La PORTE -- Even though he's been playing high level tennis for quite a while now, Fabio Haiduc's not all that familiar with having to perform in the spotlight.
"For the team, I haven't really played a three-set match because I usually finish so fast or I lose to them fast," the Chesterton sophomore said. "I'm not used to everyone around me cheering. I tried to ignore it as best I could."
With the Trojans match against La Porte tied 2-2, the outcome came down to Haiduc's one singles match with the Slicers' Quentin Spears, and the boy who first played with his grandpa's wooden racket when he was a 4-year old living in Romania, delivered the decisive point in a 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 victory Tuesday at Kesling Park.
"That was fun," Bour said. "That's what high school tennis is all about. Coach Matt and I were back here watching, saying he doesn't have this situation very often, he's either smoking someone or getting smoked. What I liked his about third set was he got up early. What we kept telling him was, keep making him chase you. The biggest adjustment we made was he was just going for too much too early. We told him just stay in the point, kind of work the point. He was a little more patient down the stretch."
After keeping Spears at arm's length the whole set, Haiduc closed out the victory and the match with a forehand passing shot as Spears approached the net, after
which he was swarmed by his teammates.
"I hit a short ball and he just killed it right at me," Haiduc said. "I managed to hit it from the bottom, he just lobbed it back and I was like, I have to win it on this one. I think I played through (the pressure) pretty well I was happy I won because it took so long. That's never happened where everyone just mobbed me."
Born in Italy, Haiduc, his mom and step sister left Romania to come to the U.S., joining his dad, who had previously moved here. Young Fabio's game, not to mention his equipment, improved, as he began honing his play through lessons and United States Tennis Association competition, earning the No. 2 singles spot on a strong Chesterton team as a freshman. He worked with Bour both at the former Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City and now at the Courts of Northwest Indiana in Liberty Township.
"He kind of goes all around, Niles (Michigan), Match Point," Bour said.
With the one position open this season, Haiduc moved up to the top spot, where he's more than held his own for a Trojans squad that's managed to keep a good thing going despite the departure of 12 seniors that included five starters and two captains.
"It's exciting," Bour said. "I'm happy for the guys. Fabio and Troy Feller are the only ones who played varsity. It's pride. The goal this year was to win back the conference."
Thanks to Haiduc, Chesterton is now in prime position to do so
"He's hard to get a bead on. There's no emotion," Bour said. "I was telling coach Matt, we got a couple fist pumps out of him. That was nice. We were very happy he was able to pull it out."
Using an adjusted lineup with usual No. 3 singles player Ethan Wilmsen at two doubles, La Porte coach Varda liked his chances on those two courts. It was a matter of finding a point in singles, but Drake Redman and Feller (9-1) made short work of Brock Schultz (6-0, 6-2) and Graham Siefker (6-0, 6-0), respectively.
"We knew Chesterton was great at singles," Varda said. "I felt like we had an advantage at doubles. They've been strong all year. My hope was we'd be competitive at one and three. The last time we played, it went down to the wire, three sets, but (Feller) played extremely well. He's the ultimate three. He's not hitting any balls out. I kind of liked our lineup. Ethan, a freshman, with a seasoned senior (Austin Ake). The lineup kind of happened by accident, but it gave us good opportunities on each court. Fabio's a good player. Quentin took him to the limit. I'm happy he battled and gave us a chance to beat the best team in the conference."
Carson Stalbaum and Liam Wolf downed John Powell and Brock Redman 6-3, 7-6 (4), at one, with Ake and Wilmsen dispatching John Petro and David Archbald 6-3, 6-3, at two to even the match.