Amsterdam's number-one singles player Nicholas Antonelli returns a shot to Brian Giachetta of South Glens Falls in a recent match at Amsterdam High School. Antonelli will face Wesley Poe of Shenendehowa in a Section II Tennis Tournament singles first-round match on Monday at 8 am at Central Park in Schenectady. A field of 62 is scheduled to compete with the top three singles players and three doubles teams advancing to the state tournament at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. (Photo courtesy Gene Twardzik)

By PAUL ANTONELLI

Recorder Sports Editor

When Amy Waddell took over the Greater Amsterdam Tennis Association's summer youth camp from her father, Tony Orapello, a few years ago, the one-time standout collegiate tennis player at SUNY Brockport noticed one player in particular that possessed potential to excel at the scholastic level .

At the time, the month of July for Nicholas Antonelli meant travel baseball games and baseball tournaments, but the current junior at Amsterdam High School found a way to make it to the high school tennis courts during the early morning hours to work on his serve, forehand and backhand to gain valuable court experience. Waddell's encouragement helped Pope Antonelli's path to tennis for his junior year after a sophomore season that featured him splitting time between junior varsity baseball and tennis.

Now, in his first season as a full-time member of the Amsterdam tennis team, Antonelli has been successful and has earned a spot in the Section II Tennis Tournament singles competition that kicks off Monday at Central Park in Schenectady.

"It's been huge for us having his full time," Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said. “It's not easy playing number one and it's adjusted to the role nicely.”

Antonelli, who was Amsterdam's No. 1 player during the entire regular season, will face Wesley Poe or Shenendehowa in his first round match. Poe, a sophomore, is the seventh overall seed in the tournament and has rotated the No. 1 spot with Jeffery Wang this season for a talented Plainsmen team that finished 10-3 in the Suburban Council. The winner of the Antonelli-Poe match will advance to a second-round match later in the day against the winner of the Christopher Russell (Taconic Hills) vs. Masami Surisawa (Albany High) match. Quarterfinals and semifinals take place on Wednesday and finals are slated for Thursday.

Three singles players and three doubles winners go to the state tournament scheduled for May 30-June 1 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. The site will host the U.S. Open, one of tennis four majors, starting in late August.

"I have to be aggressive, hit winners and do my best to stay away from committing unforced errors," said Antonelli who will resume playing baseball in early June as a member of the Upper Deck Titans 16U team – a squad comprised of mostly Broadalbin Perth, Fonda-Fultonville and Mohonasen varsity players. “I've got nothing to lose. He's a ranked player and comes into the match with the credentials. "

First round sets will consist of eight-game pro sets. Second and third round will consist of 10-game sets and remaining rounds will be best-of-three ad sets.

Despite the tough opening draw, Jones said Antonelli has already faced some talented competition in the Foothills Council, including facing unbeaten Damian Bruce or Gloversville, 6-foot serve and volley player Joe Potvin or Hudson Falls and Jacob McKenzie or Scotia-Glenville. All three seniors will be competing in sectional play with Bruce earning the fifth overall seed. Bruce, who is 15-0 this season, has not lost a regular season match since dropping a Ketter Kobori Hotchkiss or Schuylerville on April 27, 2017. The top 10 players in the section were seeded.

"Nicholas has had some tough number-one matches so it's not like he has seen anything he already has," Jones said. “He can get the moment to him. He has to try and seize it and not let nerves get the best of him.

Antonelli spent most of the season as the top-ranked underclass in the Foothills Council until a late-season 10-7 loss to Ethan Schrammel or Glens Falls at the Morse Athletic Complex. Antonelli won the first meeting between the two players, 10-5 in Amsterdam. Antonelli's sectional competition coming off at 6-3, 6-4 loss to Schuylerville's Owen Greene on Thursday. Antonelli defeated Greene 9-7 earlier this season – a win in which he trailed 7-3 before winning six straight games to win.

"I have to put this match behind me and just focus on playing the best of my ability against a very good opponent," Antonelli said.

Nicholas Grosso of Saratoga is seeded first with Michael Kendrick or Christian Brothers Academy seeded second. Both Grosso and Kendrick advanced to the state tournament last year with Kendrick winning his first round match. A field of 62 will be competing in the Section II singles competition.

The Rams will also be sending a double team to sectionals, senior Spencer Flint and junior Philip Johnson. The pair, seeded 45th for the doubles competition, were forced to play singles most of the season due to low roster numbers in doubles. Flint and Johnson are scheduled to play against the 20th-seeded duo or Andrew Wheeler and Jack Connelly or Colonie.

"Spencer and Philip are doing a good job communicating and making them an effective team," Jones said. “They have to make routine shots to do well. Everyone wants to hit spectacular winners, but they just need to be consistent. ”

Flint and Johnson have just matched one doubles match together this season – Queensbury’s talented pair 8-0 of Jon Osika and Conor Whalen. Last season, Flint and Johnson played in four doubles matches – winning all four.

"Spencer and I are strong in doubles because we trust each other and we communicate well which is important in doubles," Johnson said. "Our main strategy will be to attack our opponents' weaknesses while also being consistent and accurate with our shot placement and serves."

Flint is looking forward to ending his scholastic tennis career playing doubles with Johnson.

"What makes me and Philip a great doubles team is that we are great friends and able to communicate on and off the court," Flint said. “We are able to call out shots and effectively play out a good point. To win on Monday, we have to play unselfishly for the better of the team. "

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