ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — Max Braun isn’t much of a scream-and-shout, rah-rah tennis player.
His analysis of the sport and his opponents comes off as far more practical than emotional.
So his initial reaction to winning a Class 1A state championship isn’t surprising.
“I felt relaxed,” Braun said with a laugh. “I was happy I was done. I was pretty tired.”
The sixth-seeded Centennial freshman secured both his school’s and The News-Gazette coverage area’s first tennis state singles championship on Saturday when he fended off third-seeded Evanston Beacon Academy junior Peter Adams-Agresti 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the 1A final.
“It’s exciting that I’m a state champion, and I always will be,” Braun said. “Just winning by itself is always awesome, but doing it for the school and being the first one is really unique and special.”
The only other IHSA tennis state champions in local history come from the doubles ranks.
Danville’s Wilson Burge and Frank Noble won the 1960 single-class boys’ doubles championship, and Champaign Central’s Anna and Avra Jain were the single-class girls’ doubles titlists in 1979.
Centennial didn’t even boast a boys’ tennis state medalist until this year. Braun, along with the duo of junior James Braun — Max’s older brother — and Lino Jo (sixth in Class 1A doubles) put that issue to rest this week.
“That’s pretty cool to be able to do so well with my brother,” Max Braun said. “That’s definitely special. Not many people have a sibling competing and doing well in the same sport as them.”
The pair of performances gave the Chargers 22 points, ranking them second in the Class 1A team title chase behind only Chicago Latin (33).
“(Assistant coach Alex Amatyleon and I) started the season with 11 kids, and so ... we really didn’t have a lot of expectations of the team,” Centennial coach Teri Scaggs said. “I don’t believe (local) boys’ tennis has ever been in a place like this, as far as I know. So I think the boys have done an incredible thing with reaching second place with just two entries.”
The younger Braun stole the show across three days of Class 1A state singles play, during which he didn’t lose a set. His closest set entering Saturday’s final went 6-4 in his favor.
Adams-Agresti gave Braun a bit more of a challenge, though Braun felt comfortable with the matchup.
“I didn’t feel too stressed out or too tired coming into this match,” Braun said. “It was a very simple game plan. I felt like he tried to be very aggressive because I was better than him from the back.”
Another sweltering day, with the temperature soaring toward 90 degrees despite an 8 a.m. match start, also didn’t rattle Braun.
“I knew how hot it was,” Braun said, “but I felt I was fitter than my opponent, so I knew I could outlast him.”
Even so, Braun and Adams-Agresti entered a tiebreak situation during the first set. Braun went up 5-1 in the ensuring tiebreaker and ultimately prevailed, allowing him to “play looser” during the second set.
“He was up 5-3. Then, he was up 5-6 trying to stay in the set,” Scaggs said. “He just had to trust and believe in what he was doing, be patient (and) continue to be aggressive.”
Braun said his mother and Scaggs were his lone supporters on hand, while he felt Adams-Agresti had additional backing.
“Around the court, definitely weren’t too many supporters from Champaign,” Braun said. “But I still got through. I just knew to block it out, so it really wasn’t that bad.”
Braun isn’t taking a break after his historic victory. He has a United States Tennis Association tournament next week in Kalamazoo, Mich., in which a win could earn him wild-card entry into the U.S. Open junior tournament.
“Being able to win six (IHSA state) matches in a row and not feel too tired,” Braun said, “it definitely gives me confidence physically and mentally.”
In other action Saturday, 16th-seeded Uni High seniors Zachary Donnini and Arav Jagroop ended their state stay with a fourth-place finish, falling to third-seeded Benet Academy’s Noah Bobofchak and Andrew Donovan in the third-place match.
This marks the Illineks’ best-ever state finish, previously achieved by Alex Mestre and Edo Roth in single-class boys’ doubles (seventh in both 2012 and 2013).
“They had some expectations going in, but I think they were pretty happy with the result,” Uni High coach Luke Bronowski said. “To put a stamp on the program as seniors is pretty special for them.”
Seventh-seeded Chargers’ James Braun and Jo knocked off eighth-seeded Vernon Hills’ Eric Rodriguez and Andrew Tikhonov 7-5, 6-2 in the consolation semifinals before coming up short against fifth-seeded Mt. Zion’s Francis Velasco and Lane Fehrenbacher in the fifth-place match (6-1, 6-2).
“To see their first two losses happen, one against the number one seed and another against a top seed … I told them, ‘Don’t let this define your whole season,’” Scaggs said. “Very impressive. We had no idea what to expect.”