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Ma, Mueller collect 1st SJS individual tourney title for Manteca boys team
SJS Individual Boys Tournament
Manteca boys tennis coach Frank Fontana with Sac-Joaquin Section Division II doubles champions Jonas Mueller, left, and Yok Chai Ma. - photo by Courtesy photo

Frank Fontana has guided Manteca’s boys tennis teams to many of its greatest achievements, but there has been one that has eluded him over the years.

Well, that has been crossed off the list.

“Finally,” Fontana said on Tuesday.

Freshman Yok Chai Ma and junior Jonas Mueller made program history at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville, where they captured the doubles championship in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Tournament. They defeated No. 2 Avi and Deven Kothari of Rodriguez (Fairfield) in the final, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

The Buffaloes were previously 0 for 7 in the final round of this tournament, three in singles and four in doubles. Three of those doubles teams were under Fontana’s watch, and the fourth time was the charm for the 17th-year coach.

“I am ecstatic,” he said. “It has been a rough three years with the COVID seasons and just never being able to get into a flow of it.

“In reality, this is what we were shooting for. There was no hidden agenda, we made the decision early on (in the season) to not have (Ma and Mueller) play singles (for individual postseason tournaments) in order to give them a chance to win a Section title as doubles.”

Ma and Mueller were awarded the top seed and proved to be deserving of it after wiping out its first two opponents in short order Monday. On Tuesday, they defeated No. 4-seeded Shuv Chakravarty and Daniel Zhang of Mountain House of Mountain House, 6-2, 6-4.

It was looking to be more of the same in the championship, but the Kothari brothers stepped up their play for the second set and even led 5-4 at one point.

Ma-Mueller evened it at 5-all and came back from a love-40 deficit to jump ahead in the set.

“I didn’t even realize it was love-40,” Ma said. He was the one serving during that clutch comeback. “I guess I just kind of locked it in.”

The Kotharis forced a tiebreaker but faltered late, double faulting on three occasions including on match point. Mueller set up match point with a forehand winner.

“I thought we had a good chance after the first three matches, which we won pretty easily,” Mueller said. “Then played our best match ever in the finals. We played a good first set and won the second set somehow.”

Both Mueller and Ma were glad to set aside any chance of glory as solo acts. This was going to be Mueller’s only run with the Buffaloes, as he returns home to Germany in three weeks. The foreign-exchange student wanted to make it count.

“We only had this one chance,” Mueller said. “I’m pretty happy. We were able to make the best of it.”

For Ma, he has bragging rights over his three older siblings and still has three more years to add to his résumé. Yok Jing (2015 with Michael Lopez) and Kurtis (2019 with Solman Aniss) both reached the SJS Division II Individual Tournament finals.

“Definitely going to rub it in their face,” the youngest Ma, joked. “This means a lot for the school and our team. We felt really good going into it and I knew that we could take it all the way.”

Greg Toy-Jody Ruble (1980) and Yassen Aniss-Arnie Morales (2009) are other doubles pairs from Manteca to advance to the final. Jeff Brock (1980), Eddie Hubik (1988) and Jeff Marks (1990) did it in singles. In the fall, Katie Kim became the third female from Manteca to win a singles title at the SJS Individual Tournament and the first in three decades.

Ma is proud to have achieved this with Mueller in their short time together.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was definitely a gift having him come to Manteca High and play for us. Playing doubles with him was easy. I felt like I could rely on him. He’s a very good partner.”

The team has also left an impression on Mueller.

“I know our teammates were hoping to come cheer for us but they couldn’t because they had school,” Mueller said. “I can’t wait celebrate this with them.

“Fontana really helped us in the final. He did not have to say much in our other matches, but we practiced in the last week and went over a lot of things. I’m thankful for Fontana. I think he’s a great coach.”


Coed Tournament

At Oak Park Tennis Center, Ripon Christian’s Isaac Buwalda and Jaden Bohn dropped both of their doubles matches on the second day but had a strong showing.

They were first defeated by Sonora’s Luke Wheeler and Jack Conte 5-7, 6-1, 1-6 in the semifinal round. In the third-place match, they lost to Riverbank’s Diego Jimenez and Cesar Cardenas, 5-7, 9-11.