senior Jason Sittambalam played baseball from Little League to the varsity roster his sophomore year, but he shifted his focus to tennis junior year after his friend, Michael Van Dusen convinced him he was the key ingredient for the team to win the Class M title.
Not only did that come to pass – the first time since the 1980s – but the team also won Class M this year, with dynamic duo Sittambalam and sophomore John Burdick also winning the doubles finals. They also were All Conference and All State athletes.
Tennis runs in the family for Burdick, who has been playing since he was five, and he thanks his brother for helping him train and have a successful season. He also plays soccer and basketball.
Sittambalam started tennis in eighth grade.
Sittambalam has no regrets leaving baseball, enjoying the camaraderie he has with the team and his doubles partner – who he said he also gets along well with off the courts. Burdick enjoys the team component of doubles.
"We really feed off of each other and how we’re playing," said Sittambalam, who added that Burdick is there to cover him if he makes a mistake in a match. "He’s good at getting me mentally in the game."
Burdick played doubles on the team with Riley Van Dusen last year when Sittambalam was paired with Saagar Sinha, then a sophomore, who transferred this year to Avon Old Farms.
Victory in the state doubles championship against Tolland was even sweeter last week because one of their opponents – senior Dylan Roman – was on the doubles team that defeated Sittambalam and Sinha last year in the doubles finals.
“It was nice to get some revenge and get a win for Avon High School, Sittambalam said, who said it is also an honor to win for his town.
The win capped an undefeated season for Sittambalam and Burdick, who played at least 20 matches.
The boys met their match against the Tolland team, which held them to a back and forth duel in the first set of the finals. Once the score hit 4-4, things started to turn around.
“I think we got rid of the butterflies and picked up the intensity a lot," Burdick said.
They won eight straight games after that to secure the victory, winning 6-4 in the first set and 6-0 in the second.
“I was so happy," said Sittambalam, who added that winning the state doubles championship this year was his goal.
Sittambalam, who graduated Friday, will attend the University of Connecticut next year. While varsity tennis isn't in his college plans, he hopes to play at the club level.
Burdick will miss his teammate.
It’s going to be hard to replace Jason," he said. "We complimented each other very well."
But he is looking forward to finding a new doubles partner next year and working toward another state championship.