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Jeff TullyShara Surabi tried to ignore the...

Jeff Tully

Shara Surabi tried to ignore the pain in his legs, as his muscles

tensed and cramped as a result of a strenuous tennis match.

Taking part in the Western State Conference men’s singles


championships at Bakersfield College on Saturday, the Glendale

Community College sophomore limped his way through his semifinal

match against Ventura College’s Dimitri Verabyou.

Falling, 7-5, 6-3, in a grueling contest, the No. 1-seeded Surabi


never made it to the final.

But neither did Verabyou.

Verabyou, suffering from cramps himself, was so worn out from his

match against Surabi, that the freshman had to default the

championship because he was in no condition to play.

Surabi -- a Burbank High graduate -- has beaten up and battered

the majority of opponents he has faced this season as a standout for

the Vaqueros. With a powerful serve and an accomplished baseline


game, Surabi has emerged as the most dangerous opponent in the

conference, as well as one of the better community college players in

Southern California.

“Shara was up, 5-3, in the first set against Dimitri and he was

rolling along,” GCC men’s Coach Bob McKay said.

“But through the next four games, Dimitri made very few mistakes.

It wasn’t that Shara blew it, it just got to the point that there was

just no holes in Dimitri’s game.


“The match took a lot out of Shara, but it also took a lot out of

Dimitri, because he couldn’t walk after the match.”

A modest player with an even temper, Surabi is quick to credit

Verabyou on a fine effort.

“It was a very long, tough match,” Surabi said. “On some points,

the ball went over the net 30 or more times before one of us won the


“He played very smart and he kept me from playing my game. He

didn’t miss much.”

Although Surabi, 19, failed to win the singles title, he didn’t

come away from the conference competition empty-handed. He recovered

from his singles defeat to team up with freshman Gevork Kirakosian to

capture the doubles championship.

In the doubles final, the Vaquero duo downed Sean McCullough and

Sean Callaghan of Ventura, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The win earned the GCC pair a place in Thursday’s Southern

California Regionals at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.

However, before the regionals, Surabi and Kirakosian, along with

teammates Roland Nazarian -- a Burbank grad -- and Eric Ho, have been

taking part in the 103rd annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament that

concludes Sunday.

To no one’s surprise, Surabi remains in the hunt in the men’s

community college draw, advancing to the quarterfinals at 8 a.m.

today following Friday’s 7-6, 6-2 victory against Mount San Antonio

College’s Ara Sarkissian.

Surabi (5 feet 7, 175 pounds) -- who has lost only one set in his

four matches at Ojai -- breezed through conference play in singles

undefeated (11-0), although he did not play Verabyou when GCC faced

Ventura. He did go 2-3 in nonconference matches, however, all three

of his losses came against players who are ranked in the top 20 in

the state.

“Shara can really play,” McKay said. “He hits the ball hard, but

he is also a grinder. And for a guy just 5-7, he pounds the ball well

over 100 miles an hour on his serve.

For his exploits, Surabi was honored Wednesday as the WSC Player

of the Year.

Tennis success isn’t a recently acquired trait for Surabi. Before

he landed at GCC, he was a standout as Burbank, helping maintain one

of the most storied area dynasties.

A 2001 graduate, Surabi helped the Bulldogs (12-2) capture their

14th straight Foothill League championship and continue a streak of

116 straight league victories his senior season.

While at Burbank, Surabi played three years for Clyde Richards, a

coach known for his no nonsense, hard-nosed approach to tennis.

Despite Richards’ tough methods, Surabi said his education under the

coach has helped him succeed as a player.

“He was a great coach,” Surabi said. “A lot of people didn’t like

him because he was very hard, but I loved it. I like to work hard and

I think it’s important to come on the court, work hard and be


“Coach Richards not only helped me with my skills, but he helped

me mentally and even in school, where he helped me with my math. I

owe him a lot.”

Next season, Surabi hopes to take his tennis game to a four-year


“Hopefully, I can play at a Division II, or maybe even a Division

I school,” he said. “But I am confident with my game right now and I

know I can play with a lot of the better players.”