Long Island Tennis Magazine hosted the Long Island Tennis Challenge, which brought together some of the top tennis players in the area on a beautiful afternoon at Engineer’s Country Club in Roslyn, N.Y. As the day went on, it wasn’t only the weather that heated up, but the competition, as the many spectators looking on took in some highly competitive tennis.
In the Men’s Pro Division, the team of Dimitar Pamukchiyan & Cory Seltman defeated Jay Harris & Jordie Dolberg 5-0 in the final to be crowned Pro Division Champions.
The pair defeated Julien Klein & Alex Pop-Moldovan 5-4(8-6) in a tie-breaker in the semifinals, fighting off two match points in the process, to ride some momentum into the championship match.
Despite not playing much together before the tournament, Klein & Pop-Moldovan developed great chemistry as the day progressed. Pamukchiyan & Seltman had to dig deep to break serve and send the semifinal into a tie-break, eventually closing it out 8-6.
After holding serve to start the title match, Pamukchiyan & Seltman broke the serve of Harris & Dolberg to take a 2-0 lead. Another break in the fourth game put them ahead 4-0 as they were on their way to the title and the $500 cash prize.
“My partner played really well, and that was a big strength for us,” Pamukchiyan said of Seltman. “We served really well all day. We were able to hold in almost all of our games, so that was big for us.”
Seltman, a Dix Hills native who just completed his freshman campaign for Sacred Heart, said he took a lot away from the experience of playing in the Long Island Tennis Challenge.
“It’s a great experience to play against the pros,” said Seltman of the competition. “Just the experience level they have, and you can learn a lot from playing against them.”
When asked what they would do with the prize money, Pamukchiyan said: “I haven’t thought about. But I’m definitely going out tonight.”
In the Men’s B Division, Jonathan Klee & Lionel Goldberg outlasted Bob Kessler & Jim Brady 7-6(7-3) to win the title.
The pair fought off two match points while down 4-5, and eventually took the match in a tie-breaker.
“We tried to just keep the ball on the court and stay calm,” said Goldberg. “We’re used to being in this position.”
Klee & Goldberg have been playing doubles together for the better part of 15 years and say they have seen every type of situation on the court, allowing them to stay focused while trailing.
“They played terrific in the finals. They [Kessler & Brady] really hit a lot of shots, a lot of straight winners,” Goldberg said of his opponents. “We just kept doing what we were doing and a few breaks fell our way.”
The pair made a key adjustment as the match went on, which helped them in the tie-breaker.
“We were lobbing a little bit in the beginning,” said Klee. “But they kept getting to everything, so we started to drive the ball instead of pushing it and made our shots. It was very competitive, but we stayed calm. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and today, we won.”
The duo said they will definitely be back for the second installment of the 2015 Long Island Tennis Challenge.
“The event was terrific,” said Goldberg. “Everything they put out was terrific, the courts of Engineer’s Country Club are in the great condition.”
Klee added, “We’d definitely do it again. It was a lot of fun.”
The Women’s "A" Division was competitive throughout, but when the dust settled, it came down to two teams. Sharon Rappaport & Alyssa Bonadona faced the team of Simone Crames & Lisa Goldstein in the Women’s “A” Division Finals.
Craines & Goldstein opened up the match quickly by breaking Bonadona's serve at love and jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Craines held serve to go up 2-0, and Rappaport & Bonadona were quickly in the hole, down a break. After a long day and lots of matches in the sun, the duo had trouble mustering enough offense to recover.
Rappaport’s turn to serve was up next and they needed to hold to get back in the set. With the score tied at deuce (no ad scoring in effect) the foursome played an entertaining point lasting several exchanges and finding all four players up at the net. Each player hit several quick volleys, but Rappaport and Bonadona lost the crucial point and went down two breaks 0-3.
With the momentum on their side, Goldstein was able to hold serve, going up 4-0. Down two breaks, Rappaport & Bonadona started to play more aggressively, and it briefly worked as they got to the net and held serve, but Craines & Goldstein took control again and finished off the set, winning the championship.
“It’s not about our strengths, it’s about finding the weaknesses on the court,” said Craines. “And they don’t’ have many weaknesses. So consistency was the key. I know that Alyssa has one of the biggest overheads on this little circuit of mothers we have, so we tried to avoid hitting anything too high that she could tee-off on.”
Craines & Goldstein have been friends for a long time, ever since the two were little kids. Despite Goldstein playing singles and Craines playing doubles, the two had a strong chemistry that make them a formidable doubles tandem.
“She’s been my partner for quite some time,” said Craines. “When I asked her to join, she was a bit tentative, but I told her I’m not in it to win it, I’m in it just be with you and have a great day. And the bonus was we won!”
Goldstein added: “When we play tennis, she plays singles and I play doubles, and we just meshed really well today on the court.”
After a morning of round-robin matches, and the elimination rounds, the Women’s “B” Final was set.
After getting through their opening round matches, the team of Jen Leggio & Dawn Hellman and the duo of Lacey Lazar & Rachael Liebman met in the championship match. The match was a war from the start, well actually, a color war. The team of Leggio & Hellman sported colorful pink attire, while Lazar & Liebman were all decked out in black.
Leggio served to start the match. The game went to deuce and since the rules were established as “no ad scoring," the next point following deuce decided who won the game.
After a 12-shot, deuce point rally, Leggio hit a clean overhead from the middle of the court. Recounting the shot after the match, Leggio said, “I think we were pretty good on our overheads.” Leggio and Hellman took the 1-0 lead.
Liebman & Lazar had been extremely solid at the net throughout the tournament, but in the final their volleys let them down. As a team they went 5/13 on volleys and ended up only making 38 percent during the final.
The team of Leggio & Hellman were offensive-minded from the initial stages to the closing moments. The team was especially effective at the net, winning nine of 10 points when they both got to the net.
“I think our net game was definitely a key factor, said Hellman. “And, closing in on short balls."
Liebman & Lazar won first place in pool play, but Leggio & Hellman were able to turn the tide in the championship match winning five straight games and were up 5-0 before surrendering their first game.
“I think we played our best in the final,” said Leggio.
Ahead 5-1, Hellman held serve at love to win the match for her and her partner.
After the match was over, Hellman & Leggio credited their coach Garry McNulty for their win that day.
“He taught us where to be on the court, that’s what it comes down to,” said Hellman.
Jacob Mishkin & Trevor Mitchel also contributed to this article.
Long Island Tennis Magazine presented an array of competitors at the Long Island Tennis Challenge held at Engineer's Country Club
The team of Jen Leggio & Dawn Hellman were crowned winners in the Women’s “B” Division
Jordie Dolberg returns a serve in the Men’s Pro Division Finals
The team of Julien Klein & Alex Pop-Moldovan pause for a photo
The team of Bob Kessler & Jim Brady took on the duo of Lionel Goldberg & Jonathan Klee in the Men’s B Division Finals
Lacey Lazar gets some last minute advice from her daughter before the Women’s “B” Championship match
Men’s B Division champs Jonathan Klee & Lionel Goldberg with their prizes
Sharon Rappaport ready to serve during the Women’s "A" Division Finals of the Long Island Tennis Challenge
Trevor Mitchel serving during the Long Island Tennis Challenge