Tennis: Hoffmann aided by break

Even in doubles play, having your serve broken in tennis can be deflating.

It happened twice to Bjorn Hoffmann on Saturday afternoon at Costa Mesa Tennis Center. Hoffmann, who just finished his sophomore year at Corona del Mar High, was ousted quickly in the boys' 18 doubles round of 64 at the 112th annual Southern California Junior Sectionals with partner Derek Chen of San Gabriel.

Hoffmann and Chen fell to Lyndon Bui of Orange and Danny Nguyen of Long Beach, 6-4, 6-2. But it was another break, a week-long respite that Hoffmann took last month, that may ultimately help him as he now will focus on boys' 16 singles at the prestigious tournament.

Hoffmann said he needed the break last month, after he was edged in a marathon match by Servite's Tanner Smith, 3-6, 6-3, 14-12, in the third round of CIF Individuals on May 29.

"I was just burned out and wasn't really enjoying it," Hoffmann said. "I think I play better when I enjoy how I feel and how I'm playing. I took a week off and got back out and was hitting it better. I feel like that break definitely helped."

What didn't help Hoffmann Saturday was the fact that it had been quite a while since he had played doubles. He played at No. 1 singles all spring for CdM in the high school season, earning Pacific Coast League singles runner-up honors.

"I honestly can't remember the last time I played doubles," he said. "It's good for me to get out here, definitely, and I should be playing more doubles. That's what I'm going to try to do, but I guess I haven't really played enough to be solid."

Hoffmann and Chen, who just finished off his sophomore year at San Marino High, fell behind quickly to Bui (Canyon High) and Nguyen (Long Beach Millikan). Hoffmann's serve was broken in the opening game of the match, and they weren't able to get that break back.

Hoffmann and Chen did open up a 2-0 lead in the second set. But they lost six straight games, many of them close, to finish off the match.

They nearly broke Bui as he served for the match, earning two break points. On the second break point, Nguyen stabbed at a backhand volley that glanced off the top of his racquet frame and went over the net.

"Sorry," Nguyen said, repeating himself and holding up his racquet in the universal sign of apology in tennis. But the lucky shot didn't help things for Hoffmann and Chen, who lost the match two points later.

Bui and Nguyen advanced to the round of 32 on Sunday, where they'll play No. 9-seeded Konrad Kozlowski of Irvine and Brandon Holt of Rolling Hills.

"I think a little bit of both," Hoffmann said when asked if the result was due to the opponents' standout play or his team's mistakes. "They had some really good pick-ups and pretty good hands, and I just wasn't there today. The mistakes were just too much from me."

But Hoffmann has high hopes in singles. Last year, he made the boys' 16s quarterfinals as an unseeded player after making it through qualifying.

Hoffmann, currently ranked No. 4 in Southern California in the 16s by the United States Tennis Assn., doesn't have to worry about the qualifying this year. He is already in the main draw that begins Tuesday.

"I'm just going to do my best and see how far I can get," he said. "I did pretty well last year, so hopefully I can get my points back and kind of keep my ranking. I'm excited."

CdM's Chaz Downing, who did not play high school tennis this past year, also was a doubles winner on Saturday. Downing and partner Max Cancilla of Marina High edged Ryan Brown and Evan Han of Manhattan Beach, 6-4, 7-6, in another round-of-64 match.

Downing and Cancilla will play No. 9-seeded Zac Brodney of Los Angeles and Connor Hance of Torrance in the round of 32 on Sunday at 11 a.m., at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley.

No. 2-seeded Reese Stalder of Costa Mesa and partner Billy Rowe of Coronado had a bye into the round of 32. They play Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Westminster Tennis Center. Stalder is also the No. 6 seed in boys' 18 singles.

The doubles round of 16 and quarterfinals are scheduled for Monday at Los Cab.

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