Kabeer Kapasi Advances At USTA Boys National Clay Championships

Kabeer Kapasi (photo: YourGameFace.com)

DELRAY BEACH, Fla., July 14, 2022 (USTA Press Release by Steve Dorsey)

Sometimes an athlete needs to find some inner fortitude to pull out a victory when about to be swallowed by the jaws of defeat. And sometimes there’s a little luck involved, too.

Kabeer Kapasi of Houston, Tex., needed both of those factors Wednesday to advance to the fourth round of the winners’ bracket of the USTA Boys 18-and-under National Clay Court Championships. Kapasi battled back from a set down and then held off five match points to defeat Eli Stephenson of Louisville, Ky., 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) in a three-hour-plus match that tested the stamina of both players under steamy conditions at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

“First set I made a lot of errors, and I’ve had that in the past, so I just tried to stay calm and find any solution I could to find a way to win,” said Kapasi, the Baptist Health Orthopedic Care Boys 18s Player of the Day. “In the past year I’ve developed a skill to stay calm in these tight moments. All my matches so far have been against players of super high caliber, so there’s no easy match here.”

Kapasi, who will attend Rice University this fall, found himself in a hole early, going down a break in the second set after dropping the first set.

“Somehow I just found a way to win the second, and then the third set tried to do the same thing,” Kapasi said of his strategy.

Stephenson requested a trainer during the third set after feeling ill as both players battled very hot and humid conditions. Still, Stephenson was up 5-4 in the third set, but Kapasi staved off two match points and would force a tiebreaker to decide the match. Again, Kapasi found himself staring at potential defeat when he went down 6-3 in the tiebreaker but won the next five points and notched the comeback victory when he charged the net after hitting a deep approach shot, and Stephenson’s return landed out of bounds on match point.

“He tried to pass me and missed it by two inches maybe,” Kapasi said of his win, the second match he’s had that lasted more than three hours this week. “It was a heck of a match. I think I got lucky at 3-6 in the tiebreak on a couple of points. I just stayed composed through all the ups and downs of the match.”

Stiles Brockett of Fairfax, Va., likewise had to work his way back from a set down in his Boys 16-and-under winners’ bracket match Wednesday in nearby Boca Raton, defeating Kase Schinnerer, the No. 10 seed from Lewisburg, Pa., 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, and was selected the South Florida BMW Centers Boys 16s Player of the Day.

Brockett, a rising high school junior, said he had to find a way to get past thinking about the errors he committed in the first set and refocus on his game’s strengths. He obviously was able to accomplish that, losing only three games combined in the final two sets.

“I just played a more physical game (after the first set),” said the 6-foot-2 Brockett, who also needed to battle back from a set down on Tuesday to win a three-setter 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. “I was super tired in the first, but just reset and played better. The round before, I lost the first set, too, and came back to win. It was pretty tough, and very similar matches scoring-wise.”

Brockett didn’t play in any clay court tournaments before last year, but determined to be better on the slower surface, said he feels he’s made tremendous strides, as his success so far here this week attests.

“I’ve definitely gotten a lot better on clay in the past year or so, because I was atrocious on clay to be honest, and now I actually like it a lot,” Brockett said. “The biggest thing I learned is that extending points isn’t really a bad thing. I’m learning to stay physical and extend points better.”

The snake man cometh

Charlotte Cramer, the site director at Boca West, was going about her daily job of checking in players for their matches Wednesday morning when an unexpected intruder greeted her at her tournament desk. According to Cramer, she went to move a cooler behind her, suddenly awaking a snake curled up beneath the cooler.

“There was some screaming,” said Cramer, acknowledging that she discovered quickness she didn’t know she possessed and scurried away from the cooler. “It was small, but still creepy.”

A couple minutes later, Caden Hasler of American Fork, Utah, showed up to check in for his scheduled 18s singles match. Cramer told him about the snake near her desk and informed him he would have to wait until someone from maintenance arrived to remove the snake from the area.

“He said, ‘I’ll get it for you,’” Cramer said of her hero for the day. “This snake was lucky a handler who knew what he was doing came along, because maintenance was bringing a shovel (to possibly kill it if needed).” Who knew we’d end up with a new daily award…Snake Charmer of the Day. Congrats, Caden Hasler.