Re: Haas, Querrey, Harkleroad in unisex tournament
Phillip King (left) shakes hands with Sam Querrey after winning their semifinal match, 21-20, during Sunday's Shotgun 21 World Championships at the Palisades Tennis Center. Photo: Jared Rosen
Shotgun 21 Comes up Aces
Pros Thrill Palisades Tennis Center Crowd at Inaugural Unisex Tourney
August 06, 2008
Steve Galluzzo , Sports Editor
For more than 10 years now the Palisades Tennis Center has served as our beloved local tennis facility and has made Pacific Palisades one of the world's foremost tennis communities, serving as a breeding ground for many of the top junior players in the country.
Last Sunday, however, it was the pros who took center stage for the inaugural Shotgun 21 World Championships, a unique drop-hit format pitting men against women in a unisex tournament orchestrated by PTC founder Steve Bellamy.
"Every year we want to do something special for the community that says thanks for supporting the tennis center," Bellamy said. "But this was by far the best collection of tennis talent we've ever had on these courts."
The rules were designed to create better, longer, more strategic points to give men and women a more even playing field and to finish in a few hours, instead of an entire week. Players had to serve underhanded, switching sides and rotating servers every five points like in ping pong. There were no second serves or lets.
Revolutionizing the sport and making it more accessible to the public has been Bellamy's mission ever since he took over the public facility on Alma Real in 1997. This time, though, he even exceeded his own expectations.
"With the power in the game now you don't see too many long rallies like there were today," Bellamy said. "There were some phenomenal points."
The lone survivor at the end of the 32-player main draw was Alex Bogomolov, who shrugged off a furious comeback by fellow former USTA Junior No. 1 player, Phillip King, to win the final match, 21-20, in front of a packed late afternoon crowd at the public courts off Alma real.
Bogomolov had to come from behind to knock off another ATP Tour pro, John Isner, 21-20, in the semifinals while King upset top-seeded Sam Querrey by an identical score in the second semifinal.
"It's a lot of fun--they should have more of these," said Querrey, who eliminated "Bush" lead singer Gavin Rossdale in the round of 16. "I'd definitely like to come back and do this again."
Querrey is currently the third-ranked American player and left for Beijing on Tuesday with the United States Olympic team.
"At this level, everyone is so good and the level of play was extremely high," said Rossdale, who trains at the PTC when he's not touring with his band. "When you're a musician, you're used to being on stage and being loose and this is the same type of thing except a different setting."
Jill Craybas, ranked No. 50 on the WTA Tour as recently as May, advanced the furthest among the women, falling to Querrey in the quarterfinals.
A qualifying draw was held earlier in the afternoon and there were three celebrities who received wildcards into the main draw. All other players were either ATP or WTA players. Craybas beat actress Melissa Rivers in the first round while Querrey eliminated "Bush" lead singer Gavin Rossdale in the round of 16.
"The fact that I actually won a few points is a miracle to me," said Rivers, a 10-year Palisades resident who plays in the PTC's 3.5 workouts two or three times a week. "Just being on the same court with a pro like Jill was a blast."
Bogomolov blitzed to a 8-0 lead in the finals and built a 20-13 advantage before King reeled off seven straight to force a winner-take-all 41st point, which Bogomolov won when King's approach shot landed inches long.
"Alex came out blazing but he finally cooled off a bit," said King, a four-time All-American at Duke, where he was coached his senior year by PTC teaching pro Jon Neeter. "I hung in there and gave it a good fight."
The draw was a who's who of tennis talent and included active pros Zack Fleishman, JP Fruttero, Eric Taino and Cecil Mamiit. ATP pros Tommy Haas and Vince Spadea and WTA star Ashley Harkleroad, intended to play but were nursing injuries, yet all three showed up to watch.
"I would love to have played but I was unsure about playing five matches right before the Countrywide," said Haas, who lost his opening match at the Countrywide Classic at UCLA two days later. "But I wanted to come out and support Steve [Bellamy] and Andy [McDonnell]."
Former pros Scott Davis and Derrick Rostagno squared off in a thrilling round of 16 match on Court 2. Davis starred at Palisades High and was ranked No. 2 in the world in doubles and No. 11 in singles. Rostagno is now a practicing attorney and a regular at the PTC's Saturday morning workouts.
Bogomolov, who has risen as high as No. 97 in the world rankings, took home the $10,000 winner's check and a $2,000 limited edition Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
"I love this format because it plays to my strengths," the 5' 10" baseliner said. "It's more of a disadvantage for the taller guys with big serves."
Approximately 650 people visited the PTC throughout the day and those that did were treated to three and a half hours of world class tennis'for free.
"The last three matches epitomized the drama of sports," Bellamy said. "For all of them to be decided by one point--which never happens in tennis--was amazing. We couldn't have scripted it any better."
By the end of the day, the tournament's first-ever champion proved to be its biggest endorser.
"I've played World Team Tennis too and I think exhibitions like this that introduce new rules are good," Bogomolov said. "Anything that attracts more people to the game is only going to help our sport."