Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Local players fall in National 30 finals

Calle Hansen beat Sherif  Zaher for the men's
singles title at the USTA National 30 Indoor
Championships in Gold River. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   It was a tough day for hometown players.
   Sherif Zaher and Kelly Wilson, both from the Sacramento area, won a combined five games Monday in the singles finals of the $10,000 USTA National 30 Indoor Championships at the Spare Time Indoor Tennis Center in Gold River.
   Zaher, seeded fifth in the men's draw, lost to No. 3 Calle Hansen of Newbury Park in the Los Angeles area 6-2, 6-1, and Wilson, the second-seeded woman, fell to No. 1 Romana Tedjakusuma of Tracy 6-1, 6-1. Each champion pocketed $1,000 and each runner-up $700.
   Zaher, a 5-foot-10 left-hander from Folsom, earned only one break point against Hansen, a 6-foot-5 right-hander. It came in the second game of the second set, and Hansen saved it with a backhand volley set up by a big serve. After the point, the frustrated Zaher cried, "He's 6-foot-20!"
  "He's a great all-around player," Zaher, a 33-year-old native of Cairo, Egypt, said after his first career match against Hansen. "He has good groundstrokes, a good volley and obviously a good serve. He does everything pretty good."
   Including play defense.
   "His court coverage is really good," marveled Zaher, the Big Sky Conference MVP in 2001 and 2002 at Sacramento State. "He made it hard for me to put the ball away."
Romana Tedjakusuma, left, receives a gold ball after beating
Kelly Wilson, background, in the women's singles final of
the National 30 Indoors for the second consecutive year.
Photo by Paul Bauman
  Hansen, a former All-American at Pepperdine, never came close to losing a set in four matches. His closest match was 6-3, 6-3 over top-seeded Jan Tiilikainen, the two-time defending champion and four-time winner, in the semifinals.
   "I've been playing super good the last three weeks," conceded Hansen, who reached No. 717 in the world in singles and No. 520 in doubles before knee surgery and financial considerations ended his brief professional career. "I've only played three tournaments in the last year. Three weeks ago, I played a local tournament (near Newbury Park) and beat two or three really good players. It was a good warmup for these players. When you're not playing as much, it's like you're more relaxed."
   Also, the 32-year-old native of Sweden was comfortable playing indoors.
   "I grew up playing indoors in Sweden," he noted. "I'm used to it. It fits my game. I serve well indoors. There's no sun, no wind and no sound. It's very clean hitting."
   Hansen, however, played in the tournament for the first time this year. He wanted to play on grass last year, so he entered the National 30 Grass Court Championships in Philadelphia. After winning it, he decided to play more national championships. Other than that, he said he's "too busy" as the co-director of tennis at the Westlake Tennis and Swim Club to play more tournaments.
  The women's final, a rematch of Tedjakusuma's 7-5, 6-2 victory for last year's title, was closer than the score indicated. Wilson engaged her opponent in many long rallies and games but tired in them after playing a 3 1/2-hour singles semifinal, plus women's doubles and mixed doubles, on Sunday.
   "Where I'd really feel it was when I'd get deep into the longer points," said Wilson, a 38-year-old teaching pro at the nearby Gold River Racquet Club formerly ranked in the top 200 in the world. "When I had some opportunities to convert defense to offense, I couldn't organize my feet enough. I didn't have the quickness to organize my shot."
   The 5-foot-2 Tedjakusuma, meanwhile, was fresh after winning 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals and made few errors.
   "I played solid groundstrokes and went for my shots, and it worked out," said the 35-year-old Indonesia native, whose parents live in Tracy.
   In 1994, Tedjakusuma reached the third round of the Australian Open and a career-high ranking of No. 82 at 17 years old. However, she abruptly left the tour to attend Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La., for four years. She eventually returned to pro tennis only to find the sport increasingly dominated by tall, powerful players. Despite struggling, she said she doesn't regret going to college.
   "Not really. I didn't enjoy (the tour) anymore. I was kind of burned out," said Tedjakusuma, who plays full-time in the United States and is ranked No. 729. "Everybody always asks why I went to college when I was doing so well, but everyone makes their own decisions."
   Results of other finals in the National 30 Indoor Championships:
   Men's doubles -- Junaid Hossain, Sacramento, and Zaher (4) def. Amine Khaldi, Courtland, and Martin Rothfels (3), Gold River, 6-2, 6-2.
   Women's doubles -- Isabella Kling, Orangevale, and Wilson (2) def. Marisue Jacutin-Mariona, Los Altos, and Tedjakusuma (1), 7-6 (8), 1-6, 6-3.
   Mixed doubles --  Khaldi and Wilson (1) def. Elizabeth Seiverling, Portland, Ore., and Zaher, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

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