Waldwick’s Nick Bradley has been taking a lot of grief at school recently.
Not for his performance on the tennis court. He is unbeaten this season at 25-0 and 45-1 in his two seasons for the Warriors.
“People keep asking me why I’m only No. 2 in the state,” said the junior, who is seeded second in the state boys tennis tournament, which begins Saturday.
A year after reaching the quarterfinals in his first state tournament appearance, Bradley is out to strike a blow not only for himself but for the sport in Waldwick.
“The tennis team doesn’t get a lot of recognition at Waldwick, which is more of a soccer school,” he said. “We’ve never gotten a kid past the second round of the tournament. This is my chance to make some noise for the sport here.”
Bradley is one of those athletes with the talent to be caught in the middle between concentrating on playing USTA tournaments and playing for his high school team. But he has found the right balance and is now looking to bring the first state tennis championship back to the Group 1 school.
“If I win, it would be nice to be representing the state,” he said. “But it’s really for the school.”
“I think he really enjoys being a part of a team,” Waldwick coach Ted Opderbeck said. “He feels like he’s helping the team and he’s making them better.”
And while he’s playing to put Waldwick tennis on the map, the next week will really be about what Bradley can do for himself while playing in the very tough lower bracket of the tournament.
He is seeded second behind Maverick Lin of Highland Park despite going a round further in the state tournament a year ago. It’s a sleight that has motivated him more.
“He loses to [Michael] Solimano [of Pascack Hills] a round before I do and gets seeded above me,” said Bradley, who also had a win over Solimano last season. “That made me a little mad.”
It dumped him into the tough lower bracket with contenders like Ryan Dickerson of Moorestown, Tyler Schick of Millburn, Michael Chen of Holmdel, Aidan McNulty of Don Bosco and Justin Burrus of St. Rose. But he has beaten all of them at one time or another.
“The mentality is different from last year,” said Bradley, who has never faced Lin, which could happen if both reach the final. “Last year was my trial run. This year, I don’t want to be the arrogant two seed and lose in the second round. But I do want to show people why I’m the two seed and that they are going to have to be ready when they play me.”
“He’s very focused, but he’s humble as well,” Opderbeck said. “He’s told me he would like to go farther than he did last year. It’s going to be tough, but he has matured a lot from last year to this year.”
Instead of getting down on himself, Bradley just set his sights on getting back into the match and won 15 of the next 22 games for the 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory and his second straight county title.
“I’m competing better,” Bradley said. “You have to be able to regroup when somebody has just broken your serve and realize that you can get it back later. I have to play the big points well and trust in my game.”