WEST WINDSOR – Daniel Wright may have had longer days on the court. But he has rarely had any one tougher than the one he had Sunday.The junior from Saddle River Day battled through two long two-set matches, winning both, to become the eighth and final qualifier for the quarterfinals of the state boys tennis tournament on Tuesday.
“That was tougher mentally than anything else,” he said.
Second-seeded Nick Bradley of Waldwick and Clifton’s Richard Rangga, both juniors, also won two matches each Sunday to reach the quarterfinals. It’s the second straight year Bradley has reached the quarterfinals, but a first for Rangga, who is the only quarterfinalist not seeded in the top eight.
“This was what I was hoping for, to go deep in the tournament,” said Rangga, who will face top-seeded Maverick Lin of Highland Park in the quarterfinals. “I can’t let the fact that he’s the first seed play with my head. I have to come in confident and let the match play out.”
Bradley will face Holmdel’s Michael Chen, a 6-3, 6-1 victor over Don Bosco’s Aidan McNulty in the fourth round, in the quarterfinals, while Wright will face third-seeded Kenny Zheng of Hopewell Valley.
Wright, like Rangga, had never made it past the third round of the tournament.
And he looked to be on his way when he opened up a 5-2 lead in the first set of his third round match against Newark Academy’s Chris Paradis. But Paradis battled back to force a tiebreaker before Wright went on to win, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
“I think my mental game got me through that [first match],” said Wright, who played much more aggressively Sunday starting with the tiebreaker. “Once I won the first set, I got better in the second.”
Wright again started quickly in the fourth round to beat Bridgewater-Raritan’s Eric Tai, 6-0, in their first set. But he let Tai back into the match in the second set and was serving for the match at 6-5 when Tai was forced to retire with cramps.
“It’s a big accomplishment to make the quarterfinals,” Wright said. “Especially in a season where I’ve had my high patches and low patches. I’m thrilled to be here.”
So is Bradley, although he is far from the end of the road he laid out for himself. He rolled through both his matches Sunday and has lost just five games in three matches in the tournament.
“I’m taking every match seriously,” said Bradley, who reached the quarterfinals last year before falling to Michael Solimano of Pascack Hills. “I’m still hard on myself when I miss a point or miss a serve. I try to play every point like it’s match point. That’s the mentality I want.”
Fair Lawn’s Freddie Zaretsky nearly had the moment of the tournament. The sophomore came back from a set down for the second time in as many matches to beat Livingston’s Anthony Caputo in a 10-point match tiebreaker in the third round and looked to do it again against fourth-seeded Ryan Dickerson of Moorestown in the fourth.
But Dickerson came back from 5-4 down in the second set to down Zaretsky, 6-1, 7-5, and advance to the quarterfinals.
“I just get angry at myself for getting down and have to let it out,” he said about coming from behind. “I try to battle back even harder. But today I wasn’t making all the shots I needed to.”