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Castaneda doing fine at No. 1

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

HUDSON -- A year after dominating at No. 4, Juan Castaneda moved up to No. 1 and became Hudson's most dominant player.

"It helped him get match play, and not where it was overly stressful," coach Ron Ladimir said of Castaneda, who as a freshman went 23-1 to help the Cobras win district and regional titles and a state berth.

Hudson's top three players graduated, forcing Ladimir to make Castaneda No. 1 and pair the 5-foot-5 sophomore with No. 2 Robert Pollock, who last year played at No. 5.

"I had no choice," Ladimir said. "I figured he'd do fine, but by no means did I think he'd be this good."

Castaneda is 16-4 and he and Pollock are 17-3 in No. 1 doubles. Castaneda has lost twice to Hernando's Andrew Sufficool and Mitchell's Greg Strange.

Though he is only in his second season, Castaneda has drawn comparisons from his coach to Marcus Ressler, Hudson's No. 1 singles player who graduated last year after leading the Cobras to their first two state berths.

"I think Juan is a better No. 1 as a sophomore than Marcus was as a sophomore," Ladimir said.

Ladimir said Castaneda has refined his lateral movement and ground strokes from last year. Still, the coach said there is room for improvement, citing numerous double-faults.

And though Castaneda comes to the net more often and with more confidence than a year ago, his stature sometimes prevents him from reaching lobs over his head.

Hudson is 13-7 overall and 9-1 in Class 2A, District 6, but Ladimir does not figure his team will make it three consecutive district and regional championships. But, he added, Castaneda and Pollock have a shot at qualifying for the state tournament at No. 1 doubles.

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