There are no official members, no meetings or by-laws. Still, everyone knows Jai Aslam is now in the club.

Earlier this month, Aslam watched the final three matches of the Round of 48 boys singles tennis tournament at Colby College. A lot of good tennis players were there, and Aslam was in the audience not just as a spectator, but as someone who had proven his own tennis chops.

As a junior at Messalonskee, Aslam beat every opponent but one during the regular season, then won two matches in the Round of 48 and took four games from defending state champion Patrick Ordway. For his accomplishments, Aslam is the choice as the Morning Sentinel Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

By his own admission, Aslam could barely keep the ball in play with his backhand when he was a freshman, but he enjoyed the sport enough to dedicate himself to getting better in the offseason.

“All the other sports I played, and the activities I do, I never had that much of a drive to get good at it, so I didn’t get that good,” Aslam said. “I just have a lot of fun when I play and I am really competitive in general. So I guess when I had so much fun playing, I was just like, ‘I can put these two things together.’

“I figured if I put in the time, that I could do pretty good. Maybe I didn’t think I would do as well as this, but I knew I could do pretty well if I put the time in.”

Aslam earned the No. 1 singles spot for the Eagles and, during the regular season, he lost only to Bangor’s Patrick Stewart. He also developed as a team leader.

“He enjoys helping other people,” Messalonskee coach Ed Hinkley said. “So when he comes to practice, he likes to set up and run drills. Of course, from my perspective, that’s great.”

On Day 1 of the Round of 48, Aslam won both of his matches easily and drank in the moment, playing to the crowd by making shots behind his back and between his legs. He lost his next match a day later, then came back two days after that to watch other people put on a show.

“I had a lot of fun in my matches, but even after I lost, I still went and watched the finals and semifinals,” Aslam said. “I knew some of the guys in it, and some of my friends had been knocked out too, and we all just went and watched. It was a lot of fun to just hang out with other guys who are good at tennis and just watch the finals. The final and semifinals were just amazing tennis — a lot of fun to be able to watch it.”

Aslam has already set two goals for next season: He’d like to go undefeated during the regular season and he’s shooting to reach the semifinals of the Round of 48. Hinkley says Aslam learns quickly and has the desire to chase those goals.

“He needs to improve his constructing of points,” Hinkley said. “He started doing that this year. When you hit a ball back and forth eight or 10 times per point, you begin to construct points a little. He’s doing that. He will improve a lot on that next year, because he doesn’t like to get beat.”

Aslam is spending several weeks at Harvard this summer studying multivariable calculus and microeconomics. While he said tennis won’t determine where he goes to college, it’s clear getting even better at the game is a high priority.

“I have access to (Harvard’s) athletic facilities, so I’ll be playing as much as possible there,” Aslam said. “This fall, I’m going to be doing as many USTA tournaments as I can, and going to the academy in Brunswick and playing with my friends as much as I can.”

“He has a pretty good head on his shoulders,” Hinkley said. “So he pretty much knows what he needs to do.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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