On Saturday, July 15 the tournament held its regimental orientation at the Wyndham Hotel Boca Raton to register the 400 players, 100+ NCAA coaches, parents, siblings and sponsors to the event. Doubles teams signed up, college coaches met face-to-face with eligible and recruitable prospects, seminars on the college recruiting process lessened parental hysteria, and protein-packed and carbo-grub was on hand to prep these young men for the long days of the Clays that lay ahead.
Now to the matches…Though in most parts of the United States Sunday is the elected ‘day of rest’, here it takes on the ‘lay-my-heart-on-the-line’, put-my-best-footwork-forward’ and ‘never-say-die’ cadence. There at one of the state-of-the-art Boys’ 18 sites, Hunters Run Country Club, Vihar Shah (New Hyde Park, NY) was digesting a fructose packed "breakfast of honeydew, watermelon and milk" to gear up for his opening match against Ognjen Samardzic (Bradenton, FL). Like any ‘major’ event, there are many nerve inducing factors that could alter the execution of one’s game style – new environments, intense competition, jet lag, etc., but here at the Nats we like to ‘up the annie’…throwing in NCAA college coaches recruiting you like hawks, not-for-the-weak-humidity, and ‘don’t-mess-with-my-quads’ velvety court surfaces.
For Shah he couldn’t have asked for a more tested opener that what would equate to the average player’s first two rounds. In three hours and 57 minutes, Vihar reclaimed a lost focus, stilled himself to a seasoned patience and asserted himself as a matured 18-and-under threat by overcoming a lost set to regain his stake in the main draw with a 6-7; 7-6; 7-6 victory. The primarily Ivy-League-seeking, rising high school senior is optimistic about his preparation going into the Clays and a potential ‘Big Red’ aspiring recruitment. With a 1st year 18s goal of "simply playing his best", Vihar Shah proved that even when down an opening set, he realized that "this is just a sport," calmed his nerves and fought through, prevailing in three. For his fight, maintaining a shawshank demeanor throughout, we award Vihar Shah as the Boys 18 Day 1 "Player of the Day."
A blacksmith works with iron and steel. A bladesmith forges knives and swords. A wordsmith creates story with nouns and verbs. A Win Smith…What does a Win Smith do? Evidently a Win Smith just knows how to win. The English word "smith" is associated with the word "smite", which means "to hit" or "to strike" (thank you Wikipedia, the undeniable source of truth). And after a 1st round bye apparently left the BK baller a little lethargic, Win Smith (Brooklyn, NY) resorted to the virtues of his namesake, winning 12 of the last 17 games and the match, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2. Congrats on restoring balance to your world and playing another day. For that, we title you not singularly a Smith, but also the official Day 3 Boys 16 Player of the Day. And now we ask you…What’s your favorite smith? I’m kinda partial to Morrissey (again, reaching out to my 80’s clan).