The562’s coverage of Long Beach tennis is sponsored by the Long Beach State Tennis Boosters.
The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
Millikan’s Nolan Alvarez practiced like an underdog and played like a top-seed during the three-day Moore League boys’ tennis singles tournament. The junior was back on the El Dorado Park courts between his quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Monday just working on his ground strokes by himself.
“I was just getting my game together to be prepared for this one,” Alvarez said of Tuesday’s final against Wilson’s Leo Bauch. “I knew I could win, I just had to play my game how I wanted. That’s what I did today and it felt good.”
Alvarez wore down a feisty Busch and won his first league singles championship 6-1, 6-1 after losing in the final the previous two years.
“It feels good finally getting that win,” he said. “I was serving really well throughout the tournament and not double faulting a lot, and getting to the net as much as I can. If I get my approach shot deep and then put that first volley away, I got a lot of points like that.”
“His biggest strength is his tenacity,” added Millikan coach Devin Bowler. “He switched back to his two handed backhand and that has been a huge improvement in his game and his ability to stay aggressive and attack while also being defensive.”
Bauch was able to win his first service points in each set, but Nolan rebounded to break his serve and take control. Nolan battled through a few duce points to break Bauch’s serve and take a 4-1 lead in both sets.
“He’s crazy good,” Bauch said of Alvarez. “As soon as I hit a decent shot, if it didn’t bounce past the service line he was going to pounce on it and go to the net to finish it.”
Alvarez beat his Millikan teammate Harrison Bruechert 8-1 in his first match, Long Beach Poly’s Gabe Simms 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals, and Poly’s Markus Matiauda 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals.
“He’s lefty and he hits with a lot of spin,” Alvarez said of Bauch. “It’s tough going from a regular right handed player who hits the ball more flat. It’s tough to get used to. Once I started working myself into the match it felt easier.”
Alvarez has stepped up to be Millikan’s No. 1 player this year after defending league champion and teammate Andy Nguyen, a UC Irvine commit, took the year off high school tennis to concentrate on bigger individual tournaments. Alvarez lost to Nguyen in the last two league finals, but said the team aspect of the high school game suits him well.
“Working as a team with my coaches and my teammates makes a big difference,” Alvarez said. “Having all of that chemistry with your teammates just gets you the wins.”
Bauch entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and beat Poly’s Sai Trivedi 8-0 in his first match, Poly’s Elijah Wong 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Wilson teammate Douglas Smith (2-6, 6-0 Medical Withdrawal) in the semifinals.
“Dealing with pressure was tough, it’s a mental sport,” Bauch said. “When you’re tired and down it’s so hard to get back up. You can’t sub in or out, you don’t have a teammate… visualizing and preparing yourself (by eating right and sleeping a lot) helps your body but it also helps you mentally because you know you put in the work to feel better.”
“He’s really confident and becoming someone who can contend with someone who is clearly a whole level above him,” Wilson coach Nick Medina said. “Mentally he’s probably the strongest dude on the team. He’s never out of it.”
CIF Southern Section team and individual tournaments start next month after the elite Ojai Tournament this weekend.