Declan Watson and Noah Sayoc are both 16 years old. This past high school tennis season, Watson, a sophomore, and Sayoc, a junior, teamed up to represent Orchard Park High School in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Tennis Championships. They defeated the Williamsville East doubles team of Jason Berkun and Jerry Xiao 6-4, 6-4 in the finals.
For good measure they added the sectional championships shortly after by defeating the Olean team of Logan Cross and Ryan Brown in the finals 6-4, 7-5. They won both tournaments by serving and volleying (hitting the ball before it bounces), which allowed them to approach the net at every opportunity and putting pressure on their opponents.
The thrill of their tennis career was when Watson and Sayoc, by virtue of their wins, went to the New York State High School
Tennis Championships at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. Even though Watson and Sayoc lost their first match in the tournament, both felt that the experience was one that they will cherish forever.
“We lost playing against such excellent players. However, the level of competition that we participated against has greatly motivated me to work even harder on my tennis game,” said Declan.
Noah felt the same way. He said: “Playing on the same courts that some of the best tennis pros in the world play on is an experience I will never forget. It was also great meeting so many different players from all over New York State.” Both players also said that participating in cross country and track also kept them in great condition.
What made their winning the ECIC and ectional championships in addition to playing in the states so special was that their fathers, Matt Watson and Stephen Sayoc, won the ECIC Tennis Championships and the sectionals 30 years ago when they played tennis for Orchard Park and also went to the states. Both Sayoc and Watson played on the tennis team all four years at Orchard Park and each played first singles their senior year. Watson was a junior and Sayoc was a senior when they teamed up to win the ECIC and sectional titles.
Matt Watson started playing tennis when he was five or six years old with his parents and friends. At the age of 12 he started hitting with Terry McMahon, who is still the Orchard Park girls and boys tennis coach. From there his game improved by leaps and bounds. Watson also had a phenomenal serve that had been clocked between 110-115 miles an hour in addition to having powerful ground forehand and backhand strokes.
After high school he went to Denison University, where he alternated all four years playing anywhere from third to fifth singles.
Stephen Sayoc didn’t start playing tennis until he was 12 with his father. Shortly after he also took tennis lessons from McMahon. His tennis game improved by leaps and bounds. Three times he was ranked in the top five in singles in The Buffalo News’ ranking of the top ten male players in Western New York.
Sayoc was also an outstanding beach tennis player. He played all over the world and the United States, attaining the No. 1 ranking in the Open Division. He attributes Beach Tennis to his outstanding conditioning and agility in both tennis and beach tennis. Sayoc is also a full-time teaching tennis professional.
To have Declan Watson and Noah Sayoc and their fathers Matt Watson and Stephen Sayoc each win the ECICs, sectionals and play in doubles at states is a feat that will always be remembered and may never be equalled.
Tom Riboldazzi passed away last week at the age of 83. He had won quite a few championships in the 45 & Over and 55 & Over Doubles Championships. He and his partner, Jim Faturos, won eight different Buffalo Racquet Club age-group tournaments.
Riboldazzi’s speed afoot and his outstanding net game made him a popular player to team up with. His passion for playing tennis was unequalled, and he will be greatly missed.