Hey Tennis Friends!
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was once again priviledged to get out to see some fantastic tennis, LIVE, and in my local area. What follows is my comprehensive press coverage, as well as my video report from the final day of the 2013 La Habra Open Tennis Championships.
TOP SEEDS ADVANCE, THANKS TO THE SUNSHINE
By Marcus Tennis
LA HABRA, CA (Nov. 30, 2013) – The main draw is in full swing at the La Habra Open Tennis Championships at Dave Nowick’s La Habra Tennis Center, in La Habra. This event not only features Open-level singles, doubles, and mixed, but various NTRP rating and age divisions, as well. With a combined draw just under 250, there is a great variety of tennis to be seen, with players competing for total prize monies of $5,000.
Black Friday was nearly “bleak Friday”, as the rains held up play until the afternoon. Fortunately, tournament director Dave Nowick had a lot of help getting things back on track, “Our whole crew of players helped us out, so we got the courts ready for play at 1:30pm and completed the matches at 10:20pm. All the other tournaments in the area cancelled for the day.”
Friday’s late night completions and the sunshiny forecast allowed Saturday’s schedule to proceed as scheduled.Saturday’s quarterfinal action in the men’s Open-level draw saw the number one seeded Daniel Kosakowski, formerly of UCLA, taking on unseeded Johnny Wang, currently at USC. “Johnny played pretty well. I won the first set, up two beaks, and in the second set I went down two breaks, early” said Kosakowski. “The three games after, to get it back to three-all were, like, five deuces each, so, it could have been 5-0 or 3-2. Luckily I won those games, though.”
It was more than just luck that allowed Kosakowski beat the third-year Trojan 6-3, 6-4. There was some personal redemption at stake. Not between the players, but against his own injury.
Starting 2013 in the 250s, his professional ranking has dropped to over double that. “I had a tough beginning of the year, then I started playing well”, he assessed, “I had my best result at a Challenger (he made the final at San Luis Potosi, Mexico), and then got hurt right after that.”A shoulder injury kept him out of the game since April, and he just got back into competition in October. “I was out for six months. I wanted to get some matches and hopefully get a good start to the beginning of the year.”
When asked about his number one seeding, and if there was any pressure living up to that seed, the Southern California native responded, “Not really, I know everyone here, so, I’m just playing to get back into it. I feel good, it’s not like my fitness is going to be much of an issue.”Nearly all of the remaining seeded players came through, with an upset when number six seeded Tim Kpulun, from Sierra Leone, defeated the number three seed, Roberto Quiroz, of Ecuador. After a tough three-setter, Kpulun will return for the semifinals as a result of his 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 win.
One of the many things that make this tournament unique is the number of chair umpires. Typically, events of this size have two “roving” umpires, but, Nowick has stepped it up for his tournament. “We’re chairing six matches in almost every time frame (throughout the event),” said Nowick. “The 3.5s and 4.5s have never had that before. They can’t believe it!” The players agree,“It seems odd to have a chair umpire on court for just a 3.5 level match” said Gabriel Papp, who finished his semifinal singles match with a win, moving into tomorrow’s final.
The women’s Open-level singles draw was down to the semifinals. Carson’s Kalani Soli had a good showing, but, could not overcome the number two seeded Ena Shibahara, from Rancho Palos Verdes, going down 6-3, 6-3, in a battle of fifteen year olds.
The other semifinal was between UC Irvine’s Mazy Watrous and USC’s Kaitlyn Christian. Drawing a crowd, the lengthy match lasted nearly two and a half hours, making for a tough, but exciting, three-setter. Seeded number one, Christian, one half of the number one college doubles team in the nation, was the eventual winner, but, not without her doubts. “Because I lost the first set, and it was pretty even in the second, I was getting down on my self and didn’t have the best attitude,” said Christian, “In the third set I came out and said ‘Whatever happens, happens. Just play tennis.’ Then I started hitting my shots pretty well and won the match.”Along with her 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory, Christian was impressed with her opponent’s progress, “Obviously she was playing very well. I played her a year ago, and we had a three-setter, as well. She’s a good player and has got a lot better since the last time I played her. Maybe not my best day of tennis, but, I was happy to get through it.”
Christian now meets up with Shibahara in Sunday’s final. “I have played her before, it was a close match, and she beat me. She’s a really good up-and-comer, so I’m really looking forward to having a good match.”
BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, MIXED RESULTS
& BATTLE OF THE BRUINS
By Marcus Tennis
LA HABRA, CA (Dec. 1, 2013) – Unbelievable weather provided exceptional conditions for the final day of the La Habra Open Tennis Championships at Dave Nowick’s La Habra Tennis Center, in La Habra.
The warm-weather morning began with the men’s Open-level singles semifinals. The number one seed and former UCLA Bruin, Daniel Kosakowski, made quick work of Tim Kpulun, taking out the player from Sierra Leone 6-0, 6-1. Simultaneously, on an adjacent court, the number two seed and former Bruin, Nick Meister, had his own success, overpowering the number five seeded Rafa Davidian, a current UC Irvine Anteater, 6-2, 6-1.The women’s Open-level singles final was an unexpected blowout. With the number one and two seeds, USC senior Kaitlyn Christian and top Southern California junior Ena Shibahara, respectively, there was the promise of a tough battle under the 80º sun. That promise was broken as Christian struggled with errors against the consistency and power of Shibahara.
“I just went out there and thought about the match last time”, said Shibihara, who had beaten Christian in their last match-up at the US Open National Playoffs in Claremont. “I just remembered what her weakness was, and her strengths were, and I just thought about playing aggressive.”After Shibahara took the first set without dropping a game, Christian made an attempt to change things up, but Shibahara didn’t waiver, “I just stayed with my own plan. I’m not really sure what she changed, but, I just stuck with the plan.”
Shibahara made quick work of the second set, as well, again giving up zero games in her 6-0, 6-0, 45 minute championship victory. “It was a really big challenge for me”, said the fifteen year old, “I just had to play my best out there, and I think I did that very well.”Following the women’s match was the men’s Open-level singles championship, the “Battle of the Bruins”. Kosakowski and Meister only attended UCLA for one year together, but, they certainly ran around together on the courts. “You just know it’s going to be a close match since we’ve practiced with each other a lot,” said Kosakowski, “We’ve played each other in a couple of tournaments, so we both know each others’ games. It wasn’t a shock that it was pretty tight.”
Meister held his own for most the first set, which was filled with powerful serves and long rallies. Kosakowski was able to get up a break and hold his serve to take it 6-4.“In the second set, I was down a break,” said Kosakowski, “I think that actually helped me. I just loosened up a little, once I was down, and I started playing better. I think, actually, getting down early in the second helped me in the long run.”
Despite Meister’s valiant effort, Kosakowski was able to pull ahead, taking the second set 6-2 and the championship along with that. “We’ve know each other for awhile” said Kosakowski, “We knew it was going to be a close match. Luckily I was able to come away with the victory.”
Even though there were many other divisions of championship matches, most of the play ended by dusk, capping another successful year of this long-running tournament.
Here is my video report featuring highlights and interviews from Sunday’s events:
I am always at the mercy of whatever matches are able to be scheduled on Center Court, as that is the best court for camera coverage. Because I limit the duration of my programs, I did not cover either of the Men’s Open Singles semifinal matches, in lieu of the championship round.
The results for the matches that I featured in the video report are:
WOMEN’S OPEN SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP
Ena Shibahara d. Kaitlyn Christian 6-0, 6-0
(The “official” recorded score reflects 6-0, 6-1, but, on my video, it is clear that the actual score was 6-0, 6-0.)
MEN’S OPEN SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP
Daniel Kosakowski d. Nick Meister 6-3, 6-2
(In the video interview, I mention that the first set was 6-4. In reviewing the video record, it was clearly 6-3.)
MEN’S OPEN DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP
Rickey Baylon / Ace Matias
d. Jonathan Sanchez / Bruno Santarelli 6-7, 6-4, 7-6
Along with partner Bettina Radke, Sanchez was last year’s mixed Open doubles champion at this event.
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I’ll see you next time, with more tennis, . . . outside the lines!
- Marcus Tennis