in the match, whether he’s up or down. That’s the mindset of our team. Grind things out, whether it’s positive or negative, the ebbs and flows of the match. Our mindset is to stay steady and play our game,” Grafton Head Coach Rich Paquin told the Community Advocate after the marathon match ended.

Singh jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the winner-take-all third set. Once again, Schmidt made an unlikely comeback, bringing the set to 6-4, but ultimately fell short. With the victory (6-0, 6-7 (9), 6-4), Marlborough officially topped the Grafton Gators 4-1. 

“That third singles game – it was a lot of hard work from both teams, that’s for sure. My first and second singles started a little slow, but Grafton’s a very strong team. I like how we came back, kept mentally strong. Both of our doubles teams played hard. Grafton’s a very strong team, and I’m really happy with how our team played,” said Marlborough Head Coach Noah Silvia. 

Marlborough turned in excellent performances in both singles and doubles matches. Maurya Virmani, the Panthers’ first singles player, defeated Zoeib Sharif (6-2, 6-2), while Marlborough’s Manraaj Singh beat Grafton’s Hanuram Manikandan (6-2, 6-2). The Panthers’ second doubles pair – Ethan Kwan and Malav Rauula – defeated Gator duo Dimitri Morris and Logan Le (6-3, 7-6 (2)). 

Grafton prevailed in first doubles as  Zayan Sharif and Luke Dalan defeated Keshav Kumar and Duc-Tri Nguyen (6-0, 6-1). 

Both teams came into the match near the top of their respective divisions. Grafton entered the match sporting a 10-1 record, ranked 22 in the latest MIAA Division 2 rankings. Marlborough was slotted at 15 in the latest Division 3 rankings and improved to 7-4 with the win. 

Both teams are looking ahead and preparing themselves for the looming playoff tournament. 

“We set goals for ourselves at the start of our season: To compete in our league, try to win the league, try to make states. From there, it’s one match at a time. Not looking too far into the future, not dwelling on the past, staying in the present. We’re taking it one game at a time, one set at a time,” Paquin said. “No matter the score, no matter who we’re playing… we’re trying to grind things out.”

“Every match is different – it doesn’t matter who it is, we’re playing the same way we should. I always tell the guys, ‘Play how you play. Don’t play into what they do.’ I think as we get closer, we need to make sure our guys are ready for what’s ahead,” said Silvia.

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