Riders sweep boys, girls state tennis titles: CR’s Gundakaram, Dover’s Anyanwu win first singles crowns

Caesar Rodney’s Rishi Gundakaram returns a backhand during the boys state tennis final at St. Andrew’s. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

MIDDLETOWN — Rishi Gundakaram said he never is nervous before his tennis matches.

Well, almost. He admitted he felt some nerves on Friday afternoon, playing for the boys’ first singles championship.

“There was a lot riding on it,” Gundakaram said. “I wasn’t just playing for myself, I was playing for my team. At the beginning, I was nervous but I think as I got into the match I got into a rhythm and was hitting my balls well.”

Dover’s Victoria Anyanwu returns a forehand during the girls state tennis final.

The Caesar Rodney High junior overcame those nerves for the individual state title and helped lead the Riders to the team title. Caesar Rodney also won the girls’ state championship for the third year in a row and Dover High finished in second in the team standings.

Dover sophomore Victoria Anyanwu earned the girls’ first singles championship.

“I feel so good,” Anyanwu said. “It’s great right now. It’s great to know for our seniors this year that we were able to go to states and leave with a lasting memory.”

Garrett Wrede also won a state title for the Riders boys’ in third singles. The Riders had a pair of runner-up finishers with David Haynes at second singles and the team of Joseph Gravelle and Jhayden Pappas at first doubles.

Haynes participated in the match of the day — a three-setter lasting three hours and 32 minutes. Haynes dropped the first set and was down 5-2 in the second but rallied to force a tiebreaker, winning that to send the match to a final set.

Haynes was fighting cramps for most of the third set and injured his leg while jumping for a ball. He played the rest of the match clearly hobbled and not able to jump on his serves and ended up falling 7-5 to Tatnall’s Seth Friedlander in the third.

The Caesar Rodney boys tennis team celebrates its state title. Delaware State News/Tim Mastro

“I’m very proud of them especially David,” said CR coach Jim Harvey. “We have three strong single players and some good double players. I think any of our singles players could play first singles at any place.”

The Riders also won two events in the girls’ competition.

Katherine Tamesis was the third singles champion while Piper Casey and Micaela Thorogood were victorious in the first doubles. Nora Frederick was runner-up at second doubles while Selma Cemerlic and Hannah Jeffrey were second in the second doubles.

Dover’s Erika Synoski gave the Senators their second state title of the day with a victory in the second singles.

Caesar Rodney edged Dover by just one point for the girls’ championship.

Dover sophomore Victoria Anyanwu earned the girls’ first singles championship.

“We really had to earn this one,” said CR coach Zach Taylor. “This is probably the toughest one for us to win so in that way it feels even more satisfying because they had to work hard for it. It’s all on them. They put in the work in the offseason and really throughout their lives. They’ve been playing since they were little kids.”

“The Dover indoor and Gabby Brengle and the folks over there have done a great job with these kids,” Taylor added. “They build them up and send them to us and Dover and some other local schools. It’s good competition, it’s fun and it pushes everyone to get better.”

Anyanwu went three sets in the first singles final, winning the first and the third.

Her serve was broken twice to start the third set but she was able to break back both times. She was able to hold and pull ahead 4-2, ending one of her points with a perfectly-finessed drop-shot and held on the rest of the set against Archmere’s Grace Dignazio.

“I didn’t want to get down on myself,” Anyanwu said. “I just wanted to keep playing my match and not play to her style. I wanted to stay positive and no matter what, even if I had a bad point, just get back into it.”

Gundakaram dethroned defending champion Robbie Ward of Tower Hill in the boys’ first singles.

Gundakaram fell to Ward last season in the first singles championship round. This year he was able to win the first set, then get a key break while up 3-2 in the second and finished out the match.

“I didn’t have any expectations,” Gundakaram said. “I came out wanting to play the best that I could and play the smartest and come off the court thinking that I played to the best of my ability. I think I did do that so I’m happy.”

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