Taft High’s Dylan Mann is the type of player who lives and dies by his serve.
The latter was the case Friday when top-seeded and defending champion Noah Newman of Marshall routed Mann, 6-1, 6-3, to win the City Section singles championship at MountainGate Tennis Club.
Mann is a serve-and-volley player who struggles when his serve is missing--especially against an opponent such as Newman who is equally as aggressive and knows when to seize an opportunity.
With most of Mann’s first serves dying in the net or hitting outside the lines, Newman jumped to a 4-0 lead.
Newman broke Mann’s service three times in the first set and pummeled Mann with eight return winners in the four games Mann served.
“I was really psyched coming in, but I was surprised at how good I was returning,” said Newman, a junior who two years ago attended Montclair Prep but didn’t play tennis.
“I played great.”
Mann, unable to attack, won only nine points in the match with volley shots and couldn’t capitalize on seven break points.
“Everything felt like it was going into the net,” Mann said of his serves. “But a lot of that had to do with [Newman]. He was on. He was aggressive and he was booming his return.”
Mann was haunted by three missed break opportunities in the second set and lost all five games that went to deuce.
With the City eliminating advantage points in games that go to deuce in the playoffs, Mann knew it was do or die.
“I knew I wasn’t winning those big points and I was getting more and more frustrated,” said Mann, a senior who twice has played for the City title, losing both times.
Since his three-set loss to Dorsey’s Robert Williams in 1994, Mann, who has accepted a scholarship to Florida, had won 36 consecutive matches.
After dropping out of school for one semester two years ago at the advice of a private coach, Newman is 35-1 in City play over the past two seasons.