Just don't look at him.
It's a strategy Phil Sheng of Thousand Oaks had not tried before on the tennis court when playing Ryan Redondo of Ojai.
In three tries, Sheng struggled miserably against the intimidating, go-for-broke power game of Redondo.
But Saturday at Los Caballeros Racquet and Sports Center, when the two played in the boys' 16-and-under division semifinals at the Southern California Junior Sectionals, Sheng employed this unusual technique and won.
An array of finesse spin shots and timely powerful winners helped Sheng frustrate Redondo into many uncharacteristic mistakes en route to a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Sheng, top-seeded player in the division, will play in the final today at 10:30 a.m. against fourth-seeded Mike Placek of Del Mar.
"He used to kill everyone he played so it was like you might as well default when you play him," Sheng said of Redondo. "He always has a mental edge on you when he walks on the court. That's what got me in the past. Today I just tried not to look at him."
Sheng said in three previous meetings with Redondo, most recently in last year's sectionals, he didn't win more than two games in a set.
But Saturday he cruised, breaking Redondo four times in the first set, then producing the first service break in the second set to take a 5-3 lead.
He won the final game without allowing a point.
"Once I broke his serve I said that if I didn't win here, I'm going to lose the set," said Sheng, who won the sectional as a 12-year-old.
Redondo, who returned from a clay-court tournament in Europe last Friday, was unseeded but still respected. Many called him the best player in the draw.
"Looking at the draw, he was the one I was thinking about the whole time," Sheng said.
But Redondo just didn't have his best game this time.
The biggest upset of the day came in the boys' 18-and-under division, where seventh-seeded Sean O'Connor--a part-time Sylmar resident--ousted top-seeded Chase Exon of Irvine, 7-6, 6-4.
O'Connor's main residence is in Torrance but he lives with his coach in Sylmar four days a week for training.
He said it took a perfect match to defeat Exon, one of the nation's top boys' players.
"Everything was working," O'Connor said. "Playing the No. 1 seed, you get pumped up to play so I was going for all my shots, I didn't hold back anything. I had nothing to lose."
O'Connor, who had not advanced past the round of 16 in the sectional before Saturday, will face Marcin Kosakowski in the final today at noon.
"This is my best win in a long, long time," O'Connor said. "I know I surprised a few people and I surprised myself a little too. I'm hoping that this isn't a fluke and that it's a result of my dedication to tennis."
Top-seeded Erica Sauer of Somis beat sixth-seeded Tracy Lin of Anaheim in the semifinals of the 12-and-under division, 6-1, 6-1.
Sauer will play second-seeded Malvina De La Canal of Los Angeles in the final today at noon.
Top-seeded Derrick Bauer of Marina del Rey beat third-seeded Robert Yim of Glendale, 6-0, 6-7, 6-4, and second-seeded Doug Stewart of Malibu downed Stephen Amritraj of Calabasas, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, in the boys' 14-and-under division.
Travis Rettenmaier of Camarillo, the second-seeded player in the boys' 16-and-under division, was upset by Placek, 6-3, 6-3.
Third-seeded Lori Stern of Ojai lost to top-seeded Iris Ichim of Beverly Hills, 6-3, 6-2 in the girls' 14-and-under division.
Second-seeded Sergy Vagramian of Glendale lost to third-seeded Eric Riley of Carlsbad, 6-4, 6-3, and unseeded Samuel Tadevosian of Glendale lost to top-seeded Yuichi Uda of San Diego, 6-1, 6-1, in the boys' 12-and-under division.