As Palm Desert High School senior Abe Hewko bids for his third consecutive Desert Valley League singles title, he could face his biggest threat from one of his teammates.
Austin Rapp has emerged as one of the top players in the country in the boys’ 16 division and is coming off two strong performances at renown tournaments. At the Easter Bowl earlier this month in Rancho Mirage, Rapp reached the fourth round, and then won the back draw for a fifth-place finish.
Over the weekend at Ojai, Rapp reached the boys’ 16 finals.
“I’m playing really well and had a couple good tournaments leading into this,” Rapp said after beating Shahriar Seyed-Emami of Palm Springs and La Quinta’s Jay Corieri to reach the semifinal.
Rapp is currently ranked No. 3 in Southern California in the boys’ 16 division and No. 19 nationally.
Last year, Rapp teamed with departing senior Jack Felich to win the CIF Southern Section title. They were the first CIF champions from Palm Desert in 15 years. Peter Gladkin and Brock Berry last won a CIF doubles title in 1997. In 1995, Dann Battistone and Andy Scorteanu won the doubles title while Eni Ghidirmic won the singles title.
Since last year, Rapp has grown five inches and stands at 6-foot-3. His serve also is markedly faster.
However, Rapp would have to beat Xavier Prep’s Chris Freitag, and he doesn’t want to look ahead to the final.
“I practice with (Freitag), and I have to play well to beat him,” Rapp said.
Hewko, who signed to play for Boise State next year, reached the semifinals after beating Francis Angeles of Cathedral City 8-2 and Aba Samaan of Xavier 8-2. In the semifinal, Hewko will face teammate Ian Murphy.
In doubles Bradley Cummings and Cameron McDonald are the top seeds for Palm Desert, and didn’t drop a game in winning their two matches. Cummings and McDonald are also longtime friends who have played doubles together for nine years, when Cummings was 6 and McDonald was 8 in the local National Junior Tennis League.