Patience is not exactly Aimee Manfredo’s forte.
Manfredo has a number of qualities that make her a formidable tennis player. She hits a ball with gusto, giving it everything she has. She can make shots from sharp angles. She is an efficient server.
But patience? That doesn’t appear to be part of her makeup. The Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore wants to finish points ASAP. The sooner, the better.
“I do dislike testing my patience because I’m not a patient person,” she said. “I like to end the point. I like to be the one hitting the winners.”
Manfredo and her patience were both put to the test on Tuesday. The biggest match of her career was not played the way she would have preferred, but she couldn’t complain about the result.
Manfredo was one game from defeat in the second set, but survived that and prevailed over Mattituck senior Erica Bundrick, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, in the Suffolk County Division IV singles final on an unseasonably warm October afternoon in Shoreham. In a match that lasted about three hours, Manfredo (17-1) had no choice but to be patient.
“Maybe if I was more patient it wouldn’t have gone to a third set,” she said.
The fact that it did, however, is a testament to Manfredo’s fighting spirit. She proved herself capable of performing under pressure.
Bundrick (12-3) employed a defensive strategy of safe shots and high lobs in an attempt to counter Manfredo’s all-out, hard-swinging style. It worked to some degree, producing long rallies. Bundrick took the first three games of the match and used that momentum to claim the first set. Manfredo, who made 41 unforced errors to 15 by Bundrick, found herself trailing, 5-3, in the second set, yet composed herself and took the final four games of the set by a combined score of 16-3.
“When [Bundrick] was up 5-3 in the second set, she needed to come out firing,” Mattituck coach Jim Christy said. “Aimee basically won the match because she fired away, and when she was in a hole, she didn’t back off. She just said, ‘I got to up my game,’ and to her credit, she did. Aimee hit the ball the way she’s supposed to hit it at the time she had to hit that way, and she did that at big moments.”
The match swung in Manfredo’s favor. “It was a great weight lifted off my shoulders after I won that second set,” she said.
It showed in her play, too. The unforced errors are partially a product of Manfredo’s aggressive approach, but she also hit some remarkable shots. Bundrick somehow managed to get a racket on some of them to keep the ball in play.
“It surprised me that she got to a lot of balls,” Manfredo said. “There were a couple of times when I had her on the run, and I was like: ‘Yeah, oh! I have to hit another shot.’ ”
Bundrick’s skill at returning the ball tested Manfredo’s patience further.
Serving consistency was in Manfredo’s favor. She committed only three double faults, and her percentage on first and second serves was 80 percent and 93 percent, respectively. Bundrick double faulted 14 times. Her first- and second-serve percentages were 66 and 60.
But Bundrick’s downfall, more than anything else, might have been her reluctance to attack balls near the net when the opportunities presented themselves. For her part, Manfredo showed no reluctance going for winners.
“What is fascinating is she swings about as hard as she can swing,” Christy said. “She never lets up.”
What was Bundrick’s take on the match?
“I think I played pretty good,” she said. “I had a chance in the second set to pull it out, but she just played really good toward the end of that” set.
Manfredo stuck to a game plan that Shoreham-Wading River coach Debbie Lutjen declined to outline in case the two players meet again in the county tournament. Lutjen said Manfredo’s determination and will won the day for her.
“She did not give up,” the coach said. “Aimee was able to be patient enough to wait for her openings.”
Manfredo is 6-1 in her career against Bundrick. The only time Bundrick beat her was in the quarterfinals of last year’s division tournament.
After the final point was scored Tuesday, Manfredo looked happy and relieved.
“I just feel so happy right now after that,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment.”
MERCY DOUBLES TEAM LOSES IN FINAL Erica Blanco and Shannon Merker of Bishop McGann-Mercy reached the Division IV doubles final before bowing out to the Westhampton Beach duo of Remy Kneski and Sammi Vickers, 6-3, 6-3. Blanco, a senior, and Merker, a sophomore, have a 14-3 record.