Tacoma takes center court again

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Championship breakdown for the 127th PNW Open. Megan McCray (left) defeated Alyssa Tobita (center) 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, to capture the women’s singles title. Samir Iftikhar (right) defeated Alessandro Ventre 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, to win the men’s singles crown. Dasha Ivanova and Tobita defeated Vivian Glozman and Jessie Gong 7-5, 6-1 to win the women’s doubles title. Piers Foley and Mitch Stewart defeated Centre and Victor Severo Castro 6-4, 5-7, 1-0, to capture the men’s doubles title. Kawika Lam and Tobita defeated Ty Gentry and Ivanova 8-3 to claim the mixed doubles crown.

Hidden behind perfectly trimmed hedges and an iron gate sits the Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club, which spent the past week, July 23-29, hosting the 127th annual Pacific Northwest Open Tennis Championship. Players came from all corners of the country from as far as Florida and Minnesota to hometown athletes from across Washington to compete. The tournament consisted of men and women’s singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. 

When I was first told I would be covering the tournament semi-finals on Saturday, July 28, I was instantly intrigued and excited. Growing up, I took tennis lessons but never pursued the sport beyond the occasional summer game with my father, so I was looking forward to the chance to reconnect with the sport. 

The semi-finals were held on a beautiful summer day with the perfect combination of sun and heat with steady breezes. Sitting beneath the shade of a looming tree, I became entranced in the game from the first serve. Watching the strength and speed these athletes employed to hit and return balls was incredible, and not to mention the focus and determination which could be felt across the courts and seen on the players faces. 

With players being only one round away from the finals the games were tight. While the day offered plenty of outstanding games one of the best contests I saw was the women’s singles match between second-seeded Megan McCray from Oceanside, Calif. and fourth-seeded Paige Cline from Kentfield, Calif. Each game featured all the elements of a great game: long rallies, expertly placed balls, and a fierce desire for victory. 

For the semi-finals, the winner was decided by the best of three matches. In the first set, McCray won 6-4 though it was clear Cline was going to make McCray work for every point. With a solid performance in the second set, Cline was able to push the match into a third set with a 6-3 win. Going into the final set, both competitors were ready to leave it all on the court and the crowd was feeding off the energy. In the end, McCray was able to edge out Cline for the last spot in the finals with a 6-2 victory. McCray would face third-seeded Alyssa Tobita from Mililani, Hawaii the following day, for the championship and would win with the final score of 6-4; 6-7 and 6-3. 

Another great match came from the men’s singles match between fifth-seeded Alessandro Ventre from Santa Ana, Calif. and the number one seed Mitch Stewart from Federal Way. By the end of the first set, both men were in a deadlock with neither giving the other even the slightest advantage. It eventually led to a tie-breaker, which Ventre ended up winning 7-6. In the next set, Stewart wasn’t able to refocus and Ventre took the second by a score of 6-1. In the finals, Ventre played third seed Samir Iftikhar from Portland and Iftikhar proved to be too much to handle, as he beat Ventre 6-4, 6-7 and 6-3, claiming the men’s singles championship for the second year in a row. 

As my time at the tournament came to a close I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since I had been so invested in each game. Throughout the day I was reminded of everything about tennis that had always caught my attention as a kid zoning out during lessons. The power that each hit held, the quick, non-stop moving feet, and the sportsmanship displayed by each player with understanding and respect, it still never ceases to amaze me. 

Perhaps it’s time to get my own racket out again.

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