Boys Tennis: Precocious Clipper serves notice

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Grafton's Yakov Diskin, the Daily Press boys tennis Player of the Year, is a season ahead of schedule.

According to prevailing wisdom, he would have an excellent chance to win the state Group AA boys tennis championship as a junior ... next year.

For much of this season, it seemed that theory was accurate. As he did last year, Diskin handled all of his Bay Rivers District opponents in the regular season except a powerful senior from York: last year it was David Ancarrow, this year it was Peter Szewczyk.

Diskin, who had lost to Ancarrow in the 2003 district and Region I championship matches, was trailing Szewczyk 6-4, 2-0 in the 2004 Bay Rivers final. But Diskin came back in that set, and from 4-1 behind in the third, for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 triumph.

"I was always intimidated by how hard he hit the ball," Diskin said of Szewczyk. "I definitely gained a lot of confidence."

They played again a week later for the regional title. Diskin won 6-2, 6-2 as he belted service winners and Szewczyk appeared rattled.

That made Diskin the first Clipper, male or female, to qualify for state in tennis. And he didn't squander the opportunity, outlasting Handley senior Brad Stillwagon 7-6 (10-8), 1-6, 6-4 in a semifinal and breezing past Hidden Valley's Luke Wray 6-0, 6-2 in the final. That made Diskin the first male Bay Rivers player to win the state singles since York's Carl Maymi in 1995.

"His mental toughness is amazing," Grafton coach Jane Winner said.

Born in Russia, Diskin grew up in Israel before his father, Boris, became a NASA scientist five years ago and moved the family to the Peninsula.

Modest and soft-spoken but confident, Diskin always has had the smarts to excel in the classroom and tennis. What Diskin hadn't had, until now, is the power to gain cheap points against quality opposition.

"My serve was a big factor," he said.

If his good fortune continues, Diskin could tie the AA record of three singles championships. He and classmate Bryan Wang, this year's regional runners-up, should contend for the doubles title.

Diskin's rankings in U.S. Tennis Association play, which college coaches usually notice more than high school results, raise eyebrows too. Having turned 15 in May, he left the 14-and-under division as the state's top player.

Brad Corbin
Hampton Roads Academy, junior
In his first year living in Williamsburg after his family moved fromConnecticut, Corbin immediately went to the No. 1 spot on the Peninsula'sbest team. The powerful baseliner finished second in the Tidewater Conference ofIndependent Schools tournament'sNo. 1 flight to Norfolk Academy'sAndy Downing, defeated Grafton ace Yakov Diskin and helped the Navigators end aNorfolk Academy TCIS winning streak that lasted 18 years.

Bart Grover
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, freshman
The youngest player in Suffolk's"first family"of tennis finished third in the TCIS top flight in his first season as theSaints' No. 1. Goodvariety and solid shotmaking are hallmarks of his game. Like Corbin, he wasfirst-team all-TCIS.

Martin King
Kecoughtan, senior
Thanks in part to a powerful serve and wicked forehand, he won the PeninsulaDistrict tournament and went unbeaten in league play, both for the thirdconsecutive year. Then he did something no PD player had accomplished in 11years by reaching the Eastern Region final, thus qualifying for the state GroupAAA singles quarterfinals. He led the Warriors to an 8-2 team record. He isbound for New Mexico Military Institute and perhaps the U.S. Military Academyafter that.

Peter Szewczyk
York, senior
The area's mostpowerful high school player carried York to the Bay Rivers District and Region Iteam championships en route to the state semifinals. He was unbeaten in theregular season and was runner-up in the BRD and regional singles tourneys toYakov Diskin. Szewczyk will walk on to the William and Mary team in the fall.

Blair Marsteller
Hampton Roads Academy, junior
Upon Corbin'sarrival, Marsteller, from Newport News, dropped to the Nos. 2 and 3 spots amongthe Navigators, but he improved his game. His 10-2 victory at No. 3 over AdamWong was instrumental in HRA'shistoric 5-4 triumph over Norfolk Academy and unbeaten regular season. In theTCIS tournament, Marsteller placed second in the No. 2 flight, falling in a 6-4third set to Norfolk Academy'sSandy McKinnon.

DOUBLESFIRST TEAM
Brad Corbin and Blair Marsteller
Hampton Roads Academy
In their first year as a tandem, they were second to Norfolk Academy in theregular season and in the TCIS tournament'stop flight. They handled everybody else in their path, including some tough foesfrom South Hampton Roads. They probably will be favored to win the conferencenext season.

Martin King and Khoa Le, junior
Kecoughtan
After an outstanding regular season, they won the Peninsula Districttournament and advanced to the Eastern Region quarterfinals before losing to aCox duo. It was King'ssecond district doubles title and Le'sfirst. Their regular-season efforts were instrumental in the Warriors'8-2 record.

Peter Szewczyk and Brian Tai, senior,York
These 12th-graders played together only sporadically during the regularseason, but coach Jose'Erfe's decision to putthem together for the postseason paid off. They won the Bay Rivers District andRegion I doubles crowns, led York to the regional team title and advanced to thestate Group AA semifinals before losing a third-set tiebreak 8-6 to a Handleypair.

SINGLESSECOND TEAM
Bobby Barrett
, Bethel, senior.
John Braig, Jamestown, junior.
Jason Dunn, Hampton Roads Academy,junior.
Raj Gill, Hampton Roads Ac., junior.
Adi Shetty, Tabb, freshman.
Andrew Thompson, Lafayette, senior.

DOUBLESSECOND TEAM
Raj Gill
and Jason Dunn, HamptonRoads Academy.
Yakov Diskin, sophomore, and BryanWang, sophomore, Grafton.
John Braig and Jacob Braig, sophomore, Jamestown.

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