Tennis star taken too soon: 'He wasn't at all a risk taker'

BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- Linn County deputies reported 21-year-old University of Oregon tennis star from Portland drowned after jumping into a natural pool at Tamolitch Falls.

News of Alex James Rovello's death devastated the sports community and family and friends on Sunday.

Rovello is a 2010 graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland and became the first tennis player in state history to win four straight singles titles.

KATU has covered his achievements since he started making headlines in 2008 as a high school player.

At the University of Oregon, he helped the tennis team rise in the college rankings and beat Stanford for the first time ever. He won 10 matches at the No. 1 singles position last year.

Word of his death made its way over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The Ducks' athletic program tweeted:

Taken far too soon. #RIPAlex

GoDucks (@GoDucks) May 12, 2013

Darryl Kealy, Rovello's coach at Cleveland High, said news of his drowning has hit the tennis community especially hard. People have sent him emails and text messages, saying they can't believe what happened.

Stricken by the news, Kealy said his heart goes out to Rovello's parents, who attended all his matches. Rovello was an only child.

"Obviously, the family - it's a real catastrophe to them," Kealy said.

It's hard for Kealy to understand what happened because jumping off a cliff seemed out of character for Rovello.

"He wasn't at all a risk taker. He was always very careful with his work ethic - with his studies (and) with his tennis," Kealy said. "It probably could happen to any one of us at some time. But for Alex, it's very hard to understand."

Sunday afternoon, the U of O issued a statement that its athletics program was mourning Rovello's loss.

"The Oregon tennis family is devastated by the loss of Alex," head tennis toach Nils Schyllander said in a statement. "He was an amazing person and teammate and his spirit will live on forever with all of us who were fortunate enough to have known him."

Rovello's family is planning a memorial service for May 18. Details have not yet been released.