BOB WALL MEMORIAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Given his druthers, Chris Ujkic probably would have preferred spending his Saturday preparing to play in the U.S. Open later this month rather than defending his three titles in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. And if that sounds far-fetched to you, please know this: Earlier this summer, the former Mattituck High School and Sacred Heart University star came within two matches of qualifying for the big show at Flushing Meadows.
But first, defend his Wall Tournament titles at Robert W. Tasker Park in Peconic he did, and most impressively. Relying on his astounding quickness and a 16-year-age advantage, Ujkic won his sixth consecutive men’s open singles championship, 6-1, 6-1, over 39-year-old, eight-time open singles champion Steve Paskiewicz, the former Riverhead High School standout.
By also teaming up to win the men’s open doubles and mixed doubles titles, Ujkic raised his Wall Tournament title count to 18 since he first triumphed as a 17-year-old Mattituck High School junior six years ago. In men’s open doubles, he and another former Mattituck High School tennis standout, Kieran Corcoran, won for the seventh year in a row, defeating Paskiewicz and Roger Ross, 6-3, 6-2. And in mixed doubles, Ujkic defended his title with a new partner, Denise Cardinale, 6-1, 6-0, over the brother-and-sister tandem of Rich Chizever and Iris Battino.
Chizever gained some significant consolation earlier in the day, however, toughing out a right hamstring injury to rally past the defending men’s 50-and-over singles champion, Andrezej Kopala, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.
In the two other finals contested Saturday, East Hampton resident Dahlia Aman returned to the North Fork after an absence of many years to win her 14th — yes, count ’em, 14! — women’s singles title, and Tom Cahill and Leo Sternlicht avenged their loss in last year’s men’s 50-and-over doubles final, capturing their fifth such championship, 6-2, 6-4, over Jerry Duvall and Ed Yakaboski.
Aman’s victory was a little less straight forward. Her patented moon ball, error-free style of play was effective at first against Liz Rossi, the former Bishop McGann-Mercy High School star who is entering her junior year at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. Aman won the first set, 6-3, but exceedingly long rallies — at least two of which exceeded 100 strokes — and the 90-degrees-plus temperatures began to catch up to the veteran player, who declines to give her chronological age but admits to being more than old enough to be the 19-year-old Rossi’s mother. In fact, Rossi rallied to knot the second set at five games apiece before she was forced to retire in order to fulfill a work-related assignment in Southampton. Aman, who actually exited the court and sat down in the shade during a second-set scoring dispute with umpire Jim Christy, wasn’t complaining that the match didn’t go to a third set.
Ujkic’s singles win over Paskiewicz was not as one-sided as the score might suggest. Their baseline rallies were fast and furious, and Paskiewicz most likely would have won easily against any other player entered in the tournament. But Ujkic isn’t “any other player,” as his recent performance in a United States Tennis Association qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open proved. In that event, contested in mid-June, Ujkic won three matches before being narrowly defeated by professional journeyman Mehdy Karbid of Morocco, 6-4, 7-5. Which means Christ Ujkic came within two matches of qualifying to play in the grand slam tournament. And that success has encouraged him to pursue his dream of playing professional tennis, while at the same time continuing to study for an October date with the LSAT law school entrance exam.
TOURNAMENT NOTES Due to a lack of entries, there was no women’s doubles competition again this year.
The 2012 Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament is sponsored by Times/Review News Group of Mattituck and directed, on a volunteer basis, by Mattituck High School’s longtime girls tennis coach, Jim Christy. Proceeds from this year’s event support a scholarship awarded to 2012 Mattituck High School graduate Erica Bundrick, who will attend St. Michael’s College in Vermont this fall.