DENVER — When the best players in the state face each other, a little confidence goes a long way at an event like the Class 5A boys tennis state championships.
Fairview's No. 1 duo of David Zhao and Devin Harper have that in spades. So far that confidence, and their ironclad focus, has proven to be unstoppable even on the state's big stage.
Zhao and Harper have won three matches but the biggest one still remains.
At Gates Tennis Center on Saturday morning, the Knights pair will play in No. 1 doubles championship match. They feel like they're ready.
"We feel like once we focus, once we get in our groove, we're just the best team here," Zhao said. "If we act like it and we believe that we can do it, we can beat anybody. We've been aggressive and we've stayed focus through every match because every match counts. The state title has been the goal since day one."
After opening the tournament with two dominant wins, Zhao and Harper defeated Cherry Creek's Jacob Bendalin and Ben Murray 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. They will face Regis Jesuit's Luca Abbott and Will Dennen at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Harper nearly reached the 2015 championship match while paired with Graham Blanco last season but lost a three-set semifinal to fall just short. While last year's No. 1 doubles pair played its way back to place third, Harper and Zhao, who was runner-up at No. 4 doubles last season, hope their separate experiences can help them walk away on top at the end of their senior seasons.
"It's nice to finally win and get into the finals," Harper said. "I've lost in the semifinals two of my three years and I lost in the quarterfinals the other year. We've tried to be really aggressive in every match and everything we've done this season has really paid off."
The Knights' other three doubles pairs and No. 2 singles player Ethan Schacht weren't as fortunate early on Friday. All of them lost in the semifinals.
Schacht, however, did play his was back into Saturday's third-place match, as did No. 1 singles player Tom Melville and No. 3 singles player Graham Blanco. Following suit, No. 2 doubles pair Beck Chrisbens and Andy Wu, No. 3 doubles pair Brooks Savage and Adam Chehadi and No. 4 doubles pair Aaron Nguyen and Hall Humphrey all reached third-place matches.
"Today's semifinal round was a tough one for us," Fairview coach Chad Tsuda said. "It was good experience for some of our younger doubles that needed that experience. What I'm most proud of is how we bounced back. We wanted to be in the finals but that's not how it goes all the time and we didn't let that get us down."
Class 5A boys tennis state championships
At Gates Tennis Center
No. 1 singles — Dawid Kijak, Overland, def. Skyler Gates, Heritage, 7-6, 6-4; Ethan Hills, Cherry Creek, def. Kai Smith, Denver East, 6-0, 6-4.
No. 2 singles — Charlie Franks, Denver East, def. Ethan Schacht, Fairview, 7-5, 6-2; Robby Hill, Cherry Creek, def. Jack Alexander, Heritage, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 3 singles — Akhil Gupta, Fossil Ridge, def. Alex Gordon, Cherry Creek, 7-5, 6-2; Bryce Viorst, Denver East, def. Erich Nuss, Regis Jesuit, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
No. 1 doubles — Luca Abbott/Will Dennen, Regis Jesuit, def. Tyrone Braxton/Eric Dellavalle, Denver East, 6-4, 6-1; Devin Harper/David Zhao, Fairview, def. Jacob Bendalin/Ben Murray, Cherry Creek, 6-3, 6-2.
No. 2 doubles — David Glazer/Patrick Berzins, Denver East, def. Sam Angel/Drew Hill, Cherry Creek, 6-2, 6-1; Evan Nuss/Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz, Regis Jesuit, def. Beck Chrisbens/Andy Wu, Fairview, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
No. 3 doubles — Stone Heyman/Nick Eidler, Cherry Creek, def. Chris Schauer/Brian Benson, Mountain Vista, 6-1, 6-0; Matt McCarthy/Gabe Caldwell-Nepveux, Regis Jesuit, def. Brooks Savage/Adam Chehadi, Fairview, 6-3, 7-5.
No. 4 doubles — Zach Smith/Nick Svichar, Cherry Creek, def. Will Franks/Jack LaBarge, Denver East, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3; James O'Connor/Matthew Mahoney, Regis Jesuit, def. Aaron Nguyen/Hall Humphrey, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 1 singles — Melville, Fairview, def. Gates, Heritage, 6-1, 6-4; Smith, Denver East, def. Garer, Regis Jesuit, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 2 singles — Schacht, Fairview, def. Lupo, Broomfield, 6-0, 7-6; Alexander, Heritage, def. Hawk, Boulder, 6-4, 6-0.
No. 3 singles — Gordon, Cherry Creek, def. Aubert, Grand Junction, 6-3, 6-2; Blanco, Fairview, def. Nuss, Regis Jesuit, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4.
No. 1 doubles — Braxton/Dellavalle, Denver East, def. Miller/Bowen, Grand Junction, 0-6, 6-4, 6-1; Bendalin/Murray, Cherry Creek, def. Callanan/Enterline, Boulder, 6-1, 6-4.
No. 2 doubles — Angel/Hill, Cherry Creek, def. Schneider/Diehl, Fossil Ridge, 6-2, 6-1; Chrisbens/Wu, Fairview, def. Travins/Fredell, Coronado, 6-1, 6-3.
No. 3 doubles — Hargis/Salz, Fossil Ridge, def. Schauder/Benson, Mountain Vista, 6-3, 7-5; Savage/Chehadi, Fairview, def. Kretzler/Lopez, Horizon, 6-1, 6-2.
No. 4 doubles — Franks/LaBarge, Denver East, def. McLeod/Dicker, Heritage, 7-5, 6-4; Nguyen/Humphrey, Fairview, def. Moorman/Spong, Monarch, 6-2, 7-6.
First-round consolation matches
No. 1 singles — Melville, Fairview, def. Wolff, Broomfield, 6-4, 6-0; Garger, Regis Jesuit, def. Ma, Pine Creek, 7-6, 6-2.
No. 2 singles — Lupo, Broomfield, def. Ross, Chatfield, 7-6, 6-1; Hawk, Boulder, def. Seby, Regis Jesuit, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
No. 3 singles — Aubert, Grand Junction, def. Vice, Overland, 6-0, 6-1; Blanco, Fairview, def. Nuss, Regis Jesuit, 6-2, 6-2.
No. 1 doubles — Miller/Bowen, Grand Junction, def. Auerbach/Sexton, ThunderRidge, 6-2, 6-1; Callanan/Enterline, Boulder, def. Johnson/Sunset, Fossil Ridge, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 2 doubles — Schneider/Diehl, Fossil Ridge, def. Lowe/Correll, Ponderosa, 6-1, 6-4; Travins/Fredell, Coronado, def. Bean/Hipp, Mountain Vista, 6-2, 6-4.
No. 3 doubles — Hargis Salz, Fossil Ridge, def. Burkholder/Smith, Rock Canyon, 6-2, 6-3; Kretzler/Lopez, Horizon, def. Schoenfeld/Lim, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 4 doubles — McLeod/Dicker, Heritage, def. Moller/Payne, Legacy, 6-1, 6-0; Moorman/Spong, Monarch, def. Pudalov/Brusino, Boulder, 6-4, 6-4.