Before the NJSIAA Singles Tournament, Jack Wong had already enjoyed a great freshman season for the East Brunswick High School boys’ tennis team.
But on June 2 at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, Wong did something that no one expected him to do.
As a 17-32 seed, he upset two higher seeds, Rohan Singh of Mountain Lakes High School and Alex Yang of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, in the third and fourth rounds of the state singles bracket. Wong beat Singh in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5, and Yang in a third set tiebreaker, 10-6.
The freshman would go on to lose in the quarterfinals of the state tournament on June 4 at Mercer County Park, 6-1, 6-0, to the No. 3 seed, Alex Kotzen of Newark Academy. But his run to the quarterfinals of the premier singles tournament in New Jersey punctuated a successful 2019 for East Brunswick’s top player.
“It was an outstanding run. I couldn’t be more proud of him,” said East Brunswick coach Cory Widmaier. “He just ran into Kotzen, who is unbelievable.”
During preseason tryouts in March, Wong earned the No. 1 singles spot in East Brunswick’s lineup. He beat the team’s incumbent No. 1 player for the previous two years, senior Abhinav Bhamidipati, in a challenge match.
“The match was intense,” said Widmaier. “But Jack beat him in straight sets.”
Bhamidipati, to his credit, took the loss magnanimously. He embraced the No. 2 singles spot and even walked over to Wong’s court to cheer him on once his own matches ended.
The senior knew that the freshman made the Bears better.
“My attitude coming in was to finish my last season strong and have a good time,” he said. “Playing one or two didn’t have a huge impact because those were my goals going in.”
Wong, Bhamidipati and the Bears accomplished those goals.
Wong went 14-2 as the top singles player and led a strong East Brunswick team to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, where it lost to eventual champion Montgomery High School, 4-1, on May 16 at Montgomery.
Montgomery also ended up winning its third straight NJSIAA Tournament of Champions state title with a 3-2 victory over Newark Academy on May 31 at Mercer County Park.
Wong’s campaign even included a victory in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament’s No. 1 singles bracket. In the final on April 30 at Thomas Edison Park, Wong defeated Highland Park High School’s Patrick Lin, 6-3, 6-1. Lin had won the 2018 GMC title and beaten Wong in the regular season.
No one was less surprised by Wong’s victory than Bhamidipati.
“I’ve known Jack for awhile and I’ve always known he’s really good,” the senior said.
With Bhamidipati off to Drexel University in Philadelphia next year, Wong will have no clear challenger for his No. 1 spot. His challenge, instead, will be external.
The freshman likely won’t be a low seed again in the state singles tournament as a sophomore, so he won’t surprise anybody. Which is exactly why he might even be expected to win the state title.
“Jack can get there,” Widmaier said.
But no matter what Wong does as an individual, he should be able to lead the Bears to more team success. East Brunswick’s third singles player this spring, Siddharth Srinivasan, was also a freshman. So was a second doubles starter, Carson He, with singles ambitions.
The Bears had seven freshmen overall this year. The future, for Wong and the program, looks bright.
“We have a lot of young talent, which is good,” Widmaier said.