Wildcats’ top singles player isn’t done yet

Zagrebelny reaches Class AA tennis semifinals

In his third season at No. 1 singles for Eagan, Maxim Zagrebelny has become one of the state’s top players. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Maxim Zagrebelny just completed his sophomore year but already is one of the three best boys tennis players Eagan High School has ever had. That’s according to his coach, Scott Nichols, who has seen most of the best players in school history.

“Zach Ekstein, who’s going to be an All-American at Gustavus, he’s probably the No. 1 we’ve ever had,” said Nichols, a high school tennis coach since 1989. “Justin Abrams, a few years ago, went D1 at Bradley. But if there’s a Mount Rushmore of tennis for us, Max is on it.”

Could Zagrebelny become Eagan’s best ever? “He has some time left,” said Nichols.

Zagrebelny played in last week’s state Class AA singles tournament at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center, but fans didn’t see him at his best. He won his first two matches June 8 before lingering back trouble worsened and caused him to forfeit his semifinal match Friday against eventual champion Ben van der Sman of East Ridge. Zagrebelny, who entered the state tournament as the fifth seed, wound up with fourth place.

“I wasn’t sure how I would perform because of my back,” Zagrebelny said after defeating Conner Olsen of Orono in the second round. “I was just expecting to play my best without hurting my back, and I guess that was enough.”

The injury, believed to be a stress fracture caused by wear and tear from playing tennis, got worse a couple of weeks ago during Zagrebelny’s match against van der Sman in the Section 3AA championship match, which the Eastview player won in straight sets.

He had to take a break from tennis for a few days. When he came back, he had to adjust his game plan to “play smarter and try to win points more efficiently.”

He defeated Wayzata ninth-grader Jonathan Nudler 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the state tournament and Olsen, the fourth seed in the singles bracket, 6-4, 6-2 in the second round. Zagrebelny needed treatment for his back in the second set of his match against Olsen, but was able to close out the match.

Zagrebelny has been a varsity player for Eagan since seventh grade and the Wildcats’ No. 1 singles player since eighth grade. He qualified for the state singles tournament in 2016 and went 2-2.

Most of the time he has had to play opponents that were bigger and stronger, and had to counter with skill and finesse.

“He gets it. He thinks the game really well,” Nichols said. “He’s gotten stronger, but his biggest attribute is his timing. His timing’s better than almost anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Over the next two years Zagrebelny likely will add more power to his game as he gets bigger. “When he’s a junior and senior he’ll have a different game,” Nichols said.

But he already will have the experience of taking on some of the state’s best players for the last three years. Because he’s done that, “you just know if play your best and hope for the best it will get you a win,” Zagrebelny said.

South doubles team 2nd

Nine players from South Suburban Conference schools played in the state Class AA singles and doubles tournaments last week. The highest finish belonged to Lakeville South’s Chase Roseth and Hunter Roseth, who were runners-up in doubles.

The Roseth brothers, the first Lakeville South players ever to qualify for state, won their first three state tournament matches in straight sets. They defeated St. Cloud Tech’s Nate Jordre and Nick Portz 6-4, 6-1 in the first round, Minnetonka’s Carter Smiley and Trevor Smiley 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Benilde-St. Margaret’s Tristan Fjelstad and Ryan Frost 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals.

Nicholas Aney and Varyn Iyer of Rochester Century defeated the Roseths 6-0, 6-1 in the championship match. The Century duo was the only team to defeat the Roseths during the postseason, doing so in the Section 1AA doubles final and the state championship match.

Chase Roseth, a senior, had more than 100 victories as a singles player for Lakeville South, playing most matches at the No. 1 spot. Hunter Roseth, a sophomore, also was in the singles lineup in team competition for South, which was ranked as high as third in the state and finished second in the Section 1AA tournament.

Rosemount senior Anshul Bharath and ninth-grader Aashish Bharath qualified for the state doubles tournament for the second consecutive year and reached the second round. They defeated Wayzata sophomores Michael Deal and John Foley 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the first round before a 7-6 (3), 6-2 loss to BSM’s Fjelstad and Frost ended their season.

Eastview sophomores Sourabh Terakanambi and Nisal Liyanage won their last three matches at state to win the consolation championship. The Eastview duo lost to the eventual champions, Rochester Century’s Aney and Iyer, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.

In the consolation bracket, Terakanambi and Liyanage defeated Matthew Hagan and Nicholas Goetz of Wayzata 6-4, 6-0 and Nitin Venkatesh and Evan Fridinger of East Ridge 6-2, 6-4 to reach the final. The Eastview team defeated Ian Pallin and Matteo Garzini of Grand Rapids 6-7 (3), 6-3, 10-4 in its final match. A first-to-10-points super tiebreak was played instead of a full third set.

Eastview eighth-grader Gavin Young played in the Class AA singles tournament for the second consecutive year, defeating Lakeville North senior Sean Kelly 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Nikita Snezhko of Robbinsdale Armstrong defeated Young 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

Kelly lost to Bjorn Swenson of Mounds View 3-6, 7-5, 10-7 in the consolation quarterfinals.