For UC Irvine tennis players Mark Kaplan and Trevor Kronemann, it was somehow fitting that their final match of the season together was also their strongest performance in weeks.
Kaplan and Kronemann defeated Bernie Mitton and Mike Fedderly, 7-6, 6-2, in the final of the men's championship flight at the Adoption Guild tennis tournament on Sunday in front of 2,000 spectators at the Newport Beach Tennis Club.
Both Kaplan and Kronemann were amazed they could actually finish off a victory in just two sets. After winning the first-set tiebreaker, 7-4, they broke Fedderly in the first game of the second set and did the same to Mitton in the seventh game.
"We've had so many tough matches here," said Kaplan, a sophomore. "We won, 7-5, in the third set yesterday and 7-6 in the third last weekend. Usually, we always go through these long, nail-biters. I think today is a sign of how much we've improved."
Both came into the Adoption Guild tournament with added confidence, gained in part from a strong performance at the NCAA tournament two weeks ago in Athens, Ga. Kaplan and Kronemann were among four Irvine players to achieve All-American status. In singles, Kronemann won two rounds before losing and Kaplan reached the semifinals. Together, they lost in the first round of doubles.
Kronemann never expected to improve so quickly, especially after his relatively undistinguished junior career.
"If someone had told me this would happen," Kronemann said, "I would have said, 'No way.' I would have said they were crazy. Here, we're beating these great guys. This tournament is a great way to cap the season off."
This summer, Kaplan and Kronemann will embark on different professional satellite circuits, hoping to pick up valuable tour points. As for Mitton and Fedderly . . . well, they'll be spending lots of time on the court this summer. Teaching.
Mitton, 32, is a pro at the Newport Beach Tennis Club; Fedderly, 27, teaches at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. Afterward, friends of both players offered consolation, saying they performed well against the "kids."
"That's the right word," Mitton said. "Kids. They've played well here. And they've been playing a lot. They did well at the NCAA and got to the doubles final."
Actually, Mitton confused them with another good doubles team from UC Irvine, Julian Barham and Darren Yates, who lost in the NCAA doubles championship match. Anyway, excuse him for the mistake, when you're pushing 35 all these young kids may start to look alike after a while.
"Youth made the difference today," Mitton said, smiling. "It's all my fault, too. Mike's been trying to get me out for months to practice for this. I told him that our first match last weekend was our practice."
Other winners at the Adoption Guild tournament: Tim Downey and Tom Olmstead defeated Dick Gude and Alan Godfrey, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, in the men's open 6.0 division; Barbara Lemberg and Noelle Porter beat Betty Ann Dent and Linda Mallory, 7-6, 6-4, in the women's open 6.0 event; Robert Van't Hof and Porter took the mixed doubles 6.0 division with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Debbie Goldberger and Scott Brownsberger; Dean Habberfield and Randy Kuehnel defeated Bob Gibbens and Henry Grum, 6-3, 6-1, in the 5.5 division, and Jill Gwaltney and Cathy Olmstead won the women's 5.5 event with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Barbara Shelton and Marilyn Straw. More than 800 teams entered the competition--which ranged from the 2.5 to 6.5 level, according to ability. Early-round action was last weekend at various clubs in Los Angeles County and Orange County.