Archive for the ‘Local Tennis Events’ Category

2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Open

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Hey Tennis Friends!

Last weekend, one of my local tennis venues had its second annual USTA sanctioned Open event. What follows is my comprehensive press coverage, as well as my video report, from the four day event known as the iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships.


RIVERSIDE, CA., (Oct. 25, 2012) – Temperatures in the low 80s defy the fall dates on the calendar for the second annual iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships. The weather is not much different from the temps in New Haven, Connecticut this past August, where Murietta resident Dante Cipulli competed for a spot in the US Open. As part of the National Championships, Cipulli won the Southern California sectionals this past June, before heading to the East Coast, “I had a good feeling that I was going to do well, better than last time.” Cipulli had made it to Nationals once before, but got eliminated in the first round.

This year, after some tough matchplay, he made it all the way to the quarterfinal round, “I didn’t play very well in the quarterfinals, lost 6-4, 6-4, but the experience itself was great!”

Today, he had a much easier time as he won his first round match at the iTennis/Andulka Park Open, in Riverside, by downing San Bernardino’s Alex Ofori 6-2, 6-0. As the number three seeded player at this USTA sanctioned event, he appeared to be in pretty good form, considering he hasn’t played an event since the US Open National Playoffs.

Dante Cipulli skillfully caresses a forehand during his dominating first round at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships.

Instead, he has been working at the Murietta Tennis Club, as part of a team of instructors, “I’ve been training a lot of competitive juniors, which is what I have a passion for. It’s what I do best.”

When focusing back on the opportunities during this weekend’s local event, he said, “It’s been a very busy summer and I’m excited to play some more tournaments!”

Other top seeds cruised through their first round matches, including:
Riverside’s (2)Alessandro Ventre over Zeke Hindle of Los Angeles, 7-6(5), 6-3;
Defending champion (1)Brain Battistone over Chula Vista’s Adrian Ortiz, 6-1, 60;
and current Men’s 40s USTA National Champion (4)Oren Motevassel over Cathedral City’s Vladimir Branisteanu, 6-4, 6-0.

To accommodate the full draw of 64 for the men’s portion of this tournament, winning players will have to play two matches on Friday, maybe more, if they are also playing doubles. The women’s draw also begins on Friday, featuring a handful of Southern California players competing against players from as far away as Washington State and Canada.


RIVERSIDE, CA., (Oct. 26, 2012) – Breezy, hot, and early is a great way to begin the second day of the iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships. A difficult day for the men’s draw, as two rounds had to be played today, in order to accommodate the large draw for a short schedule. Surviving the Round of 32 were top seeded defending champion (1)Brian Battistone, (2)Alessandro Ventre, and (4)Oren Motevassel. The number three seed, Dante Cipulli of Murietta, was knocked out by the powerful Spaniard, and former San Diego State star, Javier Pulgar, 6-1, 6-1.

The women’s side of the draw began with the Round of 16. Riverside North High School standout Jasmine Almaguer took on the number three seed, Canada’s Hannah Sulz. Hailing from Vancouver Island, BC, where there are scant juniors to compete with, Sulz has spent the summer training and playing Open and ITA collegiate level tournaments in Southern California. After Moreno Valley’s Almaguer dropped the first set, 6-2, she mixed up her game, “She was up 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, then I was able to tie at 4-4.” assessed Sulz, “I think I just got a little tight in the second set and she started getting more balls in, getting into a rhythm.”

Hannah Sulz stretches out for a backhand during her Round of 16 match at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships.

“A lot of people were cheering for her, it was hard” observed Sulz, about the mostly local spectators, “She had a lot of support, but, it was fun for me to play on center court, because I don’t get too many opportunities to play in front of a crowd.”

The wind kicked up in the afternoon, and had a determinate factor on Sulz’s game plan, “It was really windy. I was trying to put a little more top spin on my serve, and groundstrokes, and remind myself not to go for the lines, ’cause with the wind factor, it could just as easily blow the ball off the court!”

In the end, it was Sulz’s consistency that enabled her to close it out, by taking the second set 7-5, “I got it together and reminded myself to keep making balls in.” A recent high school graduate, Sulz, had kind words about Almaguer, who is a senior at North, “I thought that she was a very consistent player, she was really smart. It was a really competitive match. I’m excited, and I’m really happy to be back tomorrow!”

The men’s singles Round of 16 was tough for all of the players, since they each had earlier matches in the day. Alessandro Ventre, a former Riverside resident and previously part of Cal Baptist University’s now defunct tennis program, is the only seeded player who made the Round of 16, that did not make it through to the quarterfinals. He was downed, 6-3, 6-3, by Denny Fafek of Mountain View.

Defending singles champion Brian Battistone won both of his singles rounds in straight sets. Ten minutes after his second round of singles, he waived the required “suitable rest” in favor of moving right along to his doubles match, with partner Trent Aaron.

After a slow first set, Battistone/Aaron took control of the second set, by not giving up any games, over Riversiders Eliot Moreno and Ramon Soto, 7-6(4), 6-0.

The #1 seed and defending champion, Brian Battistone, stretches out his two handled racket to hit a winner during the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

Immediately following that match, Battistone/Aaron waived their rest option, and went right into their quarterfinal doubles match against Bo Hardt and Ryan Stanbury, from Santa Monica and Los Angeles, respectively. Hardt/Stanbury took the first set 6-2, while Battistone/Aaron turned the tables by taking the second 6-2. The format called for a 10-point tiebreak, in lieu of a third set, and Battistone/Aaron battled through to win 10-7.

After two singles, and two doubles matches in one day, the number one seed in singles and doubles, Battistone, said, “I felt fine, all day, as long as I was hydrating and snacking on food bars. I feel like it’s better for me to continue playing, as opposed to cooling down and having to warm up again.” On his return to this Riverside tournament, “I love it here. This is such a fantastic facility, so many nice people. I’m really happy to be back!’

Since his last match ended at 7:30pm, that leaves a quick night’s rest before his Saturday morning singles quarterfinal against the number seven seed, Tyler Pham, of San Diego.

The tournament continues though the weekend, with singles and doubles matches beginning at 9:00am Saturday, and finals beginning at 9:30am on Sunday. Free entry and free parking make this a must see event for all tennis fans!


RIVERSIDE, CA., (Oct. 27, 2012) – The weather could not have been more perfect for the the third day of the iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Tennis Championships. Under the 80º temps and a slight breeze, the men’s quarterfinals began at 9am with a rematch from last year’s Round of 16. The number seven seed, Tyler Pham, took on the number one seed, and defending singles champion, Brian Battistone. Despite Battistone’s eight-plus hours on the courts yesterday, he made easy work of the Rancho Bernardo High School grad by moving into the semifinal 6-1, 6-4.

In other men’s quarterfinal action, former Top 200 ATP player (4)Oren Motevassel defeated UCLA senior (7)Alex Brigham, 7-6(5), 6-2, as unseeded Denny Fafek of Mountain View, took out the number six seed, Russian Georgy Chukhleb, 6-3, 6-4.

The longest match of the morning was a three hour show-stopper battle between Mitchell Maroscher and Javier Pulgar. Maroscher, the number eight seed, came out to the Inland Empire on vacation from Ohio. Visiting relatives coincided with the event, so, he got a chance to get some West Coast competition in. Down 4-1 in the first set, Maroscher was able to turn it around and pull out a tiebreak win in that set. Pulgar, who played four matches the previous day, recovered in the final two sets, to advance to the semifinals 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2.

In women’s quarterfinal action, the four top seeds, in the relatively small draw, made it through. (4)Zsuzanna Fodor d. Ashley Anderson, 6-3, 6-2, (3)Hannah Sulz d. Lea Winkler, 6-2, 6-4, (2)Elisaveta Pironkova d. Lindsay Puder, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, and (1)Kaitlyn Christian d. Tara Simpson, 6-1, 6-2.

Here is my video report featuring highlights and interviews from Saturday’s event:

In the afternoon women’s singles semifinals, Zsuzanna Fodor made quick work of the number two seeded Elisaveta Pironkova, 6-0, 6-2.

The other half of the women’s draw was more of a struggle. Canadian Hannah Sulz only gave up two games to USC tennis team’s Kaitlyn Christian, in the first set. The second set was a reversal of fortune, as Christian blanked Sulz, forcing a full third set.

The #1 seed, Kaitlyn Christian, flexes her fitness during her semifinal match at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

“I was able to turn it around with a lot of positive energy and getting a couple more balls back.” reflected Christian, who only gave up two games in the third. Moving into the finals with a 2-6, 6-0, 6-2 win, and playing nearly back-to-back matches may be too much for some players, “I’m used to it from the juniors, and college tennis gets us ready for this,” said Christian, “It’s a lot of fun, I enjoy every second of it!”

Regarding tomorrow’s final, Christian surmised, “I’ll try to go to bed early tonight, . . . I’m just excited to get one more match in!” Early would be a good idea, as the women’s final has been moved up to 8:30am, Sunday, to accommodate the player’s schedule.

The bottom half of the men’s semifinals had an unfortunate result. After Denny Fafek took the first set, 6-4, Javier Pulgar retired from the match. Much like some of the other players, Pulgar had multiple matches on multiple days, but, his previous two singles matches went to full three sets.

The top half of the men’s semifinals pitted Oren Motevassel against Brian Battistone. A contentious match of breaks of serve and break-backs, Battistone was able to keep Motevassel at bay, despite his unconventional style, “He’s a little bit unorthodox compared to the players that play these days, and he’s really quick” said Battistone, after he advanced into the final, 6-4, 6-3.

#3 seeded Oren Motevassel keeps his eyes on the ball during the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

“I’ve had some battles with Oren in the past. He’s such a crafty, tough guy to play. I have a lot of respect for his game.” Making the final round two years in a row gives Battistone a good feeling, “I grew up not too far from here, in Palm Desert. I still spend a lot of time in Southern California, so, it’s a good opportunity for me to come out and try to get a little streak going.”

The tournament finishes up tomorrow, Sunday, with final matches beginning at 8:30am for the women’s singles final, 11:00am for the men’s singles final, with women’s and men’s doubles finals following.


RIVERSIDE, CA., (Oct. 28, 2012) – The early start to the women’s championship in no way appeared to be as easy as a Sunday drive. The number four seed, Zsuzanna Fodor, and the number one seed, Kaitlyn Christian, came out firing like it was 1977!

Slice forehands, slice backhands, lobs, and drop shots made this final so much more exciting than just two baseliners going at it. It wasn’t that USC’s Christian failed to put away her first two set points, Fodor, a six-time Hungarian national champion, just kept battling back with her shot variety. Christian finally found her way, taking the first set 6-4.

After Fodor won her first service game of the second set, she broke Christian in the next, going up 2-0. Breaks of serves and extended action points would be the deciding factor in Fodor’s 6-1 second set domination.

Because of time constraints, the third set was a ten point tiebreaker, which went down to the wire as Zsuzanna Fodor bested Kaitlyn Christian to win the 2012 championship 4-6, 6-1, [10-7].

Zsuzanna Fodor comes in for an extreme backhand slice during her championship winning match at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

In her post match speech addressing the crowd, the runner-up, Christian, noted, “We have similar game styles, and that’s to yank people out on the court with drop shots and slices, so, it’s fun to play somebody who has a similar style, you don’t get that too often.”

Asked how she felt after her tough win, Fodor only had one word, “Tired!” After a chuckle from the crowd, she continued, “That was a great tournament! This is a beautiful venue!”

The men’s singles championship did not disappoint, either. It was more of a Sunday afternoon football game, than anything else. Unseeded Denny Fafek started out slow against the number one seed, Brian Battistone, by only taking three games away in the first set.

Denny Fafek crushes a forehand during the championship match at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

But, in true, exciting sports action, he changed it up in the second set, was able to keep on par with the defending champion. Utilizing powerful aces, Fafek was able to make a comeback, and bring the second set into his court, by winning it in a tiebreak, 7-2.
The third, and final set began with a few early breaks of serve on both sides of the net. The former Palm Desert resident, Battistone, was able regain control of the match and win the singles championship for a second year in a row. Final score after two and a half hours: 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3.

After eight matches in four days, Fafek declared, “Definitely the toughest match out of all of ‘em. I give huge credit to Brian. He’s a great competitor!”

Defending singles champ Brian Battistone creates his own style of play with his two-handled racket during his repeat championship victory at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

Battistone returned the compliment, “Honestly, I felt like I got lucky today. Denny’s just such a good player, such a great talent.” On his repeat win of this championship, “It’s a thrill to be back here. Not just because of the result, but, because of all of the great people I met.” Battistone nearly didn’t make it to this tournament, because of other commitments, but was thankful that he was able to fit it in, “It’s so fun to come back. It was a blast!”

Fafek then left the venue, only to return later in the men’s doubles championship match.

The action didn’t let up, as the women’s doubles championship followed immediately. Ashley Anderson and Elisaveta Pironkova took on Bettina Radke and Hannah Sulz. Both Sulz, and Pironkova, had made it to the semis of the singles the day before.

Very aggressive play by both teams, kept the crowds attention as Radke/Sulz took the first set, 6-4.

The second set was equally close, however, Anderson/Pironkova figured out their edge, and won, 7-5.

Bettina Radke serves as Hannah Sulz is poised at the net during their doubles championship victory at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

By the way, if the last name “Pironkova” sounds familiar to tennis fans, . . . yes, she is the younger sister of Bulgarian Fed Cup and Olympic team member, and WTA player Tsvetana Pironkova.

After saving one match point in the deciding third set, Anderson/Pironkova fell to Radke/Sulz. After two hours and fifteen minutes, the extremely competitive match was over, and Radke/Sulz were the champions with a final score of 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

The final match of the day, and the tournament, was the men’s doubles championship round. Singles finalist Denny Fafek, and his partner, UC Riverside’s Jimmy Roberts, took on the freshmen from Claremont McKenna College, Skyler Butts and Lestter Yeh.

Jimmy Roberts is at the ready as Denny Fafek serves out the set in their doubles championship victory at the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Open Championships.

The freshmen kept up with their opponents for most of the first set, only to lose by one break, 4-6.

The second set began with equal fervor, but, in the end, Butts/Yeh were not up to the task. Fafek/Roberts had practiced together all summer, and their teamwork and efforts were just enough to pull away when they needed to. Fafek/Roberts became the men’s doubles champions, besting the youngsters 6-4, 6-2.

That concludes my reports from the 2012 iTennis/Andulka Park Adult Tennis Championships.

Located in Riverside, California, here is the link where you can find more information about Andulka Park Tennis Center:

High Definition slow motion footage provided by Karl Rosenstock.

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I’ll see you next time, with more tennis, . . . outside the lines!

– Marcus Tennis

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