CHESHIRE — If Ben Alexander had his
druthers, he would have skipped school Monday, or at least
requested early dismissal. Instead, the top seed in the CIAC
State Open tennis tournament fulfilled his student obligation
and remained in school until 2 p.m., taking a final exam.
The delay, combined with a one-hour cross-state drive on
I-84, caused the Ridgefield High senior to arrive at Cheshire
Academy 20 minutes late for the state tennis championship
against the second seed, Scott Denenberg of Trumbull, and to
take the court somewhat cold.
Denenberg, the FCIAC’s 2002 Most Valuable Player, defeated
Alexander, 6-0, 6-4, to win the Open.
Denenberg and Alexander are no strangers to one another,
nor is Monday’s match going to be the last between the two
"Over the years, we’ve probably played 20 matches against
each other,” Denenberg said, "and we belong to the same tennis
clinic during the year. We’re friendly rivals.”
After a brief warm-up filled with talk back and forth over
the net, the two got serious and began play.
It was obvious from the start that Denenberg, who had
warmed up against a Fairfield Prep doubles player while he
waited for Alexander, was dominating. His forehand shots came
off his racquet like major-league fastballs, while Alexander
struggled to return service or to get his first serves in.
"My serves were not on today,” Alexander said. "That’s the
bottom line. If I held serve like normal, I’m confident I
would have taken him to three sets.”
Serving from the north end of the court was a challenge for
both players. The sun was high and directly in their line of
sight every time they tossed the ball up. But it seemed
tougher for Alexander than Denenberg. Alexander’s first-serve
efficiency hovered around 25 percent.
Meanwhile, everything was going Denenberg’s way. Nothing
was more evident of which side of the net luck was on, then
when Denenberg, beaten on a lob shot, raced back across the
baseline and blindly hit a ground shot while running away from
the net. He never saw where the ball went. It cleared the net
and remained in play.
Moments later he went for one of Alexander’s better-placed
balls in his left corner. As he ran, the racquet flew out of
his hand. It hit the ball illegally, and he still caught the
racquet before it fell to the ground.
Alexander smiled and quipped cross-net to Denenberg, "You
can’t do that.”
Denenberg said his recovery on that shot and the backhand
shot was nothing more than on-the-spot improvisation.
"I do that a lot,” Denenberg said. "I usually make that
shot maybe one out of three times.”
Alexander’s goal from his freshman year was to be in the
state tournament and be the state champion.
"It’s a reward to be here, and a great way to leave high
school,” he said.
Alexander, ranked 651st in the United States Tennis
Association rankings, and 27th in New England, will graduate
Ridgefield High this month and attend Tufts University in the
Denenberg, a junior, has another year of high school — sure
to be bad news for the rest of the FCIAC. But the two friendly
competitors are sure to meet in USTA competition, and
depending on where Denenberg goes to school, in college.
Denenberg is ranked 412th nationally and 11th in New
NOTES: In the doubles final, Cheshire High’s Brian Matthews
and Scott Matthews defeated August Vorvis and Tom Curran of
Fairfield Prep, 6-4, 6-2.