There is added pressure that comes with being the top-ranked high school boys’ tennis player in Massachusetts.
When you are No. 1, opponents always give you their best. And when you are No. 1, people come to watch you play. Even strangers.
As the legend of Brookline senior captain Jayanth Devaiah continues to grow, so too do the crowds at the Waldstein tennis courts at Dean Park, where the Warriors play their home matches.
“Families come to matches just to watch,” Brookline coach Mike Mowatt said. “A lot of the fans [on Tuesday] were just kind of like, ‘Wow!’ and they just looked at me and I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ There’s a lot of foot traffic.”
It doesn’t matter if he is representing Brookline at Dean Park, where he fell in love with the sport as a young boy, or if he’s out in California competing as an individual in the Easter Bowl USTA Junior Tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the University of Notre Dame-bound Devaiah does not shy away from attention.
In fact, he relishes it.
“I feel like I thrive the most the more people are watching, so I love being on that center court with people watching,” Devaiah said. “I feel like I elevate my level and it’s really fun.”
While Devaiah is garnering national attention — he ranks third in New England and 60th nationally according to the latest weekly rankings on tennisrecruiting.net — he firmly holds the title of being the Bay State’s top player, a designation he’s earned during his perfect high school career.
Devaiah burst onto the scene as a freshman to help guide Brookline to a Division 1 state title playing second singles. After his sophomore season was canceled because of COVID-19 in 2020, he dominated last spring at first singles, propelling the Warriors (20-0) to their third straight Division 1 title.
Since his arrival, he’s been a catalyst for Brookline, which extended its win streak to 62 straight matches after opening this season with 3-2 and 5-0 victories over Wellesley and Marblehead, respectively. Although his undefeated high school record is enough to impress tennis enthusiasts around the state, those closest to Devaiah marvel at his intelligence, athleticism, and his ability to alter the way a set is being played.
“I’ve coached a lot of Division 1 players and some professionals, but he stands out as far as his understanding of the game,” said Troy Crichlow, a 1999 Milton Academy graduate who starred at Georgetown and has served as Devaiah’s personal coach since he was 5 or 6 years old.
“He understands how to take time away from people better than probably anyone else I’ve ever coached and he understands that applying pressure can create errors as opposed to sitting back and waiting.”
Added Mowatt: “He’s got the overall game that he can win at the net or win at the baseline, but his defensive ability is phenomenal. I’ve seen coaches, pretty much every match, just shake their heads at what balls he can get back.”
Count Newton North’s longtime coach Phil Goldberg among the opposing coaches who leave impressed each time they watch Devaiah play.
“He makes all of the right decisions,” Goldberg said. “He knows when to add pace and when to absorb pace. He has great hands and can hit all of the shots.”
The scariest part? Devaiah recognizes — and embraces — the reality that he can improve even more. Alongside Crichlow and his second personal coach, Gaurav Malhotra, Devaiah dedicated much of this past offseason to refining his forehand and serve.
The senior always believed his backhand was above average, and now he’s confident that his improved forehand and serving will make him even more deadly.
“Those are things that after last year I kind of wanted to focus on and work on to make my game more of an offensive game and to turn those two shots into weapons,” Devaiah said. “This year, it’s gotten tremendously better and I feel like I can rely on my forehand and my serve to step in and win me points. I feel like I can adapt to different game styles and I feel like I have the capability of countering anybody.”
Even though Devaiah admits performing well on the USTA circuit is his main focus, he’s still determined to finish his high school career strong. He not only wants to maintain his individual undefeated record, but also help Brookline continue to pad its unbeaten streak all the way to a fourth consecutive state title.
“I do kind of think about it sometimes, but overall, I just try to stay in the moment and take it one match at a time,” Devaiah said of his perfect individual record and Brookline’s unbeaten streak. “I’m hoping to finish [high school] without losing, but I’m more hoping that we can win another state championship.”