| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

The second Long Island Tennis Challenge of the summer took place on the beautiful courts of The Hamlet Golf and Country Club in Commack on Saturday as players in five different divisions competed in the exciting round-robin draw on a hot summer afternoon.  

The morning session saw four different divisions competing across the eight hard and clay courts at the Hamlet: The Men’s Amateur B, Men’s Amateur A, Women’s Amateur B and Women’s Amateur A divisions battled through round-robin play until there were just two teams standing in each draw.

The first final saw Jim Avallone and Gerry Barasso take on Howie Stein and Rob Smith in the Men’s Amateur B final. The excellent net play from Avallone and Barasso as well as consistent serving allowed them to get the early break and go on to win the title with a 5-1 victory.

“We played against them in the round-robin and it was 3-3, so we knew we had to change up our game a little bit in the final,” said Avallone.

One of the adjustments the pair made was come to the net more often, which they were able to do as they became more consistent with their serves.

Jim Avallone returns a serve during the Men's Amateur B final. 

“We stepped up our serves in the final. We weren’t serving that well in the beginning of the day but as we continued to play both of us improved,” added Barasso. “The key was being aggressive at the net. We wanted to come to the net whenever we can and that leads to people making mistakes and that’s what we saw.”

In the Women’s Amateur B division final, Debbie Biederman and Adele Bohensky used a couple of early breaks and won the final four games of the match to defeat Lisa Russo and Mandi Jacobs 5-2 for the title.

Debbie Biederman and Adele Bohensky captured the title in the Women's Amateur B draw. 

“The tournament was a lot of fun,” said Biederman. “We wanted to come out and enjoy ourselves. Even though we don’t play a lot of doubles together, we get along great and that helped us on the court.”

Jonathan Klee and Lionel Goldberg lost a tightly-contested final in the first Long Island Tennis Challenge back in May, but the three-time champions would not be denied this time around, dominating the final of the Men’s Amateur A with a 6-0 victory over Edwin Mosquera and Michael Mueller to win their fourth title.

“We won the first three, and then we had a gap where we made it to a couple of finals but came up short,” said Klee. “The last one hurt a little bit because it was so close and we had our opportunities. So we were kind of pumped to come to this one. Winning it for a fourth time is sweet.”

Mueller started the match serving but was broken after a Klee winner up the middle of the court built the early 1-0 lead. Klee and Goldberg were nearly automatic on serve, hitting a high first serve percentage which allowed them hold serve each time out.

Lionel Goldberg sets up for a forehand during he and Jon Klee's Men's Amateur A division victory.

“We started a little slow but as we got further along our games picked up,” added Goldberg. “We both played really well in the semifinals and in the final we both played well. It went our way.”

The final division to finish up in the morning session was the Women’s Amateur A which played host to an exciting final on The Hamlet’s famed center court, where greats like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras once played during the Hamlet Cup.  

The duo of Diann Starcke and Dana Slackman came back from 1-4 down to beat Simone Crames and Sondra Gluck 6-4 and win the championship.

“She carried me at times and I carried her at times,” said Slackman. “We never thought about giving up.”

After rallying to take the lead at 5-4, Starcke and Slackman produced a great return game on Crames serve, utilizing excellent play at the net to put away a couple of volleys, and converting on match point with a net cord winner from Starcke.

Diann Starcke and Dana Slackman led a furious comeback to win the Women's Amateur A championship.

“We’re not usually net players, but they have really consistent strokes so we knew we’d never beat them by rallying with them,” said Starcke. “We said we had to take over the net.”

The afternoon session featured the Men’s Pro Division as the tournament’s top talent battled through highly competitive doubles matches for a shot at $750. When the round-robin play concluded, it was Cameron Silverman and Quinton Vega taking on Dimitar Pamukchiyan and John Cook and Loic Minery and Oscar Van Koch playing Cory Seltman and Sebastian Wernecke in the semifinals.

Minery and Van Koch got past Seltman and Wernecke in the first semifinal, and Vega and Silverman outlasted Pamukchiyan and Cook 10-4 in a super tiebreaker in the other semifinal, setting up a thrilling final.

The championship would remain on serve through the first five games which gave Vega and Silverman the 3-2 advantage. The decisive moment of the match came in that sixth game, when a forehand winner from Silverman notched the first break and gave them a 4-2 lead.

Quinton Vega fires a serve during the Men's Pro Division final. 

Silverman consolidated the break by holding serve with an overhead smash and extend the lead to 5-2.

Van Koch would hold serve in the next game to trim the deficit, but there would be no comeback, as Vega held in the ensuing game to close out the match and claim the title with a 6-3 victory.

“We have a lot of experience playing together,” said Silverman of the pair’s success. “We’ve known each other since we were 12 or 13 years old so we’ve played a lot over the years. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we mesh well together.”

Silverman and Vega were preparing for a Futures tournament in Buffalo the following week, and used the Long Island Tennis Challenge as a way to get some competitive matches in before heading up there.

“We played a ton of matches today which was really good, the tournament was very well-run,” added Vega. “It was good for us to get some matches under us, work on some things and get ready for the tour.”

While it was a hot day, The Hamlet provided a food spread and refreshments throughout the day, including complimentary breakfast in the morning and wraps in the afternoon.

We'd like to thank our sponsors USTA, USTA Eastern, Sportime, John McEnroe Tennis Academy, South Shore Auto Sales, 30fifteen, inPhorm, Connecticut Open, New York Empire, Bijou Tennis, Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group and PGA Tour Superstore. 

CLICK HERE to see more photos from the Long Island Tennis Challenge at The Hamlet.