The Women’s Amateur Division draw at the third installment of the 2015 Long Island Tennis Challenge, held in early August at Engineer’s Country Club, was one of the strongest fields the tournament has seen. It made for a highly competitive and well-balanced tournament.
After a morning of intense matches in the Women’s Amateur Division, the duo of Diane Starke & Marie Woitach met the team of Shanice Arthur & Allie Posker in the championship match.
Posker & Arthur’s route to the finals was difficult as after the morning of round-robin matches, the two had to get past Carly Dolberg & Kelly Walther in the first-to-four-games semifinals and got all they could handle.
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, Arthur & Posker saw that lead trimmed to 3-2, as Dolberg & Walther mounted a comeback. In the sixth game, Arthur & Posker won a huge deuce point (no ad scoring was in place) to avoid a tie-breaker and reach the finals with a 4-2 victory.
Taking the momentum from that win into the finals, Arthur, who finished in third place in the Nassau County Individual Singles Championships as a member of the Jericho High School tennis team last year, held serve easily in the opening game of the championship for a 1-0 lead. They quickly built their advantage to 2-0 by breaking Woitech's serve after Arthur hit a passing shot up the line from the ad court.
However, the break did not hold up with Posker serving. With long rallies and great volley winners, Starke & Woitach won the game at love to cut the lead in half and get the match back on serve. In the following game, though, Starke was unable to consolidate the break with a hold, allowing Posker & Arthur to take a 3-1 advantage.
The next two games would both see breaks of serve, bringing the score to 4-2 in Arthur and Posker’s favor. With a chance to serve out the match, Posker didn’t waste it, and held serve to bring home the title with a 5-2 win.
“I had a great partner, I owe it all to her,” said Posker. “It felt great to win. I had a lot of fun playing today.”
Arthur said the strategy was to just relax and focus on one point at a time. The two hadn’t met prior to the tournament, and had to develop chemistry as they went through the day.
“I didn’t have any nerves going into the championship. I was just trying to have fun,” said Arthur. “We didn’t have any strategy in any of the matches, we were just enjoying ourselves.”
While a new team was crowned champions in the Women’s Amateur Division, the Men’s Amateur Division felt like déjà vu. The formidable duo of Jon Klee & Lionel Goldberg did it once again as they defeated the team of Todd Selter & Tony Golden by a score of 6-1 to win their third consecutive Long Island Tennis Challenge Men’s Amateur Division title.They played well throughout the day as Goldberg used his powerful ground strokes to set up Klee’s consistent net game.
Down 15-40 in the opening game of the Finals, Golden had the chance to give himself and Selter an early lead by holding to begin the match. As usual, Klee & Goldberg failed to accept their relatively slow start. With a passing shot by Goldberg and an overhead by Klee at 40-40, the duo broke to take a 1-0 lead.
“In that first game, Tony Golden was up 40-15 on his serve and we won that game,” said Goldberg. “It was good momentum for us.”
While that first game was a minor struggle, Klee & Goldberg played their best tennis of the day in the finals. Both players decided intensity and aggression would give them the edge needed to come out on top, and as it turned out, it was the right game plan.
Simply put, “We hit the shots when we had to make them,” said Klee.
“We played aggressive tennis, especially in the finals,” Goldberg added. “I think we were both tired and maybe a little bit more relaxed because of it and we really played our best match in the final,” Goldberg added.
Revisiting the final of the Long Island Tennis Challenge in July, Klee mentioned what he and his partner did differently this time around.
“In the last tournament final, we came out very slow, we were lobbing, and this time, we decided we were going to come out aggressive and let the chips fall where they may,” said Klee.
It was clear that the team of Klee & Goldberg came out with a purpose in pursuit of their third straight championship. Until someone knocks them off, the duo will be the favorites as they look to capture their fourth straight title at the next Long Island Tennis Challenge.
For now, it’s a “Klee-peat!”
In the afternoon all eyes were on the Men’s Pro Division. As expected, the round-robin play was extremely tightly-contested and competitive as all the teams were vying for spots in semifinals and a chance to compete for the prize money.
Both semifinals featured former Long Island Tennis Challenge champions. In the first semifinal, Dimitar Pamukchiyan & Cory Seltman, who won the first installment of this tournament back in May, took on Jordie Dolberg & Cameron Daniels.
This match was tough to figure out, as neither team seemed to be able to have success on their own serve early on. The first four games all went to the returning team to bring the score to 2-2.
In the following game, Pamukchiyan got his serve back in rhythm, and held at love to go up 3-2. The next three games would also go to the way of the serving side, evening things at 4-4 and forcing the match into a deciding tie-breaker.
Just like the rest of the match, the tie-breaker was very closely played and tied through the first 12 points. At 6-6 though, Dolberg & Daniels won the final two points to close it out and reach the finals with a 5-4(8-6) victory.(Scoring was first team to 5 games)
While the other semifinal was close as well, the duo of Gustavo Loza & Valentin Mihai got a late break to beat Elvis Henry & Eldad Campbell 5-3. Henry and Campbell led early 3-1 but Loza and Mihai were able to stay the course and win the final four games of the match to advance.
Loza & Mihai got things going in the championship early. The pair broke Daniels’ serve in the opening game, and Loza consolidated that break by holding serve for a 2-0 advantage.
Daniels & Dolberg, who have both played in Long Island Tennis Challenge championships but never as partners, weren’t going to go away though. Dolberg held serve in the next game, and a backhand winner from Daniels in the fourth game gave them the break they needed, evening the match at 2-2.
Their momentum didn’t last long, however. After a long rally, Loza ripped a forehand winner in between Daniels & Dolberg to answer right back for the break and a 3-2 advantage. In the next game, Loza came up with a huge serve at 40-40 (no ad scoring) to hold and take a 4-2 lead. Needing to hold serve to stay in the match, Dolberg came up just short, and after a backhand volley flew into the net, Loza & Mihai were champions.
The key moment in the match came in the fifth game, as Loza & Mihai picked up a break point immediately after squandering a 2-0 lead.
“It was huge,” said Loza. “Especially when you play these types of short sets with no ad-scoring, it’s very important. Every game really counts. We played a good point. They’re great returners so we knew we had to break them.”
Despite both being former players at St. John’s, the two said they haven’t played doubles together that often.
“We don’t play that often together. I guess we can count the amount of times we’ve played together on one hand,” said Mihai. “We definitely played better towards the end. We picked up on each other’s vibes and kind of understood where the other is going to go and we got better with that as the matches went on.”
“It’s a great tournament,” added Loza. “We appreciate being invited to the event. There was great competition all day long and a lot of good matches. We had a lot of fun.”
Women’s Amateur Division winners Allie Potsker & Shanice Arthur pose with their prize buckets after the Long Island Tennis Challenge
Eldad Campbell gets ready to hit a forehand in the Men’s Pro Division semifinals
Men’s Pro Division finalists Jordie Dolberg & Cameron Daniels, and winners Valentine Mihai & Gustavo Lazo with their prizes following the championship
Lionel Goldberg rips a forehand during Men’s Amateur Division play
Sportime’s Jordie Dolberg works with a player during the free clinic prior to the tournament
Lisa Olivieri of Glam Slam Gear was on hand to display the company’s product offerings
Michelle Haddad hits an overhead shot during her semifinal match in the Women’s Amateur Division