Amelia ace Azizbeck Ruziboev has had one goal in mind all season, and that was to qualify for the state tournament. He got one big step closer to achieving that goal this past weekend as the junior defeated St. Xavier’s Eric Salomon 6-4, 6-1 to capture the Division I sectional tournament crown.
Ruziboev’s dominance has been the stuff of legend in the Southern Buckeye Conference, going undefeated over his first two years in the program (he didn’t play his freshman season because of a stress fracture in his back). Over those two years, his coach, Rick McMullen said that no one has taken Ruziboev to three sets, adding that he has only lost a handful of games his entire junior season.
Az, as his classmates know him, was able to parlay that league dominance into a stellar run through the sectional tournament. He only dropped two games in consecutive 6-1, 6-0 victories over Oak Hills’ Connor Sullivan and Elder’s Brandon Alverson.
One of the keys to Ruziboev’s success was getting seeded in this year’s draw, a rarity for a player in Clermont County.
“We were really happy to get seeded in the Division I tournament,” McMullen said. “That doesn’t happen very often, if ever, out here. The fact that he’s seeded should help him to move along from the sectionals to the districts and with a little bit of luck, up from the districts to the state.”
Ruziboev faced perhaps his toughest challenge in the third round when Walnut Hills’ Adam Brown took five games off of him, but Az got to the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-3 win.
In the semifinals, Ruziboev met top seed Pierce Scott, a sophomore from Anderson, who proved to be no match for the hard-hitting Ruziboev who dispatched of him 6-1, 6-1.
Az faced Salomon in the sectional finals by virtue of a stellar run from the junior from St. X, losing just three games combined heading into the matchup with Ruziboev.
However, Ruziboev was not to be denied, winning in straight sets to advance to the district tournament to be held on Thursday, May 17 at the Lindner Tennis Center in Mason with play kicking off at 9 a.m..
The top four of the 16 competitors advance to state and given his recent form, there’s no reason to believe Ruziboev will not be one of them.