In pursuit of a second straight tennis championship, Shadow Ridge High School junior Carlos Hassey breezed to a 6-1, 6-0 win April 29.
But a 7-5, 6-1 loss to senior Yash Parikh of Salpointe Catholic in the finals the following day means Hassey will have to wait one year to cap off an impressive high school career.
“It’s really competitive,” Hassey said about Division II tennis. “There are great USTA players. They all train; we all play the same tournaments. It is really competitive and it’s good to have that competition.”
Hassey will also have to break out of a boot this summer. The 16 year old played the 2016 season with a broken foot, though not serious enough to keep him off the court. He will get a boot put on it this week, and depending on how it heals throughout the summer, he might need surgery.
However, both Stallions coach Scott Bergeron and Hassey’s father, Carlos Hassey, Sr., said Hassey’s foot should heal up before his senior year.
“To his credit he never complained about it,” Hassey, Sr. said. “He nurtured it and played with it.”
Hassey’s run in high school tennis has been nothing short of outstanding. He registered a 38-0 record his freshman year without playing in the state tournament. The following campaign he went 32-0 in the regular season and won six matches in the tourney, including the Division II title against Parikh, the defending champion. And up until Saturday, Hassey was 39-0 as a junior before Parikh reclaimed the championship.
“He (Parikh) is a pretty amazing tennis player,” Bergeron said. “He (Hassey) couldn’t hang in any more but he did the best he could. I’m very proud of him.”
The key to Hassey’s success is his family history in the sport. His father played for UC Irvine. He is also the tennis director at The Wigwam resort, a position he’s held for about six years. Hassey’s sister Mariely won the 2011 Division I title at Centennial High School and competes for Liberty University, a NCAA D-I school in Virginia.
“I knew I was a little better at it than I was in other sports,” Hassey said about choosing tennis. “My dad was always there. He inspired me to just keep going with it. And I knew he was going to be my coach. It was really good to have that father-son bonding.”
Hassey began playing tennis when he was about 4 when the Hasseys lived in Southern California. At 8 he started competing in tournaments, and has attended plenty in California, Tucson and Las Vegas.
“Then we moved here (Arizona) when he was 9 and ever since then he became one of the top players in the southwest,” Hassey, Sr. said.
One of Hassey’s more impressive highlights occurred in December at a national tournament in Phoenix. The event drew 128 of the nation’s top players, but Hassey was on the outside looking in at first. When some of the players dropped out, Hassey made the draw and advanced to the quarterfinals.
While Hassey drew inspiration from his father in choosing tennis, the elder Hassey said he wants his children to play for themselves, and not solely because he played tennis as well.
“I told them I’m more into their character than tennis,” he said. “Eventually the trophies and everything you will achieve, we’re not going to remember what trophy you had. But one thing that they’ll carry for the rest of their life is their character. He’s had a lot of sportsmanship awards and he’s very well-liked by all the players and that’s very important.”
Hassey said his father and sister have taught him to keep a good attitude on the court, play right and fair, focus on himself and not show too much emotion when struggling.
“It’s a lot of mental stuff,” Hassey said. “You have to train yourself to have a good attitude and be calm when you’re playing, not get mad as much. You just have to do a lot of mental stuff outside and condition outside. It’s a lot of running all the time.”
His father reiterated the mental aspect, especially for Hassey once his foot heals.
“He’s a pretty healthy kid, he does a lot of physical training. It’s just a matter of getting him ready after the summer for the schedule of tournaments coming up,” Hassey, Sr. said. “One thing I admire in him is he really goes for the shots. He’s not a player who’s going to choke when the big points come. I always tell him ‘champions take chances’ He knows when the time comes to hit the ball in a crucial point he’s going to go for the shot.”
Hassey said his dream is to attend and play for a Division I school, and hopefully win a NCAA championship. His father said he has talked with the University of Arizona, Gonzaga, Colorado and others.
“He’s a very talented player,” Hassey, Sr. said. “A lot of coaches have seen that. He’s going to do pretty well.”
Bergeron called Hassey a second coach when he’s on the court, but for some of his opponents. When Hassey play against people with less experience than himself, he will help them correct errors and find ways to improve.
“But he’s very nice and calm,” Bergeron said. “He never talks like he’s better than anyone.”
Hassey plays every day unless he takes Sundays off to rest his body. He invests two to three hours of tennis and about an hour in the gym, running, sprinting and strengthening his shoulders and wrists.
While his father has been his coach most of his life, Hassey said all his coaches are equally important to his success.
“Last year in state, I won it, and they were there,” Hassey said. “They were supporting me and just really brought me up in my game. The support that they’ve given me is unreal so I just want to thank them for that.”
Once Hassey’s foot heals and next season gets going, Bergeron believes Hassey will be able to recapture the title. He’ll be the player to beat with Parikh graduating.
“I want it,” Hassey said. “It’s going to be tough but I just try to focus and give it my all and see what happens.”