Regional Tennis Tournament at UC Irvine : USD's Mattera Surprises Even Himself by Advancing to Singles Final

Special to The Times

The only problem about coming out of nowhere is what you do once you get somewhere.

Or, more specifically, what happens after people start expecting something?

Which is exactly the situation Dan Mattera envisions, and dreads, after back-to-back victories over nationally ranked collegiate tennis players Saturday in the Rolex/ITCA Southern California regional tournament at UC Irvine.

Mattera, who alternated between fifth and sixth singles last year for the University of San Diego, will play USC freshman Byron Black in today's final at 10:30 a.m.

Mattera defeated No. 5-seeded Bob Bierens of UCLA, 6-4, 6-3, in the quarterfinals, and followed with a 6-4, 6-2 semifinal victory over No. 4 Trevor Kronemann of UC Irvine. Bierens is ranked No. 42; Kronemann is 33rd.

Mattera? He's more worried about where he's going to be ranked on his own team.

"Oh, no," he said, laughing, when asked whether he would now play No. 1 or No. 2 singles for USD. "I don't think so. I don't know if I'll even be in the top three."

To say that Mattera never expected to reach the final here would be putting it lightly.

He downplayed the achievement, saying that everything that could happen right has happened for him. Mattera, a sophomore, pointed out that the first-round default of top-seeded John Carras of USC opened his section of the draw, and that Kronemann was visibly tired from long matches before they played in the semifinals.

"After this match (against Kronemann), I was so dazed," Mattera said. "The problem with doing so well here is now everyone wants to beat you. I have more confidence when I play on the team, but as an individual, it's very limited."

Mattera's enjoyment of tennis took a temporary leave of absence when he spent the summer playing national junior events, including the biggest one of the season, at Kalamazoo, Mich.

"I did awful," said Mattera, who is from Torrance. "I just can't play junior tennis. For example, I beat Murphy Jensen (of USC) in a college tournament at UCLA and he was one of the best juniors in the country. I never would have been able to beat him in juniors. If you're not seeded in junior tournaments, it's like you're not even acknowledged."

Against Black, Mattera hopes he won't approach the final with a satisfied feeling, a feeling that he has accomplished enough already. The No. 2-seeded Black, however, is a strong favorite. Black hasn't lost a set in five matches.

Arizona State's Doug Sachs, who lost, 7-6, 6-2, to Black in the semifinals, left no doubt about his feelings on the final, saying:

"I've seen both play, and Mattera isn't that tough mentally or physically on the court. Byron Black just has too many shots."

Tennis Notes

Scott Melville and Murphy Jensen of USC fought off two match points in the third set before defeating the No. 4-seeded team of Miles Walker and Olivier Amerlinck of Chapman, 4-6, 7-6, 7-5, in a doubles quarterfinal. Melville-Jensen will play Arizona State's Doug Sachs and Dan Marting, and Arizona State's Brian Gyetko and Mike Holten meet Dave Stewart and Scott Patridge of the University of San Diego.

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