Hanahan has an ace in the hole for playoffs

Kerim Hyatt

Unbeaten Hanahan staged a preview on Thursday of what might happen in the upcoming Class AAA state playoffs when the Hawks unveiled a secret weapon.

They played the decisive No. 1 doubles match for the second time this season, this time for a 4-3 win over fellow 8-AAA power Hilton Head High to wrap up the region crown.

In the process, the exceptional doubles ability of Hanahan sophomore Kerim Hyatt was put on display for a small group of supporters under the lights at Collins Park as an afternoon match stretched into the evening. Hyatt is a slender left-hander who hits a one-handed backhand and plays much bigger in doubles than one might expect from his 5-8 or 5-9 stature.

Hyatt’s sizzling slice backhand volleys are a thing of perfection, a difference-maker in doubles. Opponents hardly have a chance of putting a racket on the ball once Hyatt connects with backhand volleys that he delivers with great pace at sharp angles.

“It’s where talent meets hard work,” is the way MWTennis Academy CEO Jeff Wilson describes Hyatt’s volleying technique.

One of the guys on the other side of the net for Hilton Head was James Madison signee Tate Steinour, who had sent the team match to No. 1 doubles as a result of his three-set victory at No. 1 singles over Hanahan freshman ace Chad Nash, Hyatt’s doubles partner.

Elite SCHSL teams such as Hanahan don’t often get to practice live doubles. Most regular season matches are decided in the five singles and No. 2 doubles matches.

This practice for the Hyatt/Nash duo could prove very helpful in the weeks ahead for coach Glenn Cobb and his 11-0 Hanahan club that has an open week before the playoffs start on May 3. The Hawks easily could see 2014 state champion/2015 state runner-up Hilton Head again in the Lower State final.

Practice time outside of Family Circle Tennis Center’s MWTennis Academy is hard to find for Hyatt and Nash. While Hyatt trains at MWTennis after a full day of school at Hanahan, Nash is a full-timer at MW, drilling for tennis in the morning from 9-11, attending online classes at the Family Circle complex from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then hitting the tennis courts again in the afternoon from 2-4 p.m., with 4-6 p.m. optional for tennis. Even fitting high school matches into their schedules can be tricky.

Hyatt is a stellar doubles player, something of a rarity in high school tennis. With quickness, mobility, aggressiveness, powerful serves and big left-handed ground strokes complementing his strong net game, Hyatt has the tools to go places in tennis.

He is preparing for college and maybe even life on the pro tour. Is he good enough to play with the pros? “We’ll see,” the 16-year-old said with a smile.

Why does Hyatt like tennis so much that he has trained the last six years at Family Circle Tennis Center? “I like being out there (on the court) alone,” he said.

Nash carries 130 pounds on his 5-7 to 5-8 frame, but wears size 111/2 shoes. He expects to grow, and hopefully end up at the U.S. Naval Academy. He usually plays a more conservative, consistent game these days before revving it up as he grows.

“I like the team atmosphere and the experience it gives me before college,” Nash said about playing high school tennis for the first time.

Of course, MWTennis is the centerpiece of both Nash’s and Hyatt’s tennis lives, as it is with a herd of outstanding young boys and girls in the area. Less than two years old, MWTennis is gaining national exposure and appears to be possibly on the bubble of becoming a major player internationally among junior tennis academies. The world class Family Circle Tennis Center isn’t a bad selling point.

High schools such as Hanahan and Class AA unbeaten Academic Magnet, as well as defending Class AA state champion Bishop England, are reaping the dividends of the level of training offered at MWTennis. LTP Tennis also figures in the high school picture with several outstanding talents, but to a lesser extent than MW.

Shelby Rogers may have played the best tennis of her life in parts of a three-set loss to 80th-ranked Lara Arruabarrena in the Volvo Car Open’s first round. She is hoping to have that game in Charlottesville, Va., this coming week in a $50,000 U.S. Pro Circuit clay-court event, where she likely will be the top seed. She will be out to repeat her 2013 title at Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, Jessie Pegula lost Saturday in the semifinals of the $50,000 event in Dothan, Ala. Ellie Halbauer will play a $10,000 event this coming week in Argentina, where she will be one of the top seeded players.

Academic Magnet will attempt to lock up the Region 6-AA title on Wednesday when the Jacob Jahn/Sam Kavarana- led Raptors travel to Snee Farm to take on Bishop England. Regardless of the outcome, both teams will be in the AA state playoffs that start May 5. Like Hanahan, the Raptors are a serious threat to bring home a state championship.

In SCISA, Porter-Gaud will begin defense of its Class AAA state title on May 2.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com