CHATHAM, NJ — If there is a way to will a tennis team to victory, Chatham first singles player Pedro Cattaruzzi did just that last Friday.
Third-seeded Chatham came into the match as the underdog against No. 2 Millburn in NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 boys tennis semifinals and pulled off a 4-1 upset win with Cattaruzzi topping his higher-seeded opponent Matias Feoli, 6-4, 6-2.
But it wasn’t just Cattaruzzi’s play that made the win possible, it was the energy he spread throughout the team with cheering for his teammates.
“In the match against Millburn, he was unbelievable,” Chatham tennis coach James Cai said. “Every single point he was full of energy. He was channeling every single point he won, he was cheering for his teammates. That makes a difference.
“His match at first singles is the toughest of all and his cheering told his teammates that he was winning and that gave confidence to his teammates on the court. Everyone was channeling his energy and that’s how we pulled it off last Friday.”
Cattaruzzi and the Cougars followed their win vs. Millburn with a 5-0 state sectional championship victory vs. Mendham on Tuesday, making it back-to-back state championships (there was no 2020 season) for Chatham.
Pedro Cattaruzzi is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
In 2019 as a freshman, Cattaruzzi played third singles for Chatham and won the deciding match in the state sectional final, also against Millburn.
“It’s different now,” Cai said. “Before, he was more like cheering for himself. Tennis is more of an individual sport. The beauty of high school and college tennis is the team aspect. His passion for the sport will bring him a long way.”
Cattaruzzi has been battling a sprained wrist that he suffered during the Morris County Tournament and he’s had to adjust his game to make up for some limitations with backhand.
“My hand was cramping during the changeover,” Cattaruzzi said of the 3-hour county semifinal he won last month. “I just couldn’t hit a backhand. The doctor said it was a sprain. In the last two matches, my opponents were trying to target my backhand, but I have a good slice and they can’t figure out what I’m going to do. I’ve been controlling the game with my serve and forehand. That’s been working for me.”
Cattaruzzi has been an aggressive player for Chatham ever since he came to the Cougars from Brazil. Two years later, he’s returned to the court bigger and stronger, with a more sophisticated mind for the game.
“The biggest change in my game since my freshman year is my serve,” he said. “I’m stronger and I understand the game more. I’m playing smarter. I like to hit the ball deep, which allows me to set up a short ball.
“I have to be mentally prepared. I need to talk to myself to play every point as if it’s the last point and then focus on the next one and forget about what happened on the last shot if it’s a lousy one, just forget about it.”
Chatham senior Dennis Isak plays second singles and he’s usually on the court next to Cattaruzzi, so he has one of the best views of his teammate in action.
“I love the emotion he always shows,” Isak said. “Without him, the team would not be as nearly as good as it is. He drives the team forward with his cheering and passion. He’s a great player and he’s the spirit of the team.”
Chatham (15-4), now ranked No. 6 in the state by NJ.com, needs two more wins in the Group 3 state tournament to reach its pre-season goal of making it to the Tournament of Champions. The Cougars meet undefeated Princeton (17-0) in the Group 3 semifinals on Monday at Mercer County Park.
“There is so much to say about Pedro’s game,” Cai said. “He changed his game on that day that he fought through the injury in the counties, learning to use all of his weapons. He’s a very crafty player. He won’t give up on the court. That’s the type of player he is.”
Editor’s note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.