MIDDLETOWN — A semifinalist as a freshman, a finalist as a sophomore and a champion his junior season.
That’s the progression Trumbull’s Andrew Ilie has made at the CIAC State Open Boys Tennis Tournament each year.
Wednesday, Ilie put the finishing touch on his memorable season by winning his second championship in as many weeks.
Consistent throughout, Ilie registered a 6-2, 6-3 win over Darien’s Michael Karr to capture the State Open singles title at Wesleyan University.
“My first two years I was so close,” said Ilie who lost to Staples 2018 graduate Evan Felcher in last season’s championship match. “My freshman year, I lost in the semifinals in three sets and last year I lost to Evan in the finals. This year, to get the opportunity to win it definitely feels great.”
Ilie’s victory in the State Open singles final on Wednesday came after he beat Westhill’s Jordan Soifer for the Class LL singles championship last week. Last season also saw Ilie win the Class LL singles championship.
While Ilie garnered the first-place medal in the singles bracket, Staples freshman duo of Tighe Brunetti and Robert Daus claimed the State Open doubles championship. Daus and Brunetti were 7-5, 7-6 (13-11) winners against Westhill senior Tyler Pomerance and freshman Rohan Suryawanshi in the finals.
In the singles final, Ilie held serve, then converted a break point to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set.
“I came in trying to be aggressive, controlling the point,” Ilie said. “I didn’t want to give him too many opportunities, so I tried moving him around and tried to hit a lot of winners.”
Karr, who defeated Wilton’s Nick Condos in three sets for the Class L singles championship a week ago, held serve to even the second set at 3-3. Ilie held, then broke to go ahead, 5-3.
“I thought he played a very solid match,” Karr said. “It was hard to find an opening the entire match. He served well, returned well and it was just hard for me to create any type of winner.”
Ilie capitalized the well-placed serves that boomed off his racket throughout.
“He had one game where he served four aces and there was nothing I can do about it,” Karr said. “It was just one of those days where he was just hitting all the shots.”
Karr, who starred at first singles for Darien all season, rejoined the Blue Wave squad this spring after concentrating on junior tennis his sophomore and junior year. He will bring his tennis skills to Butler University.
“Being part of the team was a great experience,” said Karr, who defeated Soifer in Tuesday’s semifinals. “It helped me get the feel for team tennis going into college. Everyone supported me, I supported them, there was great teammwork throughout the season.”
Ilie finishes the season with a record of 23-1. He went 13-1 during the regular season, his lone loss coming against Condos, and he was a perfect 10-0 during the postseason.
“Nick (Condos) is great player,” Ilie said. “I lost to him pretty bad in the regular season, so I used it as motivation to work harder and work on my game. The semifinals was a close match and it could have gone either way.”
Like Karr, Ilie will play in several junior circuit tournaments over the summer. Ilie is planning on competing in a USTA sectional tournament at Wesleyan, a national clay court competition and the junior nationals. He entered Wednesday’s State Open finals especially focused.
“This year I felt those nerves, I really wanted to win it,” Ilie said. “It was the only thing I haven’t won in my high school career. This is the stage I wanted to be. In the final, competing for the championship.”
Wednesday’s doubles championship was a rematch of the Class LL finals, also won by Brunetti and Daus (6-4, 6-2).
After winning the first set, the Staples duo came back from a 5-4 decicit to force a back-and-forth tiebreaker.
“This match was a grind and whoever came up with the big points was the victor,” Daus said. “I’m just happy to win.”
Added Brunetti: “The first set we were playing well and we took the big points, which was key.”
In the tiebreaker, both doubles teams exhibited impressive play at the net and superb retrieving ability.
“Just staying calm helped us,” Daus said. “I knew if I didn’t stay calm it would be a lot tougher. We just kept pumping each other up when we missed and stayed positive. It was a great freshman season for us. You can’t do better than this.”
The Staples tandem defeated Class L champion Christopher Calderwood and Romano DeCaprio in Tuesday’s semifinals.
Westhill’s Pomerance/Suryawanshi advanced to the finals by defeating Darby Rogers and Reilly Vejar of Daniel Hand in the semifinal round.
Pomerance and Soifer teamed up to win the State Open doubles title in 2017.
“It’s always nice playing a the end of the tournament like we did today,” Pomerance said. “Seeing all the best players at the end of the tournament is great and the atmosphere was great.”
Suryawanshi and Pomerance were in the Vikings’ singles lineup during the regular season.
“We decided to team up and see if we could get a banner for Westhill,” Pomerance said.
Said Surywanshi: “The first set we weren’t playing that well, but we played pretty well in the second set. We could have come back in the second set. We were up 5-4 and we almost sealed it in the tiebreaker.”
Like Westhill’s duo, Brunetti and Daus spent the majority of the season as singles players for the Wreckers.
“It was a great week of doubles by them,” Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos said. “They definitely got more confident and found chemistry later in the tournament. Today was a great match both ways. Give credit to Westhill. They played good doubles and there were some really good points. What our guys did was impressive, especially for two freshman. That’s the first time it’s been done in our history.”