M. Tennis: Nathan Eshmade wins singles and doubles title

Nathan Eshmade accepts the state championship trophy after winning the singles title
Nathan Eshmade accepts the state championship trophy after winning the singles title

Cerritos College men's tennis player Nathan Eshmade (Kings Baptist, Australia HS) concluded his Falcon career by capturing both the singles and doubles championship at the CCCAA State Championships in Ojai on Sunday. The ITA Player of the Year came back against Lovedeep Singh of American River College in the morning to post a 7-5, 6-3 win in a battle of #1 seeds, and concluded the afternoon by teaming with freshman Amadi Kagoma (Malezi School, Kenya HS) for a 7-6(5), 6-3 win in the doubles finals against #5 Scott Gray and Jakov Tshirkin of Fresno City College. It was the second time this year that Eshmade defeated Singh in straight sets. Eshmande, who finished the year, 28-0, becomes the fifth place in the last 21 years to win both the singles and doubles championship in the same year. The last time the feat was accomplished was in 2005 by Ventura College's Jeroen Van Ruller.

"It's amazing to win both championships," said Eshmade, who has signed to play at UC Santa Barbara next season. "Being down, 5-3 in the first set, playing eight deuces and then erasing three set points was a great motivator for me. I had to will myself to come back and take the first set. I remember last year (losing in the semifinals) and decided I wouldn't play that way again."

After getting to within 5-4 in the first set, Eshmade broke Singh and then held the serve to take a 6-5 lead. He broke Singh for the fourth time to secure the 7-5 win in the first set. Riding that momentum, Eshmende eventually won nine of the next 10 games to take a commanding 5-1 lead in the second set before winning to become the first Cerritos player to win the singles state championship.

"I realized that he was starting to hit the ball short, so I started playing a bit closer to the net," added Eshmade. "Just stepping onto the court, keeping the ball in play and making him miss was the biggest thing. Momentum changed my way and the guys got behind me and I took the set. Consistency was the key to winning."

"You always think you know a kid and then you see him down 3-5 and a set point against him," said Falcon coach Alvin Kim. "He was just ice cold from then on. I'm so proud of the way he handled himself mentally. It takes courage to play some shots and make certain decisions. He was super-cool throughout the match and I was so, so impressed."

Just three short hours later, Eshmade was back on the court with Kagoma looking to become the first Cerritos doubles team to win a state championship. Back in 2008, Jason Wall and Doug Edwards reached the state championship match and followed that the next year by advancing to the Southern California Championship and then won the Ojai Tournament.

But Eshmade and Kagoma, the top-seeded team finished off their remarkable season with a tight win. Aside from a pair of slip-ups during the North/South Tournament, the duo went unscathed the rest of the way and finished the year with a 24-2 record. Eshmade won his serve twice in the first set, and tied the set at 5-5 with an ace. After pulling off the win in the first set, they turned it into a straight set win.

Photos courtesy of Dave Loveton, Santa Barbara City College