Senior up for a battle of the No. 1s

Island School’s Justin Vea may be the school’s No. 1 player, yet he’s got his sights on another No. 1 player.

If Vea could play any professional on the court, he’d take on the world-reigning No. 1 Roger Federer.

“I’m sure I could play him,” Vea said. “I’m not sure I’d win any sets, but I could get some good rallies on him.”

Vea is Island School’s top player and is a three-time Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation all-star.

But all kidding aside, if the 17-year-old from Princeville ever does get to play Federer, he wants to make it a learning experience.

“I’d want to see what it’s like to play at his level,” Vea said. “I could learn from him and so it can give me something to work toward.”

Vea began playing tennis when he was 8 years old. His father, Joshua, picked up the game at around the same time so they could play against each other.

Vea also joined the Junior United States Tennis Association. It was at one of those tournaments where he played some of his best tennis.

“My best would probably be when I played on O‘ahu at Barbers Point,” he said. “I was down 2-6 in the first, then I came back and won the tie breaker and won the match.”

He credits that match against Erik Shoji as not only his best match, but also his most memorable one.

“That was the finals match so it was a good one,” he said.

For Junior USTA, he’s traveled to California and Florida, but as far as his future is concerned, he’s got his eyes fixed on Arizona.

“I’m probably going to Northern Arizona University,” said Vea, who checked out its men’s tennis team. “That was one of my main things was to find a school with a good tennis team.”

Island School head coach Ernie Blachowiak said Vea not only established himself as one of the top players in the KIF, but also as an assistant coach.

“He chooses to help me,” Blachowiak said. “He’s much more than a player in that he’s one who shares his skills with his teammates.”

Blachowiak takes one half of the team and works with them on one court. Vea takes and works with the rest.

“He’s a big asset to (Island School’s) program,” Blachowiak said. “He gives us more credibility at a time when our school is just trying to compete with the others in the KIF.”

Vea, however, doesn’t see himself in an authoritative role.

“I feel like it’s more helping my teammates out,” he said. “It’s more like a team captain just helping out with the team.”

The Voyagers had this past weekend off, but will face Kaua‘i High School at the Kiahuna courts in Po‘ipu.

In his final season with the Voyagers, Vea has one goal for himself.

“I’m going to try really hard to win states,” he said.

The closest he approached to winning was his freshman year while at Kapa‘a High School, when he made the round of 16.

Maybe this will be his year. First, states, then maybe he can face Federer.

Vea sounds off:

Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova being popular for more than just tennis:

“It’s good and bad. It’s like they do all their modeling, and tennis is a side thing. It’s like they don’t work as hard on their tennis playing as the other players. But they still get to tournaments and play though.”

His favorite player: “Younes El Aynaoui. I like his attitude on the court and his personality. He wasn’t the best player, but it was fun to watch his matches.”

What sport he’d play if he wasn’t playing tennis: “I’d be playing soccer. I liked it more for a while and then when I was 14 years old, I decided to concentrate more on tennis. I didn’t really have to, I just decided to.”

What he’d do if he wasn’t a tennis player: “I play a lot of music. I play the guitar and the bass.”

His hair: “I used to have long hair when I was younger and it was always straight. So I had it long like that from ninth-grade to last year. One day I cut it short and I woke the next day and my hair was like an Afro. I kind of liked it.”

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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