Long Island Tennis Magazine wrapped up its 2020 series of events with two LITM Challenge winter tournaments, the first a Mixed Doubles event at SPORTIME Kings Park and the second a Women’s Doubles draw at Carefree Racquet Club. Players came out in droves to compete in the two events which featured a variety of draws in the 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 combined levels.
Mixed Doubles pairings arrived at SPORTIME Kings Park on the day after Christmas, competing across the facility’s hard and clay courts. The tournament began with pool play, with the top teams (most cumulative games won) during those round-robin matches advancing to the playoff rounds.
“We all love tennis, so being here and having a venue to play this at during COVID is really special,” said Karyn Sackstein. “And on top of that, being able to do that while playing with a great partner and a great friend is just the best.”
That partner was Yassine Azagar, and together the duo captured the title in the 9.0 Combined division after a hard-fought final against Roey Heymann and Valerie Alliger. The final, which was one full set, was all knotted at four when Azagar and Sackstein notched a crucial break of serve to jump ahead 5-4. In the ensuing game, Azagar ripped a running forehand winner to set up two match points, and sealed the victory on the second try with an ace.
“We communicated really well throughout the match which helped,” said Azagar. “She was great with her volleys and I hit well from the baseline. We got tight down the stretch, but we knew if we played our best tennis that they weren’t going to beat us, and we were able to do that.”
In the 8.0 Combined division, Chris Wolfe teamed with Devon Carroll to come out victorious. After a competitive start to their championship match, Wolfe and Carroll were able to pull away in the end.
“The team we played in the finals was really good, and they gave us a tough match,” said Wolfe. “They got every single ball back so we had to keep the ball in. Devon stayed back more and I came to the net more.”
“It was great to be able to come out here after a big holiday and sweat out some of those holiday festivities…I think our key to winning was just keeping the ball in more frequently than they did.”
The 7.0 division winners entered the tournament with lots of chemistry and used that to their advantage, as the husband-wife duo of Jung Park and Jaeeun Lee were the last team standing when it was all said and done.
“We try not to fight when we’re on court, and just stay calm and play well,’ said Lee. “Early in the finals, I was so nervous, I could hardly hit the ball. He just told me to be aggressive, don’t hesitate and think too much and just go for it. That worked and it helped us win.”
That aggressive mentality was crucial as the final progressed, and turned out to be the key to their win.
“The tournament was great, it was competitive and there was a variety of different players,” said Park. “The team we beat in the finals, we have played against in USTA leagues and even in the early rounds today, so we just had to be consistent and get everything back; don’t be passive, we wanted to make sure we stayed aggressive.”
The tournament series headed west to Nassau County a couple of days later as Carefree hosted the Women’s Doubles event.
After competitive pool play matches, Michele King and Cathy Nicosia squared off against Lily Tang and Zsuzsa Price in the championship of the 7.0 division. King and Nicosia used their crafty style of play to dictate the way the match was played, and would pull away in the end to win the title.
“The goal was just trying to be more consistent and better than our opponents,” said Nicosia. “We played well, and in the end it was just about will power…we do play together a lot. The short format here makes it tough because by the time you figure out your opponents, the pool match is over. But we know where each other is going to be on court, so we back each other up well and that’s what we made sure to do today.”
“I just tried to play my game and not let them dictate the play. A lot of these players like to play with power, and I like to slice and try to take their pace off, and give them junk and let them make the mistake.”
The 9.0 division was well-played throughout, but in the end, Crissianne Kintanar and Yen So proved to be too much and captured the title with a win over Kim Pflaumer and Cara DiSabato in the championship.
“We played so many matches together, both in leagues and hitting together a lot,” said So. “She knows how I play and I know how she plays. We don’t even need to call switches when we cross on the court…We had to pace ourselves through the whole tournament. There’s no ad scoring so you have to remain mentally tough with that, so we tried to get to the net a lot and finish off points. I loved the variety of players we got to play against, and that forced us to adjust and stay focused each match.”
The two events closed out a successful 2020 Long Island Tennis Magazine Challenge Series. Thanks to our host facilities SPORTIME Kings Park and Carefree Racquet Club, and specifically Michelle Stoerback and Kathy Miller, respectively, for helping us host the safely organized events.
These events aim to provide a unique tournament experience for adult players, featuring catered food, media coverage, prizes and competitive play on the court but also a friendly environment off of it.
“These were our first indoor winter events and we’re thrilled that they both went well and were done safely. We look forward a full series of events in 2021,” said David Sickmen, Publisher of Long Island Tennis Magazine and Tournament Director. “I think what makes the Challenge events most special is we get a lot of returning players and so we combine the on-court competition with a friendly environment off it. In addition to the high level of play, our events are known for the social atmosphere, food, prizes, media coverage and, of course the outdoor after parties in the summer. We look forward to seeing some familiar faces as well as new ones in 2021!”
Be sure to check out LITennisMag.com and NYTennisMag.com for more information on our events throughout the year.
Until then, Happy New Year!