Boca Ciega’s Dan Stefan became the first Pinellas County tennis player to win an overall state singles championship since 1998, and he did it in convincing style.
Stefan defeated Gainesville’s Zachary Goldberg 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 on Wednesday morning at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs to claim the Class 3A No. 1 singles title.
Stefan, a junior playing high school tennis for the first time, did not lose a set at state. Prior to this prep season, Stefan played only USTA junior events and is ranked 19th in the state.
Stefan had to battle back in his first set against Goldberg. He was down 5-1 before forcing a tiebreaker.
“I really got off to a bit of a slow start,’’ Stefan said. “I got down 5-1 and I just told myself to take it shot by shot. I started hitting some good shots and I started to believe that I could come back. After that I was very confident.’’
Stefan stayed on serve in the second set and put Goldberg away.
Canterbury’s Dan McCain was the last Pinellas player to win a state championship — when Stefan was 2 years old. Stefan said he’s glad one of his classmates talked him into playing high school tennis.
“Dustin Green, who is my doubles partner, kept asking me if I was going to play,’’ Stefan said. “Finally, I said okay, I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did. It’s been a great experience.’’
Stefan has won several junior circuit tournaments, but said a state high school championship “is definitely up there with any of the tournaments I’ve won. I get to bring it back to Boca Ciega. It feels great.’’
4A: Green Devil lone local player standing
St. Petersburg’s Adam Ambrozy advanced to today’s third round of the individual singles tournament, but he was the only Pinellas player to survive Day 1.
Ambrozy got a bye in the first round, then beat David Engel of Palm Beach Dwyer 6-2, 6-1 in the second round. He plays Olympia’s Sebastian Beltrame at 8 a.m. in today’s semifinals.
East Lake’s Ganesh Rajaram lost his first-round singles match 6-2, 6-1 to Mandarin’s Andrey Majkic. Rajaram and doubles partner Ryan Hall then were eliminated in the first round.
East Lake’s Angel Deng lost her first-round singles match 6-3, 6-0 to Alizee Michaud of Orlando Dr. Phillips.
The Countryside doubles team of Alex Kitchen and Shannon Wagner split matches, falling in the second round to Dr. Phillips’ Sarah Baron and Michaud 6-0, 6-1.