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May 13th, 2003, 08:18 PM
Forest Hills Hosts USTA Challenger

West Side Tennis Club By Tennis Week

The U.S. Open moved from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadows twenty five years ago, but former Grand Slam greats who raised the title trophy in triumph retain a presence at the West Side Tennis Club. This week, the venerable club is hosting a $50,000 Men's Challenger offering a surprisingly strong field that includes Michael Chang, Justin Gimelstob, Harel Levy, Giovanni Lapentti and Cecil Mamiit.

While the once famous stadium is in poor shape, the championship plaque within the stadium proudly proclaims the names of past champions including Bill Tilden, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Jimmy Connors.

A long lob from that stadium the Challenger is being played on the club's fine har-tru courts as players prepare for the French Open, which starts on May 26th.

In yesterday's first-round action, Thomas Blake, older brother of James Blake, defeated James Wan 6-2, 6-2; Zack Fleishman beat Argentine Juan-Pablo Guzman 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2; Brazil's Ricardo Mello (BRA) defeated Federico Browne of Argentina 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(4); Giovanni Lapenti, younger brother of Nicolas Lapentti, topped Jack Brasington 6-2, 6-2; and Harel Levy defeated New Jersey native Gimelstob, 6-2, 6-3.