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Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year.
Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year.
Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year.
Lakenheath's Peter Kovats watches his shot fly across the net in the boys singles final at the DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 26, 2013. Kovats beat ISB's Fabian Sandrup Selvik 6-2, 6-3 for the title. Kovats has been named the Stars and Stripes boys tennis Athlete of the Year. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Krisztina Kovats, the mother of Lakenheath sophomore and European tennis champion Peter Kovats, meticulously collects his press clippings. This task is endearing to those people who still produce words and pictures bound for newsprint. It is also, given Kovats’ escalating level of success, an increasingly difficult job.

A third-place finisher in 2012, Kovats, like girls champion Jade Sullivan, set and accomplished his goal of becoming European champion just 12 months later. But for Kovats, the title came with a twinge of disappointment. And it’s the nature of that disappointment that proves that within the slender Kovats beats the heart of a fierce competitor.

After his third-place finish a year ago, Kovats took aim at the pair of overwhelming talents that had bested him. Champion Dimitrios Stavropoulos of SHAPE and Adjin Tahirovic of Patch were the class of Europe; Kovats lurked from the fringes of the elite and plotted his strategy for supplanting them. That chance never came.

Stavropoulos and Tahirovic withdrew from DODDS-Europe play to further focus on international competition. Kovats, himself a force in Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association, was left behind, aiming not at moving targets but at targets that had dropped out of view entirely.

There are two ways to respond to the unexpected exit of your greatest competition: celebrate your new status as a favorite, or regret that you won’t get to beat them. Kovats took the latter approach.

“I’ve improved so much,” Kovats said wistfully.

And so the newspapers that Krisztina Kovats collected over the following months told not of her son’s redemptive triumphs over former nemeses, or even of his valiant efforts rendered futile in another crushing defeat.

Instead, they told of a champion who fought through circumstances, injury and plenty of remaining DODDS-Europe competition to fulfill the goal he’d set.

And today, they tell of Peter Kovats, the Stars and Stripes Boys Tennis Athlete of the Year.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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