PAYOFF FOR EARLY RISERS.
Waking in the wee hours for the long trip from Simi Valley to Ojai didn't seem so bad for private tennis coach John Hilton.
The Simi and Conejo valleys had four entries in the singles and seven in the doubles in the high school division of the 100th Ojai Tournament, and of the nine, four reached the quarterfinals.
Hilton had three of the five players in Saturday's finals, two winning titles.
Phil Sheng, of Thousand Oaks, and Westlake's Nina Yaftali smiled as they had their pictures taken with championship medals hanging from their necks.
``I love this tournament; it's so peaceful here and I always play well here,'' said Yaftali, who beat Jessica Siebel 6-2, 7-5 to win the girls' 16-under division. ``Ever since I started playing tennis and I came to this tournament, it's always been something I've wanted to do, to play in . . . Libbey Park.''
Sheng, the top seed, beat three players with different styles to win the title. He ousted Glendale's Robert Yim to reach the round of 16, then advanced to the semifinals by going three sets with Rio Mesa's Quinn Borchard and in the final, he beat San Marcos' Paul Warkentin 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
Sheng said he's taking time off after winning the Ojai. He also played in the Easter Bowl tournament and finished fourth in doubles.
``Tourney after tourney you've got to be there mentally and it just drains you,'' said Sheng. ``It's not physical, it's more mental fatigue and you just get tired of concentrating.''
--Learning from loss: Obviously, many players came up short in their desire to reach the final.
Westlake's Alex Yaftali had a good tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals, where he lost 6-4, 7-5 to Warkentin.
Second-seeded Nick Weiss was upset in the round of 16, losing to Corona del Mar's Cameron Ball 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. After his first win over Beverly Hills' Justin Gordon, Weiss said he felt good going into the later rounds.
Agoura's doubles team of Tim Mullane and Amir Nejad, who usually play singles for the Chargers, played together for the first time and advanced two rounds before losing 6-1, 6-4 to eventual champions K.C. Corkery and Kuba Gebel.
Camarillo's Quoc Ly and Jason Mossembekker of Camarillo were the only other area doubles team to have advanced to the quarterfinals. They beat Simi Valley's J.P. Agustin and Jeremiah Waggoner 6-3, 6-1.
Photo: (color) Phil Sheng of Thousand Oaks won the boys' high school division at the Ojai Tournament.
Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News