Grafton's Yakov Diskin, the Daily Press boys tennis Player of the Year, is a season ahead of schedule.
According to prevailing wisdom, he would have an excellent chance to win the state Group AA boys tennis championship as a junior ... next year.
Diskin, who had lost to Ancarrow in the 2003 district and Region I championship matches, was trailing Szewczyk 6-4, 2-0 in the 2004 Bay Rivers final. But Diskin came back in that set, and from 4-1 behind in the third, for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 triumph.
"I was always intimidated by how hard he hit the ball," Diskin said of Szewczyk. "I definitely gained a lot of confidence."
They played again a week later for the regional title. Diskin won 6-2, 6-2 as he belted service winners and Szewczyk appeared rattled.
That made Diskin the first Clipper, male or female, to qualify for state in tennis. And he didn't squander the opportunity, outlasting Handley senior Brad Stillwagon 7-6 (10-8), 1-6, 6-4 in a semifinal and breezing past Hidden Valley's Luke Wray 6-0, 6-2 in the final. That made Diskin the first male Bay Rivers player to win the state singles since York's Carl Maymi in 1995.
"His mental toughness is amazing," Grafton coach Jane Winner said.
Born in Russia, Diskin grew up in Israel before his father, Boris, became a NASA scientist five years ago and moved the family to the Peninsula.
Modest and soft-spoken but confident, Diskin always has had the smarts to excel in the classroom and tennis. What Diskin hadn't had, until now, is the power to gain cheap points against quality opposition.
"My serve was a big factor," he said.
If his good fortune continues, Diskin could tie the AA record of three singles championships. He and classmate Bryan Wang, this year's regional runners-up, should contend for the doubles title.
Diskin's rankings in U.S. Tennis Association play, which college coaches usually notice more than high school results, raise eyebrows too. Having turned 15 in May, he left the 14-and-under division as the state's top player.
Hampton Roads Academy, junior
In his first year living in Williamsburg after his family moved from
Connecticut, Corbin immediately went to the No. 1 spot on the Peninsula's
best team. The powerful baseliner finished second in the Tidewater Conference of
Independent Schools tournament's
No. 1 flight to Norfolk Academy's
Andy Downing, defeated Grafton ace Yakov Diskin and helped the Navigators end a
Norfolk Academy TCIS winning streak that lasted 18 years.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, freshman
The youngest player in Suffolk's
of tennis finished third in the TCIS top flight in his first season as the
Saints' No. 1. Good
variety and solid shotmaking are hallmarks of his game. Like Corbin, he was
Boys Tennis: Precocious Clipper serves notice
Grafton's Yakov Diskin, 15, lifts his game and beats older players for the state Group AA championship.
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