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PV pair battles for state title; younger brother grabs win

The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Republic

GLENDALE – Born 367 days apart, a pair of Palo Verde High School brothers battled it out Saturday in the Class 4A Division II tournament singles final.

With a powerful left-handed serve, the taller, younger Carlos Bermudez returned from a deficit to win the first set 6-4, then coasted in the second 6-1.

The top-seeded sophomore said he took pleasure in winning the tense match against brother Dominic, a sixth-seeded junior who won the individual championship as a freshman in 2007.

“I think he was nervous because I beat him last week, too,” Carlos said, referring to a win the 4A Gila Region championship. “(Our rivalry) goes back and forth, but, recently, I’ve been winning.”

The self-officiated match quickly became a heated one. Long rallies were often completed with close calls, brothers muttering under their breath and slapping their rackets against their thighs.

The competitors went through two different line judges after disagreements on calls. In between games they sat side-by-side on the bench, though neither looked tempted to speak to the other.

After graciously shaking hands at the end, Carlos was all smiles.

“This is what the school has been wanting,” he said. “The kids on the team want to win state, too.”

Palo Verde is a three seed in the team portion of the tournament and needs a win against Cottonwood Mingus on Tuesday to reach the semifinal.

4A-I boys

In a matchup of two friends and Catalina Foothills teammates, Zack Haffor got an early break in the first set against Daniel Hyman and rode that momentum to a 6-4, 6-3 win in the 4A Division I boys singles championship.

Just a short time earlier on a neighboring court at the Paseo Racquet Center, Goodyear Millennium’s Hunter and Yates Johnson topped Foothills’ Michael Tringali and Ravi Ram to capture the doubles championship.

Haffor and Hyman had to contend with fatigue after both played three-set matches in the semifinal round, and then in the championship both had to deal with the midday heat and moderate humidity on the near 90-degree afternoon.

“It was tougher than I thought,” Haffor said of the conditions. “But once I got that break in the first set, the momentum flipped and I was able to go from there.”

Haffor, the top seed, and Hyman, the No. 2 seed, each held serve in the first set before Haffor got that key break to enable him to take the first set, 6-4. Haffor didn’t let up after that, breaking Hyman’s serve twice more in the early going of the second set and then cruising to the championship.

While Haffor was happy to come away with the championship, beating his friend and teammate Hyman was bittersweet.

“It’s good because we’re really good friends,” Haffor said. “But it’s kind of tough because you’ve still got to drive back (to Tucson) together, knowing one of you won and one of you lost.”

Meanwhile, Millennium’s freshman twins, Hunter and Yates Johnson, took home the doubles championship with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

Despite looking physically overmatched against the Foothills seniors Tringali and Ram, both of whom are more than 6 feet tall, the Johnson twins kept their opponents off balance with their array of volleys and groundstrokes to come away with the title.

4A-I girls

In her first year of playing high school tennis, third-ranked Nikki Parker of Scottsdale Chaparral upset the No. 1 seed, Zaina Sufi of Catalina Foothills, 6-4, 6-4 in the 4A-I singles title match in Glendale.

Sufi put the first games up in each set, but 15-year-old Parker was consistent, never falling more than a game behind.

“I just kept pushing every point,” Parker said. “I kept playing and being aggressive. I gave it all I had. Everything. I left it all out there.”

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