Jarrod Ulrey

MASON: After playing first singles throughout the regular season, it was a foregone conclusion to Copley senior Gavin Aten that his new tennis doubles partner for this year’s postseason would be classmate and second singles player Gustavo Garcia.

It took some time for them to jell, Aten said, but the decision would have to be considered successful based on what took place during the opening day of this year’s state tournament at Lindner Family Tennis Center.

Aten, who earned a state runner-up finish at the Division I state doubles tournament last season, teamed with Garcia on Friday to beat Cincinnati Sycamore’s Alex Karev and Nathan Zhang 6-2, 6-0 and Lewis Center Olentangy Orange’s Jordan Phelps and Jonathan Zhuravel 6-4, 6-3 to advance to a semifinal.

They will face Mason’s Niraj Komatineni and Sean Reid in a semifinal Saturday.

Also moving on to semifinals were Jackson senior singles players Joey Thomas and Jake Zalenski.

“It’s a little tough at first [to adjust to a new partner], but I’ve had a different doubles partner every year,” Aten said. “By state you work really well together.”

Garcia moved into the district in the offseason from Venezuela but is a tennis veteran of about a decade.

“We just had to get a feel of the match and play in the moment,” he said.

Thomas, the defending state champion in Division I singles, had no trouble advancing to a semifinal, where he’ll face Cincinnati St. Xavier’s Andrew Niehaus.

Thomas opened with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Mason’s Vishnu Srinath and then beat Perrysburg’s Ben Weider 6-0, 6-2.

Thomas, who is a four-time state qualifier, believes he’s playing the type of tennis necessary to help him defend his title.

“It was nice to get a good rhythm with the first two guys I played against,” Thomas said. “I need to get my serve going a little more and serve smart.”

Zalenski has enjoyed competing against higher-caliber players than he often did in the regular season while playing second singles behind Thomas.

On Friday, he beat Mason’s Pranav Viswanathan 6-2, 6-2 and Solon’s Vlad Rotnov 6-3, 7-5 to reach a state semifinal, where he’ll face Chagrin Falls Kenston’s Nico Mostardi.

“I started off well in both sets [against Rotnov] and kind of let him back in it a few times, but overall I’m happy with the win,” Zalenski said. “I don’t often beat a lot of [No. 1 singles players], so this has been great.”

Also in Division I, Jackson’s doubles team of Anthony Kanam and Danny Thomas lost to Mason’s Komatineni and Reid 6-4, 6-1 in the first round and Walsh Jesuit’s doubles team of Conner Evans and Ben Smith lost to Cincinnati Sycamore’s Noah Stern and Alex Taylor 6-3, 6-0 in the first round.

In Division II singles, Cloverleaf’s Austin Hanna won his first match but lost to Columbus Academy’s Jacob Wareti 6-0, 6-4 in a second-round match while Norton’s Justin Csepe lost to Cincinnati Country Day’s Kevin Yu 6-0, 6-0 in the second round.

“I’m still taking away some positives from it,” Csepe said. “I’m still very happy with my season.”