South Xtra: Canon-Mac soph bounces back, reaches WPIAL singles semifinals

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An injury caused Chris Gladden to miss all of the area's top high school tennis tournaments last season, but Gladden, a Canon-McMillan sophomore, is back and better than ever.

Gladden captured the Class AA Section 5 singles tournament last week, not losing even a game in three matches.

"It's been really good being back out there," Gladden said. "I was really anxious for sections because I was hoping to go to WPIALs."

Gladden played well at districts this week, beating 2013 WPIAL runner-up Peter Hazlett of Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals before losing to defending WPIAL champ Adam Blasinsky of Central Catholic in the semifinals.

He's come a long way from this time last season, where he wasn't cleared for any athletic activity. The day before the 2013 section singles tournament, Gladden was playing for his travel soccer team, Beadling, when he sustained a serious concussion after getting kneed in the head.

The injury forced him not only to miss the rest of the tennis season, but sidelined him for any activities during the summer.

He was cleared to play a game into Canon-McMillan's soccer season last fall and helped the Big Macs to the WPIAL semifinals.

This spring, he has emerged as Canon-McMillan's top singles player and has yet to lose a match in section play.

"He's been very impressive," Canon-McMillan tennis coach Jim Kochanski said. "I've coached some really good tennis players and I would definitely put him in that group."

Gladden isn't the biggest player on the court, but he usually is the most consistent. He usually tries to keep the point going until his opponent makes a mistake.

His style has been successful not just on the high school scene, but on the United States Tennis Association circuit as well. He is currently ranked as the No. 2 player in the Class of 2016 by tennisrecruiting.net.

"He has a lot of strengths," Kochanski said. "No. 1 is his competitiveness; No. 2 is his mental focus; and No. 3 is he is so consistent with his shots. On every point it looks like he could return 50 shots in a row."

Gladden has been able to be successful on the court despite a busy schedule this spring that once again has him juggling tennis and soccer. In fact, he traveled to a tournament last weekend before returning home in time for WPIAL singles. He said he has considered focusing on one sport in the future.

"I want to play tennis, but my parents think having a balance of both looks good for college," Gladden said. "I've definitely thought about just playing one, but it's really such a tough decision for me to make."


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