Winning proved the rule rather than the exception for St. Thomas’ Julio Martinez, who championed the highly-competitive Men’s Open Singles at the Viya VI Open Tennis Tournament. Martinez, who began playing tennis as an adult, beat fellow island resident June Horii during a first to ten-point tie-breaker after each man won one match apiece (4-6, 6-2, 10-3). The match proved an exciting finale to this decade-plus old tournament, held Feb. 14-18, at the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC).
“I came straight from work to play the singles match and didn’t have time to warm up,” said Martinez, who has played in this tournament for many years, most recently winning the Men’s Open Doubles last year with George Lewis, and the Mixed Doubles this year with St. Thomas’ Kerri Clifford. “It showed in my first match when I felt a bit off in my game. Then, by the second match, I had my stride.”
Over 60 players, representing all three U.S. Virgin Islands, competed in nine adult open and B divisions and four junior divisions.
In Women’s Open Singles, 17-year-old Charlotte Amalie High School senior Brittany Leonard beat Clifford (7-5, 4-6, 6-1).
“Ms. Clifford beat me last year. This year, I won the first match and then lost the second. After that, I really put my mind into it, played more aggressively and was able to win,” said Leonard.
Men’s Open Doubles winners were Horii and Matthew Mahaffy over John Clauson and Neil Langhan (6-1, 6-1).
“We just focused on our basic strategies and trusted that the result would come,” said Horii. “What I love about playing tennis here is the camaraderie among the players. It is very special.”
Mixed Doubles saw Martinez and Clifford beat Alec Chipman and Sandra Miller (6-3, 7-6, 7-2).
In Men’s Singles 35 and under, Chipman defeated Xavier Richardson (6-2, 6-4).
“This is the second year I’ve played in the tournament, and last year I didn’t get very far. Since then, I’ve been playing a lot of tennis,” said Chipman.
Joyce Bailey beat Miller in the Women’s Singles 35 and under.
The team of Denis Matthews and Brad Wilson triumphed (6-3, 6-1) over Jeff Chase and Klaus Neuberger in Men’s B Doubles.
“Hard work,” said Matthews about the team’s secret to success. “He (Wilson) is good at the net and I’ve got a good forehand. We used that combination to advantage.”
In Women’s B Doubles, Eve Matthews and Natalie Lo bested Renee Migdal and Caryn Conway (6-3, 6-4).
“We had three really hard long matches with deuce points and tie breakers many times,” said Matthews.
The Men’s Doubles 55-plus was won by default by Rick Hunter and Joe Hosie over Warren Mosler and Colin Robertson. Robertson, whose tennis resume includes play in the Australian Open in the 1960s, reaching the third round in the U.S. Open, and an invitation to play in Wimbledon, experienced an untimely injury in the first match.
Talent was impressive in the junior divisions at the Viya VI Open Tennis Tournament.
Eight-year-old twins Jada Chase and Maya Chase finished first and second, respectively, in the age 10 and under, while Christo Morris beat Grace Lowenstein in the age 12 and under. The duo of Morris and Lowenstein teamed in age 14 and under Mixed Doubled to champion a three-hour game that ended in a tie-breaker (9-8(8)) over Mia and Ethan Ronen.
“I tried to push my opponents, make them run more and get tired out,” said Morris, a 9-year-old third grade student at the Antilles School.
“For me, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did without the people I played again pushing me,” said Lowenstein, age 10, who is a 4th grader at the Antilles School.
Finally, it was 14-year-old Toovin Phillip who won the age 16 and under singles over Christian Rosenberg (6-0, 6-0).
“Toovin plays very well and he continues to improve. He’s got a passion for the sport,” said Terrance Jacobs, coach at the West Side Tennis Club on the UVI St. Thomas Campus.
New this year, a squash division was added to the tournament. Jeffrey Euwema won out of ten players competing in a double elimination format.
“I used to play tennis and have played squash for several years. One helps the other,” said Euwema.
Over $5,000 in prize money was awarded in addition to trophies.
The athletic prowess of the players involved in the tournament was outstanding,” said STYC Tennis Pro, Jonathan A., tournament co-director with Cate Morris. “Whereas we had an awesome display of athletic ability over the last four days, the most impressive display was the support of the community. There were over 200 spectators cheering on their loved ones and friends. This tournament inspired me to run more tournaments for the St. Thomas Yacht Club in the near future.”
The Viya VI Open Tennis Tournament is sponsored by Viya, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and White Bay Partners.