The Long Island Tennis Challenge, hosted by Long Island Tennis Magazine took place at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, N.Y. and featured a day of free tennis instruction, as well as four divisions of play for all levels.
With close to 100 players participating, it was a day of non-stop tennis, which included college players, former high school state champions, and some of the best players in the local area. The event consisted of round-robin play, leading up to the championship and consolation matches.
In the Men’s “A” Division, Gary Kushnirovic & Gustavo Loza (Team Harley, sponsored by Dana Resnick) defeated Jay Harris & Cameron Daniels, who were representing Sportime, to win the tournament. Kushnirovic, a recent graduate of St. John’s where he played his college tennis, and Loza, the assistant coach of the St. John’s tennis team, beat Harris & Daniels 6-3 in a hard-fought title match.
“I think the biggest thing that helped us was we had played once before together,” said Kushnirovic, who previously played with Loza in a tournament at the La Jolla Tennis and Beach Club in California. “I am normally a singles player, so my volleys aren’t great but Gustavo was so solid.”
Each team held serve through the first five games, until the St. John’s duo notched a pivotal break point to go ahead 4-2.
“When you play to just one set each game becomes bigger and bigger,” said Loza, who currently resides in Queens via Mexico. “You need to stay focused and hold serve, which we did, and got a great opportunity to get a key break point.”
The break point allowed the duo to seize control of the match. The seventh game went to deuce following an excellent backhand return from Daniels, but the St. John’s team held serve to bolster their lead to a commanding 5-2 margin.
Daniels, who will be taking his tennis talents to Connecticut’s Wesleyan College in the fall, held serve in the following game to bring the set to 3-5. That put the ball back on Kushnirovich's racket, and with serves over 130 miles per hour, he and Loza closed out the set and match.
“I really enjoyed coming out for this today. Thank you to Long Island Tennis Magazine and Engineers Country Club for putting this event together” said Kushnirovic, who graduated from St. John’s this past spring. “This is the second time I have played here. I played in the Pro Am last year, and it was just a nice environment and the people were great. There was a lot of competitive tennis.”
The combination of power and finesse were evident on the St. John’s side as Kushnirovic’s power game clicked well with the accuracy of Loza.
“We complimented each other really well,” said Loza after the match. “He has the power game and I have good placement, so we work well together.”
While there could only be one winner of the tournament, all of those who participated enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at Engineers.
“It was a really great event,” said Harris, who serves as regional manager of Sportime Syosset, Bethpage and Roslyn. “There was a lot of really solid play, tight competition, and the members here at Engineers were all great. They got involved in the clinic before the tournament began and it made for a very nice day.”
In the Men’s "B" Division, the finals came down to a matchup between Engineers’ own Jerry Finestone and his partner, John Harkavy, who would face off against another long-time Engineers Country Club member, Mike Paulenoff, and his partner, Edwin Mosquera. In the end, Finestone & Harkavy were crowned LI Tennis Challenge Champions, as the duo defeated Paulenoff & Mosquera 6-2 in a well-played match.
What made the win even more impressive was that it was Finestone & Harkavy's first time playing together. After the match, Finestone said, "The competition was excellent. We consistently got stronger and played better together throughout the round-robin part of the tournament.”
The duo were clearly playing their best tennis of the day when they stepped on to the court for the finals.
"I thought Engineers hosted an outstanding event,” said Harkavy. “I also really enjoyed watching the ‘A’ Division play their matches. The level of play was tremendous.”
Paulenoff said, "Edwin and I had partnered up twice before and developed a nice synergy, so we decided to enter as a team. I am so thrilled that we were very competitive against such excellent competition. We will be back to take the trophy next year! I thoroughly enjoyed playing in The Long Island Tennis Challenge. The format was excellent, Long Island Tennis Magazine and the staff of Engineers ran an excellent event and Engineers Country Club was a terrific venue for this tournament.”
Mosquera added, “I brought my wife and kids with me today because I assumed we would leave for our summer vacation right after Mike and I were eliminated from the round-robin. I never thought with such great competition that we would make it all the way to the finals. The start of my vacation was a bit delayed.”
In the Women’s "A" Division, all eyes were on the big finals showdown featuring Brown University's Hannah Camhi and her partner, Jennifer Kellner, who played for Notre Dame (both representing Bethpage Park Tennis Center), taking on Shelby Talcott who plays for the University of Iowa and Madalina Florea from the New York Institute of Technology on center court. Camhi & Kellner started strong, opening up a 3-0 lead, but their opponents made a three-game run of their own to even the match at 3-3. Each team used heavy balls to keep their opponents off balance. In the end, with the help of Kellner’s steady and deep shots, and Camhi’s net play, the duo was able to close out the match and claim the championship, 6-3.
Camhi, a sophomore who plays for Brown and a former Syosset High School standout, admitted both her and her partner Kellner were a little off early as they have not had their regular training during their off season this summer. The pair seemed to get their footing as the tournament progressed.
“The biggest challenge for me during the tournament was dealing with the clay court’s tricky bounces,” Camhi noted. “All of collegiate tennis is on hard courts, so that took some getting used to.”
Her partner Kellner, a Notre Dame student and former Hauppauge High School player said, “Having Hannah at the net really helped lead us to the win."
All four players put on a great show that the crowd truly appreciated.
In the Women’s "B" Final, Laurie Karol & Karen Ruben were the winners as they took the LI Tennis Challenge crown with an impressive 6-1 finals win over Marjorie Slonim & Lauren Shannon. After the match, all four players expressed how much they enjoyed the tournament.
"We felt great out there," said Rubin.
Her partner Karol added, “We had a lot of support … many were cheering for us.”
The support was evident as some of the team’s supporters even had t-shirts on showing support for the Rubin/Karol tandem.
Slonim & Shannon played well through the pool play, but ran out of steam in the finals. The duo is already looking ahead to the next LI Tennis Challenge.
Slonim said, “It was a great match and a ton of fun! We definitely will be back next time!"
Shannon added, “It was our first time playing together, and we definitely will be back."
The most important thing is that it was a great event and that players of varying levels enjoyed their experience, which will bring them back on the court again. This event was another part of the Long Island Tennis Magazine Summer Series, which has been a huge success for the local community this summer. The tournament was directed swiftly and efficiently by Engineers Country Club’s Dean Nogrady and Emilie Katz. The beautiful Country Club was the perfect setting for the event. The free clinic by Sportime Roslyn in the morning, led by Jay Harris, set the tone and the players did the rest.
Men’s “A” Division winners Gustavo Loza & Gary Kushnirovic with runners-up Cameron Daniels & Jay Harris at Engineers Country Club
Brown University's Hannah Camhi in the Women’s “A” Division Final
Jennifer Kellner (pictured) along with Hannah Camhi took home the Women’s “A” Division title
Jay Harris of Sportime leads the free clinic prior to the start of the Long Island Tennis Magazine Challenge
Women’s "B" Division winners Laurie Karol & Karen Ruben with one of their supporters who was on hand to cheer the duo on to the win
Men’s “B” Division champs Jerry Finestone & John Harkavy with their finals opponents Mike Paulenoff & Edwin Mosquera