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Tennis

Kento Perera Becomes First 4-Time Channel League Boys Singles Champ since 1985

San Marcos star beats Miles Baldwin of Dos Pueblos; Royals also win doubles title

Kento Perera of San Marcos makes a two-handed backhand return during his straight-sets win over Miles Baldwin of Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
Kento Perera of San Marcos makes a two-handed backhand return during his straight-sets win over Miles Baldwin of Dos Pueblos. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

It was the best-case scenario for Kento Perera as went for his fourth straight Channel League singles championship on Thursday at Ventura High. The San Marcos tennis star was facing Miles Baldwin of Dos Pueblos, the player who handed him the only league loss of his career three weeks ago.

Miles Baldwin his a forehand return during the Channel League singles final. Click to view larger
Miles Baldwin his a forehand return during the Channel League singles final. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Perera came out strong, bolted to a 4-0 lead in the first set,  never let up and avenged the defeat with a history-making 6-0, 6-2 triumph.

“That loss definitely prepared me better for this one,” said Perera, who suffered an 8-5 defeat in a tiebreaker against Baldwin in a San Marcos-DP dual match. “I know he has a big game, so from that first-set loss I think I learned a few things about him and I implemented them well today.”

Perera served well, hit low and deep ground strokes and had a nice touch on his volleys. 

With the victory, Perera became the first player to win four singles titles since Tim Trigueiro did it for Santa Barbara High from 1982-85.

“I never really thought about it too much, maybe as a freshman,” said Perera of winning four titles. “I try to win every year. I guess it turned out well.”

It was a great day for San Marcos tennis as won the doubles title, too. The team of Daniel Newton and Dom Stefanov defeated Ventura’s Noah Laber and Max Cohen, 6-0, 6-3.

It was the Royals’ first doubles champion in Jarrod Bradley’s 17 years as coach.

Bradley said Perera has been “an absolute joy and pleasure to coach. The kid took 11 AP classes, got fives on nine AP exams and is going to Stanford. For me, to coach him and see him for four years has been really gratifying.”

Perera went on the attack right from the start, breaking Baldwin to go up 2-0. Baldwin had his chances in the second game but he missed a volley at 15-all and hit long at 30-all. 

“I knew that the start was really important, so I made sure to go for my game plan from the beginning. I got the best start I could hope for,” said Perera.

Baldwin dropped the third set when he hit a forehand wide. In the fourth set, he painted the line with a powerful forehand, but Perera came back with a forehand winner to take a 4-0 lead.

“Two-0 wasn’t too bad, but once it starts to build it’s frustrating,” Baldwin said. “It would have been nice to get some points on the board earlier, make me think I can win. Going down 6-0 in the first set is really rough. Once I got a game I started to believe, but he’s too good.”

Perera was solid on first serves and that helped him build a 3-0 lead in the second set.

“His serve was extraordinary today,” said Bradley. “He had a lot of first serves in and he won some easy games. He served so well that Miles really couldn’t get into a rhythm and get a break.”

Baldwin was at his best in the fourth game of the second set, scoring on a nice line shot and a sweet half volley en route to his first game victory.

Baldwin kept blasting away, but Perera had an answer for just about everything the DP senior threw at him and forced mistakes.

The San Marcos duo of Daniel Newton, left, and Dominik Stefanov won the Channel League doubles championship. Click to view larger
The San Marcos duo of Daniel Newton, left, and Dominik Stefanov won the Channel League doubles championship. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“I played some good points, but I was definitely up and down,” Baldwin said. “If I could have sustained it, it might have been closer. On the big points, he played better than I did; he flushed out a lot of games.”

“He pushed him to hit the shots out and drew the error,” DP coach Liz Frech said of Perera’s play. “But Miles, on the other hand, did his best to stay in the points. He served to different parts of the box, came to the net and tried to hit to the angles.”

Baldwin used a big forehand to earn his second point to make it 5-2 before Perera finished him off.

“It was a really fun career,” Perera said of playing for the Royals. “This match was really good because it came after losing for the first time in the regular season. I thought I did a good job coming back and stepping up my level.”

Sophomores Stefanov and Newton clicked as a doubles team and captured the league title.

“We played great,” said Stefanov. “We came up to the net a lot, kept the balls deep and executed our shots.”

Newton said they were familiar with the tendencies of Laber and Cohen, having played them in singles.

“Dominik closing off the net was really good for us,” Newton said. 

“Daniel going cross court was really good,” Stefanov added.

“We both just worked together better than we’ve ever done in a match,” said Newton.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Four-time champion Kento Perera, left, is congratulated by Miles Baldwin at the end of their singles final at Ventura High. Click to view larger
Four-time champion Kento Perera, left, is congratulated by Miles Baldwin at the end of their singles final at Ventura High. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

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