LONGMEADOW -- One reason for Rohan Shastri's return to high school tennis was to find some new opponents away from the junior tennis circuit.
The Mount Greylock senior discovered a challenging one on Sunday in Westfield's Loeiz Briand. Shastri battled through his closest set of the year before beating the French exchange student, 6-4, 6-0 at Longmeadow High School to capture the Western Massachusetts individual crown.
"I want the good competition," Shastri said. "He hit a very good ball. He's a good player. ... I had to be physically very tough."
The win capped a perfect tournament for Shastri, who is undefeated since returning to varsity tennis this spring. He moves on to the state individual tournament on June 15 at St. John's of Shrewsbury.
Shastri reached the final by beating Longmeadow's Ross Kamin, 6-0, 6-1. Briand advanced when Lee's Tanner DeVarennes retired with a nagging ankle injury after losing the first three games. It's the second straight year an injury has derailed DeVarennes in the semifinals after he made the final in 2011.
"It was definitely frustrating this year," DeVarennes said. "I think I could've continued but it was a precautionary measure so I could be ready for Western Mass. as a team."
Four other Berkshire County players suffered losses. Both Mounties doubles teams fell in the semifinals to teams from Minnechaug. Nathan Majumder and Alex White lost to Alex Smith and Tom Knight 6-3, 6-1 while Jake Foehl and Will Nolan went three sets against Brian Kavanaugh and Mike Knight before falling 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.
Greylock coach Stephen Bryant said he thoughT both of his doubles teams had a chance to advance before the day began, but he's not sure what happened. Consistent lobs did seem to give both Greylock pairs trouble.
"What really got them was their overheads were not working for them," Bryant said. "If that was on, they would've been able to put points away more and just take away the feet from their opponents."
Shastri had moments of frustration in his first set. Briand moved his opponent back and forth, hitting the corners and forcing Shastri to dig out balls. Briand started to attack the net in the second, allowing Shastri to knock passing shots by the junior. Shastri's overpowering forehand took care of the rest.
"The first set I played good defense," Shastri said. "The second set I played very good offense. You just have to play out the long points. The points were long. You have to grind it out."
Shastri said he thought Briand made a mistake trying to attack the net. The exchange student from the Brittany region of France was trying to find a way to neutralize Shastri's powerful ground strokes. Instead, he was left watching balls whizz by.
"My approach shots weren't that efficient," Briand said. "The zones that I hit when I was coming to the net weren't that good. I could be passed easily."
When he served out the match, Shastri turned and pumped his fists toward a vocal group of teammates and friends. His return to the Mounties for the first time since eighth grade has always been more about a team title than an individual one. His team was with him all the way on Sunday.
"I was so happy," Shastri said. "These are the best friends I have, cheering for me, supporting me. I could ask for nothing more. I was just really grateful that they're there."
To reach Christopher James:
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K