Montgomery High freshman Justin Richter wins NBL singles tennis title

Montgomery’s Justin Richter was as surprised as everyone else when he captured the North Bay League boys tennis singles tournament title on Monday at Santa Rosa High.

After all, Richter, a freshman, wasn’t even the No. 1 player on his team and came into the tournament with a 9-5 record.

Still, there he was late in the afternoon posing for pictures with a medallion in hand.

To win the title, he had to beat three of the tournament’s four seeded players.

In Monday’s semifinal round, he dispatched Maria Carrillo No. 4 seed Dat Tran (6-4, 6-4) and then defeated Casa Grande’s No. 3 Nico Carballal (6-3,6-3) in the final.

Saturday, in the first round, he upset No. 2 Connery Gschwend of Cardinal Newman (1-6, 7-6, 6-0).

In the other semifinal, Carballal upended Maria Carrillo’s No. 1 seed Jim Klyce (6-3, 6-0).

“I didn’t think I had a chance for first place,” Richter said. “I thought it would be a good day if I took third place.”

Richter had good reason for not feeling confident against Tran in the semis. He lost twice to the sophomore during the regular season.

“I thought I’d be doing good if I took a set off him,” said Richter.

Early on, however, he observed a weakness in his opponent’s game.

“He was having trouble with my high shots,” Richter said. “I just tried to hit everything where it would bounce high and wait for him to make a mistake.

“Then, I would try to put the ball away.”

Richter hadn’t played Carballal during the season but noticed his backhand wasn’t as strong as his forehand.

“I tried to take advantage of his backhand and that worked pretty well,” Richter said.

“I think I played better in this tournament than I’ve ever played. I was moving better, my strokes were better and I was able to capitalize more on my opponents’ mistakes.”

Chris Parman, the Montgomery’ coach, was as shocked as everyone else on how the day turned out.

“It was very surprising,” he said. “Tennis is a crazy game.

“Justin was much more relaxed than he’s been in other matches. He was able to stay out of his head. Thinking clearly, he was able to identify his opponents’ weaknesses and turn those to his advantage.”

The final featured many long points and Richter won a majority of those. “It was a long match,” Carballal said. “We had some very good points.

“He played well and deserved to win.”

With the championship, Richter also received an invitation to represent the NBL in the North Coast Section tournament. That’s set for May 6-7.

The league’s doubles tournament will be Friday and Saturday at Santa Rosa High and Alec and Joshua Wong figure to be the top seeds.

The winner will also be invited to NCS.

The Wong brothers from Rancho Cotate dominated singles play during the regular season but elected to switch to doubles for postseason tournaments.

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