Tennis: The titles pile up for Ujkic

Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men's singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men’s singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)


Will Clemans hit some fantastic shots. He pulled out every trick in his book and played quite well in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament men’s singles final. Afterward, he acknowledged that he had done just about everything he could. It was a performance he could feel good about.

And he lost, 6-2, 6-1, to Chris Ujkic.

The top-seeded Ujkic’s potent mix of athleticism, superb conditioning and tennis know-how enabled him to walk off with the men’s singles title for the eighth consecutive year on Sunday afternoon at Mattituck High School.

“The scoreline doesn’t do it justice because there was a lot of fight behind it,” said Ujkic.

Indeed, five games went to deuce, and four of those fell in Ujkic’s favor. And there were some long rallies. Ujkic counted 42 strokes during one of them and figured another rally went to at least 40.

It was truly a test of wills, and of Will.

After one memorable marathon of a point, Clemans collapsed on the court after hitting the ball long and yelled out comically, “I can’t wait any longer.”

The difference in the match was Ujkic’s ability to finish points. He put away 17 winners to Clemans’ 7.

“I needed to rally with him … but I also needed to be the one to snap the neck at the end of a point,” Ujkic said. He added, “I knew I had to move well and attack my openings because I didn’t want to sit here for three and half hours.”

The match was completed in 1 hour 14 minutes.

Clemans, the No. 2 seed who was the tournament’s singles champion in 1998, hit some shots that could have been winners if Ujkic wasn’t like a ball-return machine, making some great gets.

“When he hits it, in my head I say, ‘This is a winner,’ but my legs don’t say that,” said Ujkic, a former Mattituck High School standout.

The tournament director, Jim Christy, noted that Ujkic’s ability to get to balls can get into the minds of his opponents.

“You think, as Will described, they would be shots that would be winners, only that they were coming back,” Christy said. “Even if you win that point it gets disheartening because you know how good of a shot you have to hit and that puts added pressure on you. So you lose when you win a point.”

After the players split the first four games, Ujkic closed out the set, outscoring Clemans, 17-6. Ujkic then took the final five games of the second set for the match. He held a 62-35 advantage in total points.

Clemans, 38, a former Riverhead High School player who lives in Nesconset, said he felt as if he was pushed to the limit.

“I couldn’t play at that high a level all day,” Clemans said. He continued: “I played as hard as I possibly could against him. I don’t like to give in. I tried as hard as I could against him. He’s just too strong.”

Ujkic gave Clemans credit for playing a smart match.

“He pretty much worked every single strategy,” Ujkic said. “He came to the net. He drop-shotted me. He pulled me wide.” Ujkic said Clemans threw everything at him but the kitchen sink, “but I was ready to catch it.”

Clemans said he has a 1-2 career record against Ujkic and thinks he is the last one to defeat Ujkic in the Bob Wall tournament. He said he liked the challenge of the competition.

“I would have been disappointed if I didn’t play him,” Clemans said. “I have thick skin. I know he’s better than me out there.”

At 25 years of age, Ujkic has youth on his side. Asked if there was anyone on the horizon who looked like a threat to end Ujkic’s reign, Christy, said, “Not out here.”

Ujkic, who made the Law Review this past school year at the New York Law School, has been battling an injury. He said he had issues with a pulled trapezius muscle from the fourth game of the second set. “Anything worthwhile, pain for the reign, right?” he said.

As masochistic as it sounds, Ujkic said he sees a positive side to pain.

“To me, tennis is a microcosm of life,” he said. “Anything that’s worth accomplishing, anything that I ever received in my life, there’s always been some sort of pain in the way, whether it be studying hard or playing hard. There’s always some kind of pain, and other the other side of that is where I want to be.”

UJKIC, CARDINALE TAKE MIXED DOUBLES Chris Ujkic picked up his third championship plaque of the tournament, adding his seventh straight mixed doubles title to go with the singles and men’s doubles crowns he had won earlier. Ujkic and Denise Cardinale teamed up for a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Will Clemans and his wife, Janice, on Sunday at Mattituck High School.

“I played O.K.,” said Cardinale, a Mattituck resident. “As usual, Chris played beautifully and carried me as usual. As I said, a warm body on the other side of the court is all he needs. … He’s amazing.”

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