Bhamidipati, the top seed in the NJSIAA state singles tournament, fought back from triple match point down to beat Savage, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, in an epic matchup of two of South Jersey's best tennis players.
The win gave the Eagles' Bhamidipati his first coaches tournament title in three attempts. The match also served as a test for Bhamidipati before the state tournament, which begins June 1.
"I didn't just want this win," said Bhamidipati, who lost in last year's coaches tourney final to Matt Coin of Gateway. "I needed it." He nearly lost it.
Savage, who suffered his first defeat after 27 straight wins, dominated the first set. He countered Bhamidipati's aggressive net game with effective lobs. Savage frustrated Bhamidipati (25-0) in winning the first set.
With the set tied, 3-3, the match became so spirited that a line judge was brought onto the court to decide calls.
Early on, the second set was more of the same for Savage. Bhamidipati got frustrated and made errors.
Keim said that Bhamidipati played with an early strategy of finishing points quickly. It was not working.
"Vinay's never been tested like that before," Keim said. "I'm not going to lie. I thought Savage had it in hand."
Then Bhamidipati's experience started to pay off.
Trailing, 5-4, in the second set, Bhamidipati fought back against triple match point while Savage looked for one clean shot to put the win away. Bhamidipati stayed calm and took a 6-5 lead before winning a tiebreaker, 7-4, to take the set, 7-6.
"I knew he would be thinking about [failing to finish the match] during the third set," Bhamidipati said. "I knew he'd dwell on it."
Clearly dejected because the match went three sets, Savage began to play catch-up. Bhamidipati began playing points longer and waited before he nailed winning shots down the sidelines.
"[Bhamidipati's] patience was the difference," Keim said.
Freshmen Phil Boyer and Jason Schum of Cherry Hill East beat Haddonfield's Karl Hartman and Matt McMahon, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), for the doubles title.
Semifinals: Vinay Bhamidipati, Egg Harbor Township, def. Matt Pikus, Lenape, 6-1, 6-1. Nick Savage, Shawnee, def. Ragdee Saberon, Overbrook, 6-1, 6-1.
Final: Bhamidipati def. Savage, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
Semifinals: Karl Hartman-Matt McMahon, Haddonfield, def. Jay Sen-Josh Malamed, Eastern, 7-5, 7-5. Phil Boyer-Jason Schum, Cherry Hill East, def. Wes Ho-Mike Lord, Moorestown, 6-4, 6-4.
Final: Boyer-Schum def. Hartman-McMahon, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
Contact Kristian Pope at 856-779-3901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.