MILL CREEK — When elite tennis players square off, the ability to break serve can often be the separating factor.
That was the case Monday afternoon in a showdown between two of the top boys tennis players in Snohomish County.
Cascade senior Yevgeniy Kolomiyets broke serve three times and held serve all but once, earning a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Jackson junior Anuj Vimawala in a matchup at Jackson High School between two 4A singles state qualifiers from last season.
“He has a big, lefty serve,” Kolomiyets said of his opponent. “I feel confident in my own serve, but that’s only half the game. So I just had to keep his serve in play and see what happens.”
It was Kolomiyets’ third consecutive win over Vimawala at the prep level.
“It’s a great competition,” Cascade coach Brian Cherniak said of the two players’ friendly rivalry. “But I think really what it comes down to is Yev’s a year older. … With everything being equal, it’s ultimately (that) Yev’s got that one extra year of player development.”
The standouts split their two regular-season meetings last year before squaring off for a third time in the district title match, which Kolomiyets won in straight sets. Both players went on to reach the 4A state quarterfinals, with Vimawala earning a seventh-place medal.
Cherniak and Jackson coach David Hutt each said the two stars are the clear-cut top players in Wesco 4A.
“They’re by far the two best,” Hutt said. “When they both play well, there’s no one really close to them. That was a great match. That’s what you see at the state level.”
The match began in compelling fashion, with the first game of the opening set lasting 15 minutes. The players held serve until the eighth game, when Kolomiyets broke Vimawala for a 5-3 lead en route to a first-set victory.
In the second set, Vimawala gained the upper hand by breaking serve in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. But Kolomiyets responded with a pair of key service breaks against the tall lefty, breaking serve in the seventh and ninth games on his way to a 6-4 second-set triumph that sealed the match.
“(When) Anuj was up 4-2 and (service) got broken back, it just kind of took the wind out of his sails,” Hutt said. “(That) just kind of deflated him right there.
“For those two guys,” he added, “it hurts when they lose their serve, because they both have big serves and they rely on it to win games. And when they get (their serves) broken, emotionally it’s tough.”
In addition to their encouters as Wesco 4A rivals, Kolomiyets and Vimawala occasionally practice against each other in the offseason. They are expected to square off again in their teams’ Oct. 10 regular-season finale.
“He makes me better (and) I make him better,” Kolomiyets said. “And I’m just really thankful for it, to have the opportunity to get better because there is someone of his caliber in the district.”
Jackson (9-0 overall, 7-0 Wesco 4A) beat Cascade in each of the other six matchups Monday, cruising to a 6-1 victory over the Bruins (4-5, 3-4).
The unbeaten Timberwolves have outscored their opponents by a combined 60-2 margin this season and are riding a 27-match winning streak that dates back to October 2015.
“I knew they’d do awfully well,” Hutt said of his team. “But for them to go through nine games and only lose two individual matches — that’s pretty crazy.
“It’s kind of surreal how well they’ve played.”