Hillsboro tennis player Harry Faber was locked in a match with a more polished version of himself in his second contest of the state tournament.
Jason Bieberle of Claflin is about 6-4 and slender, with incredibly long arms and legs. Sound familiar?
Bieberle played an aggressive attacking style, wanting to repeatedly smash baseline forehands deep into his opponent’s territory and then rush the net to exploit sharper angles. Often Faber was playing backed up against the green fence on the Hillsboro hard court.
“He hit the ball pretty deep with a lot of top spin,” Faber said.
While Bieberle’s game resembled Faber’s style, his attitude was also similar. Faber is an emotional player, prone to nagging himself to be better. His body language is expressive, including loping long limbed strides of disgust and openhanded displays of exasperation.
Bieberle was like Faber dialed up to 11, screaming at himself after failures and successes.
The two briefly jousted verbally. Bieberle called a long shot out before it touched the ground. Faber asked him to wait for the shot to land. Bierble derided that comment with a mumbling return.
The two players made for an entertaining tennis match, at least for a set.
The players split the first two games, breaking the other’s serve. Faber won the first game with a backhand winner, two points after deuce.
Faber seemed to have wrestled away momentum in the third game, winning the five-deuce game by gaining the advantage after every tie. Bieberle was playing to Faber’s backhand. Unlike many players, Faber prefers to hit backhanded and landed two backhand shots in the game. He also hit a forehand solidly in the right corner and a lob shot that glanced off the backline for winners during the game.
Then Bieberle won the next two games convincingly, with Faber only reaching 40-30 when Bieberle was serving.
Faber battled back from 30-0 in the fifth game, with an ace and a forehand crosscourt winner to force deuce. The game went to deuce six times. Bieberle gained advantage the first three times, with the help of Faber double faults. Faber then held the advantage for two consecutive points, with a backhand slam and an accurately placed lob.
Bieberle took advantage of a long hit from Faber and then won the final three points. On the second to last point, Faber placed three forehands in the right corner that were all returned.
Bieberle then took the next two games, with Faber getting the first to 40-30. Faber battled back in the final game from 40-0. The game went to deuce three times with Faber taking the advantage first after winning a five-turn volley. Bieberle got the final two advantages with two precisely placed forehands, taking the first set, 6-2.
All but two games in the set went to 40-30; four games went to deuce.
“It was a lot of fun,” Faber said. “He plays a fun style.”
Bieberle ended the regular season 30-0 and showed that dominance, winning the second set, 6-0. Faber was held scoreless in the first three games of the set. The Hillsboro player pushed the next two games to 40-30 and lost the final, 40-15.
Faber seemed deflated in the second set.
“He didn’t miss much and I missed a lot more,” he said.
The match was emblematic of Faber’s performance in the tournament. Faber won his first match over Shawn Nulik of Chaparral, 6-1 and 6-3, but looked shaky at times. Faber was down in the second set 1-2 before winning two consecutive 40-15 games.
In the first set, the penultimate game went to deuce six times. Faber was leading in the match 40-0 then double faulted on consecutive points, hit the ball long to force deuce, and double faulted again to give Nulik the advantage. Faber double faulted three more times, but continued to battle with three aces to eventually win the game.
Faber then lost consecutive matches on Saturday to Evan Bentley of Hutchinson Trinity, 9-3. Bentley finished fifth, 20-12, in Faber’s regional.
He then lost to Zach Brashear of Sterling, 9-3. Brashear placed third, behind Faber in Wichita Independent regional. This season, Faber has struggled in matches against Brashear.
Faber placed 11th defeating Anthony Lloyd of Wichita Independent, 9-3.