Latin Academy boys’ tennis captain Jimmy Ye finally returned from injury last week, only to have to fight for his No. 1 spot again — a position he held since freshman year before he went down with groin and wrist problems at the start of this season.
The senior, who recently decided to play tennis at Holy Cross in the fall, missed the first three weeks of the season.
In his absence, senior Mark Anthony Kenney filled in at the No. 1 spot superbly. Now the two will play a challenge match against each other as soon as this week to determine the true No. 1 singles player on the team.
“It’s good to be playing tennis again,” Ye said after last Friday afternoon’s practice at Carter Playground. “I think I have a shot [to beat Kenney]. It’s just how your mind-set is and how hard you fight for your spot. Mark Anthony is a terrific player, so you just have to fight for it.
“He’s been playing really well. He's basically destroyed every opponent he’s played. He had a tough match against BC High, he played Charles Shewalter, and playing a nationally ranked player is tough. He’s been terrific.”
Kenney, who attends Boston Community Leadership Academy, which feeds players into Latin Academy's tennis team, is 1-1 against Ye. But even if he does lose his No. 1 spot, Kenney said, having Ye back is a huge boost for the team because he takes pressure off everyone else.
“I know Jimmy can get wins and Jimmy plays well so that takes some pressure off me,”
Kenney said. “I don't feel like I have to maybe force or overthink my matches knowing that he has a spot behind me locked up.
“Competition between us makes us better. I'm hoping I can get this win, but he's playing a lot better since he came back. He's looking really good. Maybe he’s a little rusty but I’ve been playing rusty, too.”
Kenney said it wasn’t hard to play No. 1 singles in Ye’s absence because he’s played leadership roles on his previous teams at Boston Latin and Catholic Memorial.
“It's not hard really to try to lead the team,” he said, “especially when you have a group of guys who want do well and are looking out for each other. So me stepping into the No. 1 spot, that really wasn’t that hard.”
Kenney said he will most likely play tennis at Whittier College in Los Angeles next year.
“I went out there and those guys are really good players,” he said. “They are really supportive of each other and they train real hard, too. It’s not really going to be a different environment. That’s the kind of environment I’m used to as far as training really hard and trying to do my best each and every day.”
Ye said he met with the Holy Cross coach when the Crusaders played at Boston University recently.
“He seems to know a lot about tennis,” Ye said. “I talked to him for 30 minutes. It was by far the most tennis I’ve listened to. The guy is a genius so I’m excited. There are a lot of good players on that team. The only place to go is up.”
With two college-bound players in the lineup, Latin Academy coach Andy Crane said the sky is the limit this season.
“Our strength is our singles,” he said, “and when Jimmy is there, whether he plays No. 1 or No. 2 -- and in the end, we still have to decide that -- and then Ricardo Bailey is No. 3, it’s a very strong lineup.”
Last week Ye played No. 2 singles and won two matches against Medford and BC High. His 6-4, 6-4 win against BC High’s Jeremy Mendoza was Latin Academy’s only point in that match.
Crane said he wanted to make sure Ye’s injuries didn’t flare up for one full week of play before he set a challenge match against Kenney.
“He’s rusty,” Crane said. “That’s why we haven’t had another challenge match, because he’s still rusty.”
No matter who plays No. 1 singles, Latin Academy’s goals are the same.
“That’s the goal, state championship,” Kenney said.
The other goal will be to beat BC High on May 13.
“We lost to them, 4-1, yesterday, so that left a sour taste in my mouth along with the rest of the guys,” Ye said last Friday. “That's the one that we are going to look at and say, ‘We are going to beat these guys.’ ”
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