Indian-American high school student named South Jersey Times Player of the Year

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Anuj Patel of Vineland, has already won 77 tennis tournaments in his sports career including back-to-back South Jersey Times Player of the Year awards, including this year, the paper announced.

He still wants to win the Cape-Atlantic League title before he graduates from high school next year.

Patel has already left his mark on the Vineland boys tennis program and will work very hard for the CAL title.

“For the most part, I’m happy with my season, I had a pretty decent record, but my only disappointment was losing in the (Cape-Atlantic League) final for the second time. I’m going to work a lot harder this off-season, because I definitely want to win the CAL title.” Patel told nj.com.

Patel led Vineland to the team crown as he was titled the Cumberland County champion again with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Manuel Melendez of Millvile.

He also advanced to the round of 16 at the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships and has had many regular-season wins over Andrew Lin of Moorestown Friends and Mike Giunta of St. Augustine.

Next year he will compete against Mainland’s Nik Kilibarda, who he has lost against three times before including the CAL final in the past two seasons even though he has defeated him in regular seasons.

“He’s a nice kid and neither of us are rude to each other,” Patel said. “It’s not like we’re enemies or anything. But I definitely want to beat him and I think I can if I work on certain parts of my game.”

Vineland coach Vince Luciano is certain that Patel will return eager to play and become better at the sport.

“Anuj is one of those kids who is not mediocre and he doesn’t like to settle.  I think he’ll put the work in. He’s already been talking about things he wants to do (this summer) and tournaments he wants to play,” Luciano said to nj.com.

In addition to the CAL title, Patel also believes he can reach at least the semifinals of the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships, after he was not feeling well during this year’s tournament.

He also hopes to return to the state singles tournament after dropping his first-round match this year.

Patel started playing tennis when he was 7-years-old and he is very much aware that the next season could be his last of competitive tennis as he wants to attend the University of Pennsylvania and focus on studying engineering.

But Luciano does not think that will happen.

“I gave him a choice whether to go to states or take a break, because he played a lot of matches and that was prom weekend, but he told me, ‘I really want to go.’ So I know he still has the passion,” Luciano is quoted saying.

“Tennis isn’t going to be his life after high school. He’s No. 1 in his class and his tennis career is probably going to be over. But he still has interest and hopefully he can (thrive) for one more year,” he added.

 

 

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