When Dave Bain refers to high school tennis as "the fun side of tennis," he doesn't quite get his true feelings across.
Bain, the No. 1 singles player at Corona del Mar, considers everything about tennis to be a day at the beach. Whether it's an easy overhead at match point or hours of work on his footwork, he views the game as pure enjoyment.
But Bain isn't given to Dick Vitale-like overstatement. If he was, high school tennis wouldn't be just "fun," it would be sen-sational, out-rageous, UN-BE-LIEVABLE BAY-BEEEEEE!!
Bain, however, is more restrained. Ranked third in California in the 18-and-under division and bound for UCLA on a tennis scholarship in the fall, Bain finds value in competing at the prep level.
"I love being on a team," Bain said. "I like my teammates and my coach, and the Sea View League is tough. It's a good time."
That's about as outspoken as he gets. But for Corona del Mar Coach Gary Salazar, Bain doesn't have to go out of his way to prove he likes playing for the Sea Kings. His presence at team practices and matches is proof enough.
"Some of the top players don't play for their high schools because their junior tournament schedule is their top priority," Salazar said. "It's kind of a me-me-me attitude, but Dave's not like that at all."
"There were people he respects and trusts that told him maybe he should skip high school this year to concentrate on his national ranking, but Dave wants to play high school."
The desire to win a Southern Section championship has helped keep Bain interested in prep tennis. At Corona del Mar, Bain has been the No. 1 player for the perennially powerful Sea Kings since he was a freshman, but the Sea Kings haven't won a Division 4-A title during Bain's career.
"We've been to the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once," Bain said. "These last few years, everyone's been playing for second place because Santa Barbara (winner of four consecutive 4-A titles) has been unbeatable, but I think University and (Corona del Mar) have a decent chance to win this year."
Playing in the Sea View League, Bain will have plenty of competition. University's John Bowerbank is another highly ranked junior player, and the Trojans have additional depth in singles with Jason Meyers. There's also Rajeez Saggar of Woodbridge and Sea King teammates Trenton Rhodes and Brian Walden to deal with in the league singles tournament.
The level of league competition is nothing new to Bain, who in previous years lost to Newport Harbor's Brett Hansen-Dent (now at UC Irvine) and University's Willie Dann in the league finals.
"It won't get any easier this year, either," Bain said, laughing. "But (the league competition) is one of the things I love about playing high school."
At the same time, Bain won't make things any easier on his opponents this year. A weight training program at the Newport Beach Athletic Club has added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame and brought his weight up to 156. In addition, Salazar said Bain's serve (clocked at 115 m.p.h. when he was a sophomore) is stronger now, which has led to a more productive serve-and-volley game.
"In past years, Dave was almost strictly a baseliner," Salazar said. "But when you start playing open tennis in the upper levels, you can't rely on that. You have to be able to serve and volley, and Dave realized that and changed his game to become a better player."
1992 Boys' Tennis Preview
Top teams: Beverly Hills, Capistrano Valley, Corona del Mar, Dana Hills, Fountain Valley, Laguna Beach, La Quinta, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Santa Barbara, Sunny Hills, University, Woodbridge.
Top players: Dave Bain (Corona del Mar), John Bowerbank (University), Chris Brown (El Toro), Cameron Lindee (Loara), Jason Meyers (University), Heath Montgomery (Santa Barbara), Bach Nguyen (La Quinta), Trenton Rhodes (Corona del Mar), Dave Robbins (Sunny Hills), Daniel Roditi (San Clemente), David Roditi (San Clemente), Rajeez Saggar (Woodbridge), Jason Scanlon (Santa Margarita), Brian Walden (Corona del Mar), Eddie Weiss (Fountain Valley), Julian Zajfen (Laguna Beach).
Important dates: Dana Hills at San Clemente, March 31; Corona del Mar at University, April 3; Ojai Invitational, April 23-25; Southern Section Individuals (prelims), May 23; Southern Section Individuals (finals), May 30; Southern Section team finals, June 3.
Notes: Santa Barbara's Montgomery, the defending Southern Section singles champion, seriously injured his leg in a car accident several months ago and is currently limited to doubles action with the Dons. It's possible Montgomery may begin playing singles by the time Santa Barbara starts Channel League play in April. The Dons have won four consecutive Division 4-A titles and six of the last seven. . . . Santa Barbara is ranked No. 1 in the first Southern Section coaches' poll, Corona del Mar is No. 2 and University No. 4. But Corona del Mar Coach Gary Salazar and University Coach Josh Davis agree that Santa Barbara isn't quite as powerful this year. . . . University is the last team to beat Santa Barbara in a Southern Section title match (in the 1987 5-A final, 11-7). . . . Mater Dei's Adam Petersen is cutting back on his high school tennis schedule to concentrate on junior tournaments, but remains on the Monarchs' roster. . . . Dana Hills' run of seven consecutive South Coast League championships might end this year. The Dolphins were hurt by graduation, and San Clemente is dominant in singles with the brothers Roditi.