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Heart and soles
Sussman finishes off prep career with 47-2 senior season
Sam Sussman and his pair of blue Asics were a pretty dominant force on the High Desert tennis courts this spring.
When the Serrano senior began wearing the shoes at the beginning of the season, he started to win and decided to wear them until he lost.
Three wins turned into 15, and 15 soon turned into 40. Sussman didn’t lose until his 46th match of the season, in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs against Wilson/Long Beach. The shoes wore down to the insole, according to Serrano singles teammate and practice partner Anthony Serrano.
“I had a huge cut on the bottom right,” Sussman said. “I decided not to wear different shoes because I hadn’t lost in them.”
Whether it was the shoes or not, Sussman had one heck of a season. Before the season started, he established goals of going undefeated during the regular season and winning the league MVP. He accomplished both en route to a 47-2 season. Along the way, he claimed a Mojave River League singles title, helped the Diamondbacks win an MRL championship, earned his third straight appearance on the all-league team and didn’t lose to anyone in the High Desert.
And he nabbed the 2009 Daily Press Boys Tennis Athlete of the Year award when it was all said and done.
Sussman, who was Serrano’s team MVP in each of his four seasons and its No. 1 singles player his final three, changed his mental approach during matches this season.
“I just started playing to win,” said Sussman. “I wasn’t nervous like I was before.”
He also said that he paid more attention to his opponent’s weaknesses and played to his strengths.
While Sussman didn’t lose to any High Desert opponents he faced — including Barstow standout Tiago Serapiao — he did experience some tough matches.
He pulled out tiebreaking wins against Rim of the World’s Fay Hay and Hesperia’s Rudy Fuentes.
But the biggest obstacle came in Serrano’s first meeting with Hesperia. He trailed the Scorpions’ top singles player Sagar Patel 5-2 but managed to win the next five games to pull out a 7-5 victory. That helped the D’backs edge the Scorpions 10-8.
“His mental toughness is very solid,” Serrano coach Jim Patton said. “He doesn’t ever shrink back. He doesn’t give up. He always finds a way to win.”
The victory gave Sussman a jolt of confidence that he carried through the rest of the season.
“I just tell myself to keep playing, keep playing hard,” Sussman said. “You have to play every single point, one point at a time. ... (The win over Patel) kind of made me feel like I couldn’t lose. It kind of made me relax more, because I was like, ‘OK, I can’t lose.’ ”
Sussman will attend the University of Montana in the fall and will receive an academic scholarship covering more than half of his tuition. One of the draws to the university for him was its closeness to the outdoors. Sussman really enjoys snowboarding (he said the closest ski resort is about 16 miles away from the Montana campus), but he also likes to mountain bike and rock climb, which he did for his senior project.
He said he’s considering walking onto the Grizzlies tennis team, but he will probably instead just focus on his studies.
After a stellar prep career capped by a sensational senior season, Sussman may finally be retiring those lucky shoes.
C.J. Daft can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 951-6275.