The second installment of the 2015 Long Island Tennis Challenge took place July 11th at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, N.Y., where some of the area’s top players took to the Club’s clay courts on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a day of highly-competitive tennis, great food and prizes, and a chance to be crowned the champions of the Long Island Tennis Challenge. All four divisions, the Men’s Pro, Men’s Amateur, Women’s A and Women’s B Divisions, were sold out.
The morning session of the tournament featured the Men’s Amateur and Women’s B draws, and got the day going with some exciting play.
Jonathan Klee & Lionel Goldberg entered the tournament looking to defend their Men’s Amateur title from May. With targets on their back, the two took everybody’s best shot in the pool play, and used their big game experience to advance to the semifinals where they would face Owen Kassimir & Seth Levenberg.
Much like their title run at the first installment of the tournament in May, the team of Klee & Goldberg would win the semis in a tie-breaker, and found themselves back in the finals.
They faced a tough task in the title match against the duo of Chris Colesanti & Casey Schnabel. Colesanti & Schnabel looked to be the team to beat, making their way through the pool play unharmed and beating the pair of Matthew Cohen & Trevor Mitchel 5-0 in the semifinals.
Like the semifinals, the finals were played in a best-of-eight games format.
Colesanti & Schnabel got off to a fast start in the finals against Klee & Goldberg. They broke Goldberg’s serve in the second game, and after consolidating it with a hold, held a commanding 3-0 advantage.
But Klee & Goldberg wouldn’t go away, breaking Colesanti in the fifth game to get the match back on serve. Klee would hold his serve, down 3-4, to force the match into a tie-breaker.
The tie-break was an exciting one, as both pairs won points on the other’s serve and traded points. At 7-6, Klee & Goldberg broke through. They were able to get Colesanti’s serve back into play, and after a long rally, Goldberg hit a beautiful backhand overhead volley to seal the 5-4(8-6) victory.
“We play a lot of tie-breakers,” said Klee. “In this match, we were down 0-3, but we just fought and kept fighting back. The big game came when I was serving down 3-4 and held rather easily, Lionel [Goldberg] had a nice volley in one of the points, and it gave us confidence heading into the tie-break.”
While the Men’s Amateur final was an exciting one, the eyes of the spectators weren’t just focused on that match. On Court 4, the Women’s B final saw Engineers’ own Jill Friedman & Jody Schwartz and the duo of Debbie Schmertz and Robin Schreiber meet in the championship.
Friedman & Schwartz hit an array of deep shots and steady volleys to put their opponents on their heels as they took the lead 1-0. Friedman & Schwartz were offensively-minded from the initial stages to the closing moments.
While the team of Schmertz and Schreiber put up a fight, Friedman & Schwartz were just too tough and came out victorious.
“We played our best friends in the final, so we had a good idea of how the other player plays,” said Friedman. “We play at Engineers, so I think we had the home-court advantage going all day.”
As the morning shifted to the afternoon, the Men’s Pro and Women’s A competitors took to the courts with the hopes of coming away with a title.
The Women’s A Division featured a championship matchup between Susan Bacy & Tony Carlos against Melani Weitz & Jerilyn Jud.
Bacy & Carlos advanced to the finals after their semifinal opponents had to withdraw with an injury, while Weitz & Jud had to defeat Jen Leggio & Dawn Hellman to book their spot in the final.
Weitz & Jud carried the momentum from their semifinal win into the final and held serve to open up the match. At deuce in the ensuing game, Weitz & Jud secured a huge break point after a long rally to open up a 2-0 advantage.
Down a break, Bacy & Carlos turned up their aggressiveness to try and work themselves back into the match. But Weitz & Jud were just too consistent, holding serve in the third game and then nailing down another break point in the fourth to all but seal the deal.
A couple of games later, Weitz & Judd closed it out and won the championship.
“We were nervous in the first match, very tight,” said Weitz. “We weren’t used to the different types of balls coming at you in the beginning. Some had pace, some didn’t. But we worked through that and got better with each match.”
Weitz & Jud played a lot of doubles together throughout the years, but not as much in recent years. The two quickly got their chemistry back, which helped them throughout the tournament.
“We have good chemistry, and we are very comfortable with each other, so there is zero pressure,” said Weitz. “It was a great and beautifully run tournament. Everybody did a great job, everyone was really nice and it was a beautiful day. We really enjoyed ourselves.”
With the sun starting to wind down, the Men’s Pro matches were just heating up. The pool play was much tighter than the first installment of the tournament, and the semifinals weren’t determined until the final round-robin contest.
Two-time runner up Jay Harris partnered with Wesleyan College’s Cameron Daniels to defeat the team of Mikey Nelson & Elvis Henry in the first semifinal match, setting up a matchup with Mclane Green & Mark Baker, who upset defending champions Corey Seltman & Dimitar Pamukchiyan in the other semifinal.
In the beginning, it looked as if Harris & Daniels would be on their way to a title. Harris held serve in the opening game, and after a break, the two found themselves with a 2-0 lead in the best of six-games match.
But Green & Baker answered right back with a break point, and proceeded to rattle off the next two games to build a 3-2 advantage and have a chance at serving for the match. Baker proceeded to rip four baseline winners in that game to seal the deal and capture the championship with a 4-2 victory.
The pair was only playing doubles together for the second time, with the other time coming in the first Long Island Tennis Challenge back in May.
“Last time we didn’t even make it out of the round-robin stage,” said Green. “I think sometimes you get lucky with the draw, and I think we just played a lot better this time around.”
The key to their success all-afternoon long was their ability to not let bad points get to them and staying mentally strong.
“We looked at it as if we had nothing to lose,” added Green. “I think once we got in [to the semifinals] we just played freely.”
“We stayed solid, we didn’t miss too many shots,” said Baker. “We didn’t let lost points get to us.”
Green & Baker played a nearly flawless final four games to clinch the final, and walk away with the $600 prize.
While the tournament was the highlight of the day, there was much more than just match play. The tournaments were preceded with a free clinic put on by Sportime pros, who worked with club members and tournament participants on a variety of drills.
Lawn games such as cornhole were a big hit on the side lawns, and the fantastic staff at Engineers kept players and spectators fed and hydrated with food and drinks all day long.
Thanks to all the sponsors who made this event possible, including Sportime, Elite Tennis Travel, The Connecticut Open, Maui Jim, The Sum Company, Saddlebrook Tennis Resort, John McEnroe Tennis Academy, Taste of Tennis and Celebrity Chef Challenge, and Zensah. A special thanks goes out to the staff at Engineer's Country Club for keeping the Long Island Tennis Challenge running smoothly.
The third installment of the Long Island Tennis Challenge will be one that the Long Island tennis community will not want to miss, and will return to Engineers Country Club on Saturday, Aug. 8.
Chris Colesanti teamed with Casey Schnabel to defeat the pair of Matthew Cohen & Trevor Mitchel 5-0 in the semifinals
Dennis Reisman celebrates winning a point
Adriana Isaza from Elite Tennis Travel was on hand to discuss her company's travel destination offerings
The action was intense at the second installment of the Long Island Tennis Challenge
Jay Harris of Sportime presents a clinic prior to the start of the event
Julian Klein of Solow Sports prepares to serve
Lionel Goldberg & Jonathan Klee captured the Men's Amateur Championship at the second installment of the Long Island Tennis Challenge
Men's Pro Division finalists Mclane Green & Mark Baker with the team of Cameron Daniels & Jay Harris
Owen Kassimir in the Men's Amateur Division semifinals
Roey Heymann sizes up a shot at Engineer's Country Club during the Long Island Tennis Challenge
Women's B Division Champs Jill Friedman & Jody Schwartz of Engineer's Country Club
Matthew Cohen during the Men's Amateur Division semifinals match