LAGUNA BEACH "” Chris Lavery plays ambidextrous tennis, and he can’t believe more pros don’t do it, too.
“I have so much more reach," Lavery said. “If someone, say [Roger] Federer, had two equal forehands in the tour, he’d have like 50 Grand Slams right now. Nobody would be able to compete with him."
The two forehands and two backhand strategy worked fine for the Laguna Beach High junior, too, at the Orange Coast League individual finals Wednesday. He upset top-seeded teammate Jake Michaels, 6-4, 6-4, to win the league singles title at Laguna Beach High.
In doubles, the Breakers’ Rex Miller and Mikey Rubel put up a fight but were downed by Estancia seniors Ely Zaidler and Danny O’Neil in the final, 7-5, 6-4.
The singles title is a nice prize for Lavery, who was out of tennis for four years after suffering an arm injury. He’s also good at baseball, said his mother, Diana Luchetti, but Lavery decided to play tennis this spring. Chris, along with younger brothers James and Steven, all use the ambidextrous strategy.
“I wasn’t thinking I was going to win it all," said Lavery of winning the singles title. “I didn’t think I had a chance. I just played smart; that was all I could really do. I didn’t really go for any big shots, just tried to go for the smart shots."
The match was intense at times, but Lavery played well under pressure. After failing to serve for the match at 5-3, he broke Michaels’ serve to win the match after Michaels nearly dug out of a love-40 hole.
Michaels, a sophomore who has finished second in the league in singles for two straight years, gave all the credit to his teammate.
“He played really well," said Michaels, who has played No. 1 singles all year long for Laguna Beach with Lavery at No. 2. “He really stepped it up and performed today ... It’s hard [to play teammates]. I had to play three teammates this tournament. It’s just tough. You step on the court and they’re not your friend anymore, they’re your opponent."
Coach Aaron Talarico was impressed by the tenacity that both his players showed.
“To come out after that kind of a hiatus, it says a lot to Chris’ ability to play tennis, but also his athleticism," Talarico said. “He’s a very athletic guy, and he’s a fighter. Jake’s a fighter, too. They’re like boxers. That’s why it was so heated out there, and that’s what I want to see. I want to see the guys going after each other, but then I also want the guys going to shake hands after the match."
Miller and Rubel were also happy. They had lost to Zaidler and O’Neil, who usually play singles, 6-1 during a league match. But in Wednesday’s doubles finals, they were right in the match the whole way.
“We definitely stepped it up today," Miller said. “It was fun. The intensity was pretty high. They played well though ... they deserved to win."
Lavery and Michaels, as well as the doubles team, all advance to CIF Individuals on May 22.
In the league third-place singles match, Laguna’s Benito Romeo fell to Alex Grosek of Calvary Chapel, 7-6, 6-2. The Breakers’ Hutton McKenna and Chris O’Conner easily beat Trevor and Spencer Dalby of Calvary Chapel in the doubles third-place match, 6-1, 6-0.
Laguna Beach finished off its team regular season May 1 with a 14-4 loss to University, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches’ poll. Michaels won two of three sets.
The Orange Coast League champion Breakers (12-7) now prepare for the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. Pairings are scheduled to be released Monday.