Boys' Tennis: Lee comes through for Sailors

Like many children, Christian Lee played sports with his father while growing up.

Lee's father, Young, is a good tennis player. But Young Lee was not the type of dad who let his kid win every once in a while.

Coming into his senior year at Newport Harbor High, Christian said he had never beaten his father in the sport.

Then dad upped the ante.

"I got my license and I wanted a car," Christian Lee said. "My dad said, 'If you beat me, I'll buy you a car.'"

Now that's a match that Christian won't soon forget. He defeated his dad for the first time, 6-3, 6-3. And Young delivered on his half of the bargain, too, buying his middle son a dark blue Kia.

"It was big for me," Christian Lee said. "He was like, 'Aww man, that's a big blow to my wallet.'"

Christian has been a money player for the Sailors during his three years on varsity. Each year, he has played at No. 2 singles, and he has come through in the clutch for Newport Harbor.

The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week did it again last weekend at the Lightning Invitational, hosted by Sage Hill at The Tennis Club Newport Beach. Lee made sure the Sailors would win the tournament for the second straight year.

He earned the singles MVP award, and shared the doubles MVP award with teammate Reese Stalder. Lee, who was an all-tournament selection for the second straight year, was undefeated in both singles and doubles in the tournament.

The Sailors topped Tesoro, 5-4, in the tournament. The deciding set ended up being Lee's 7-6 (7-3) singles victory over Tesoro's Michael Park. He won the last five points of the tiebreaker.

"It felt great," Lee said. "It feels good knowing that I pulled out the tiebreaker; that I won that for the team."

Lee had to switch up his style to win the match. Usually he takes big strokes and goes for winners, but against the quick Park, Lee played a more consistent game. That type of intelligent play is typical of Lee, who has a 4.2 grade-point average and is currently taking advanced placement classes in government, calculus BC, biology, art history and language.

Lee, who said he is also co-president of the Ambassadors Club at Newport Harbor, is waiting to hear back from the 10 colleges to which he applied. His top choice is USC. That's where his older brother Daniel, who also played tennis at Harbor before graduating in 2010, currently attends.

On the court, Christian's smarts are apparent for the Sailors.

"His singles game is so solid," Newport Harbor Coach Kristen Case said. "He has improved his depth and his consistency, but he also has the ability to be aggressive, which is great. He's really good at assessing his opponents and figuring out the correct way to play; to get it done. He's able to execute that. I think a lot of players just like to play one way, and that's the way they play. Lee is very diverse. He's able to do many things, which is really good for him when he sees a variety of opponents. In high school tennis, you see a No. 1, a No. 2, a No. 3, and sometimes they're all different."

Lee has been at that No. 2 singles spot his whole varsity career. Two years ago, he was behind then-senior Jason Cernius. Then last year, Stalder came into the program and immediately took over the No. 1 singles spot as a freshman.

Lee, who is one of four team captains along with Michael Eder, Sean Perrier and Garrett Byers, doesn't mind it. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

"[Stalder] deserves [the No. 1 spot]," Lee said. "It's fine. It's all about the team."

The Newport Harbor tennis team is big for the entire Lee family. Christian's mother, Sarah, takes a lot of photos at the matches. His younger brother David, an eighth-grader at Ensign Intermediate, might end up being the most talented Lee of all to come through the program.

"He's probably going to be better than me," Christian Lee said. "He plays much more."

But he should not discount his own skills. He is a key piece for a Newport Harbor team that he said has improved since last year, when the Sailors placed third in the Sunset League and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

The competition remains tough. Los Alamitos, which went a perfect 10-0 last year in league, is currently ranked No. 3 in Orange County. But Newport Harbor will continue to battle in every match.

"We're really solid this year," Lee said. "I can really see the team growing, and everyone's getting better. Everyone's friends on the team, so it works well.

"Our singles are better, for sure. It hasn't really changed, except me and Reese have only gotten better since last year. Our doubles, our one [Perrier and Byers] is a huge weapon. And our two and three [teams], they're both solid. We don't have a super-weak link."

Look for Christian Lee to keep racking up the wins for the Sailors.

These ones won't earn him a new car, but that's OK with him.

Twitter: @mjszabo


Christian Lee

Born: April 30, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-5

Weight: 120 pounds

Sport: Tennis

Coach: Kristen Case

Favorite food: Korean ribs

Favorite movie: "The Dark Knight Rises"

Favorite athletic moment: Coming back from a 5-1 deficit to win a match against a Sage Hill player at last year's Lightning Invitational.

Week in review: Lee was undefeated in singles, as well as doubles with teammate Reese Stalder, at last weekend's Lightning Invitational at The Tennis Club. He helped Newport Harbor win the tournament for the second straight year.

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