Injury, altitude can’t stop Sartov in tourney
Although it appeared to spectators to be a breeze, Israel’s Eyal Sartov said his 6-2, 6-3 win over David Johnson in the singles final of the Tahoe Donner International Wheelchair Tennis Sectional Championship Sunday had been anything but easy.
“I had been playing injured all week with a bad elbow, but I iced it and it held up in the final,” said Sartov, 35, who began playing tennis only five years ago and finished the 1996 season ranked No. 8 in the world. “Also, the first three days of the tournament were very tough for me with the altitude. But I experimented with a few things and it didn’t seem to affect me today.”
It was no surprise that Sartov, seeded No. 1 entering the competition, reached the final in the tournament which included 17 players ranked in the world’s top-100. But his opponent, Johnson, from Queensland, Australia, was a darkhorse who advanced to the final despite not being seeded in the top-5.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me (that Johnson made the final) because I had seen that David was playing well leading up to the tournament,” said Sartov, who also represented Israel in basketball at the 1992 Paralympic Games.
During the final, the players were evenly matched in terms of their quickness, but Sartov had the superior strength on his shot and was consistently able to drive the ball past Johnson into the deep baseline corners.
Sartov had also played in the Tahoe Donner Wheelchair Championship in 1994, but he had only advanced to the quarterfinals. Sartov said that, although his win over Johnson in the final had been important, his most satisfying moment came when he defeated American Michael Foulks (No. 7 in the world in 1996) earlier in the tournament.
“Foulks was the person I really wanted to play – I knew he was in the top-10,” Sartov said.
(Obviously there were no hard feelings between Sartov and Foulks – they later teamed up to win the men’s doubles competition over Paul Johnson and Michael Pruitt, 6-3, 6-3.)
In women’s play, a “local” outshone the international and national stars, as Reno’s Patricia Rollison won the championship, defeating Hope Lewellen of Palos Park, Ill., 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
“After taking second place last year, it felt really good to win this year,” Rollison said. “I think I played better this year – like in any sport, there are good days and bad days; it seems like I’ve had more good days this year.”
Rollison, currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S., said she was impressed with the quality of this year’s international field of players.
“Last year, there were just a few international players, but there seemed to be more this year, especially women,” Rollison said. “I had to defeat players from New Zealand and Australia just to make the final.”
Rollison said her performance could bode well for the upcoming U.S Open, which is scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 13, in Irvine.
“It’s a good sign to be playing well before the U.S. Open,” said Rollison, who finished the 1996 season ranked No. 5 in the world.
As for Sartov, he said he hadn’t given the U.S. Open much thought – the Tahoe Donner Tournament had been foremost in his mind.
“I don’t put any additional emphasis on the U.S. Open – every tournament I play in is an important tournament to me,” Sartov said.
In other tournament play:
— Adolph Peinsith of Austria defeated Van Williams of Colton 6-2, 6-4 in men’s open consolation.
— Yuka Chokyu of Vancouver defeated Jacque Courtier of New Zealand 6-2, 7-5 to win the women’s open consolation division.
— Lewellen and Sharon Clark of San Jose won the women’s doubles title by turning back Courtier and Randa Hinson of Australia, 6-0, 6-4.
— In men’s “A” play, Lance Toguchi of Long Beach defeated Glenn McIntyre of Camarillo, 6-2, 6-3, to win the division.
— In men’s “A” doubles, Joe Babakanian and Toguchi teamed to defeat Dean Oba and Brian Hanson in the final, 6-2, 6-2.
— Kriss Brumwell of Montrose, Colo., won the men’s “B” division 6-2, 6-3 over Anthony Seijo of Fountain Valley.
— Seijo and David Buck of Irvine teamed to win the men’s “B” division doubles championship.
— Isabelle Mueller of Switzerland defeated Lisa Yamasaki of Davis 6-4, 6-1, in the women’s “B” division singles final.
— Denise Esrey of Nevada City and Pam Mattieson of Grass Valley combined to win the women’s “B” singles division 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 over Jolene Wells and Paula Meyers.
— Andy Zablotny of Auburn defeated David Van Brunt of Rocklin 6-4, 6-1 in the men’s “C” division.
— Zablotny and Sam Geta teamed to win the men’s “C” division doubles final.
— Rick Draney took first in the men’s quad open division.
— Mark Hansen won the Quad “A” singles title.
— Hansen and Don Drake of Grants pass, Ore., captured the quad “A” doubles division.
— John Ogle won the quad “B” division.
— Andy Zablotny of Auburn defeated Ben Spangenberg 6-0, 6-0 in the junior singles championship.
— Mark Matteson and Gary Peterson teamed to win the senior doubles division.
Several Truckee players were among the top finishers in the Up/Down Doubles competition held in conjunction with the tournament.
In “Open/A” play, Lance Toguchi of Long Beach and Jeremy Waite of Truckee teamed to defeat Alan Armstrong of Australia and Cal Brush of Truckee, 8-3.
In the “B/C” final, David Buck, Sr., and David Buck Jr., combined to defeat Tony Sauer and Bob Ginther of Grass Valley, 8-3.
In the “D/Quad” championship, Dave Van Cleave of Sparks and Paula Mettler of Reno outlasted D.J. Judd and Cathy Garrison, 3-2.
According to tournament director Bonni Sue Hickson, this year marked the first time prize money was awarded to the winners in several divisions, as NEC Corp. and Northern Nevada Tennis Association donated $2,000 in prize money.
“It was nice to see my friend Patricia win, but it even felt better to be able to hand her a check as the prize,” Hickson said.
All told, Hickson said that more than 80 players had participated in the tournament, the most in three years. In addition to U.S. players, athletes from Japan, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Switzerland were on hand.
Hickson said NEC, the major sponsor of the International Wheelchair Tennis Tour, had been very supportive of the Tahoe Donner Tournament.
“NEC sent more than 60 volunteers to the tournament, including a vice-president,” Hickson said. “They’ve been a class act in supporting wheelchair tennis.”
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