Ground it out or pound it out. Either way works on a tennis court, and the 2012 champions at the US Open National Playoffs Southwest Section Qualifying Tournament Stephanie Vlad and Brian Battistone, showed it doesn't take one style or the other to win a title. They both work equally well.
Vlad (pictured right), an 18-year-old local from Scottsdale, captured the women's title over Nicole Melichar (Stuart, Fla.) with a suffocating, smothering defensive game, grinding down her fellow 18-year-old competitor for the 6-2, 6-2 win.
Battistone (pictured below), a 32-year-old from Las Vegas, took the alternate route. Showcasing a power service and return game, Battistone bludgeoned his way through five rounds at the event, claiming the title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over fellow Las Vegan Patrick Kawka. With temperatures climbing over the century mark on Monday, Battistone's volleyball-style jump serves and cracking groundstrokes were the perfect tactic to employ in the blazing heat, keeping the points short and sweet.
For Vlad, her tournament victory was especially sweet, for a variety of reasons: It was the furthest she'd gone in her three times playing, It was her hometown event with a US Open National Playoffs shot on the line, and to top it off, it was the first time she'd ever beaten Melichar.
Melichar, a Floridian who trains at the Pavel-Blackwood Tennis Academy, did manage to win the mixed doubles crown for the second consecutive yaer, winning the title with Battistone in a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Zach Northey (Lincoln, Neb.) and Haily Morgan (Anthem, Ariz.).
With players from 11 different states competing this year, the US Open National Playoffs Southwest event drew a nice national mix of players, joining with several locals as well as Southwest players to round out the biggest field to date in the three years the tournament has been played. Players ranged in age from 14 to 54, and showcased a variety of different levels.
The tournament was held at Scottsdale Ranch Park for the second consecutive year, and the third straight year in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Other top Southwest performers at the event included Jason Jaruvang, who reached the men's semifinals before falling to Kawka.
Tucson junior player Gregory Anderson, former University of Arizona men's player Geoff Embry, Tucson's Alec Gee, and Phoenix-area teaching pro Nicolas Legros all reached the men's quarterfinals as well. Five of the eight men's quarterfinalists were Southwest players.
The other three (Battistone, Vince Salas and Kawka) were all from Las Vegas.
Kellie Schmitt, a teaching pro in Scottsdale, also made the women's semifinals as did Morgan.
A special thanks goes out to tournament director Sally Grabham, who has run the event each of the last three years, to the numerous officials who helped call lines at the tournament, and to the host site Scottsdale Ranch Park for allowing us the use of their facility.
- This is the third consecutive year the tournament is being held at a public tennis facility in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The inaugural year (2010) the tournament was held at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, and the last two years (2011-12) this event has been held at Scottsdale Ranch Park.
- This year's tournament field includes players from 11 different states, including some from as far away as Connecticut and Florida. Sixteen local players from Phoenix are entered in the field.