Zillman finds groove

COSTA MESA — James Zillman had every right to dance in the afternoon heat Friday at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center.

He had just won back-to-back tournament titles for the first time. But Zillman, 15, walked off the court and posed for a photo with his boys' 16s singles trophy. And, then he went off to dance.

That's how he celebrated winning a Costa Mesa Summer Classic Junior championship. He left Costa Mesa for Los Angeles, where he participated in Camp Hollywood with his father and tennis coach, Justin. Camp Hollywood features swing dancing. Zillman and his dad went to Lindy Hop. The steps require a partner. Zillman didn't need one at Costa Mesa Tennis Center. His footwork was fancy enough to dazzle Hoeger.

The top-seeded Zillman consistently hit harder than sixth-seeded Hoeger, and he came up with clutch winners to stave any type of momentum the 15-year-old from Redondo Beach could muster.

"He was just more clutch on the big points," said Hoeger, an incoming junior at Peninsula High, where his father, Mike, is the head coach. "I was just kind of impatient on some of the points. He really made me work for it when I had my chances. He never really missed a shot. He outplayed me today."

Zillman, who won the War by the Shore tournament in Newport Beach last week, built a 3-0 lead to open the match against Hoeger. Zillman said he did his best to keep Hoeger away from the net because that's when he found winners.

Hoeger, pronounced hay-gur, won two straight games to get back in the first set, but Zillman came right back with two wins of his own. Hoeger then held serve, but Zillman also held serve to grab the first set and set the stage for an exciting second set.

Zillman appeared to be in control serving with a 4-3 lead in the second set. But he committed three straight errors that left him grunting with anger. He bounced back to battle with Hoeger to a sixth deuce. But Zillman hit a ball into the net and then double faulted, as Hoeger tied the match, 4-4.

Zillman tried to calm himself, and so did his father, but he hit the ball with rage.

"That hurt me a little bit," said Zillman, ranked No. 37 in Southern California by the United States Tennis Assn. "It's not good when I'm mad."

Somehow, Zillman tempered his emotions and won three of the next four games. It wasn't easy. Hoeger, who is ranked No. 74 in Southern California, was seeking his second straight tournament title. Last week he won the 15th annual Jack Kramer Junior Tournament in Northridge.

After receiving his trophy, Zillman sat in the shade for a bit and had to smile reflecting on the past two weeks. Winning two straight tournaments sure felt good.

"It was fun," Zillman said in a simple tone. "I got more confidence by winning."

Zillman said he got into dancing a little over a year ago, as his father enjoys it too. The younger Zillman has been playing tennis for the past seven years. He's having fun with that too. He'll be entering his sophomore year in the fall at Costa Mesa High.

He didn't play boys' tennis for the Mustangs last year because he said he wanted to focus on junior tennis instead.

He said he is thinking to play for Costa Mesa this year, but is unsure. If he does, it appears the Mustangs will be the ones dancing.

Gordon wins title

Henry Gordon, a Corona del Mar resident, and Austin Rapp of Rancho Mirage won the boys' 16s doubles title at the 19th annual Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic Friday at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center.

Gordon and Rapp defeated Gabriel Cupino and Anderson Ju, the No. 2-seeded team from Cerritos, 6-2, 6-2.

Earlier in the day, Gordon and Rapp scored a 6-1, 6-1, victory over Braxton Greco and Sheldon Hseih of Long Beach in the semifinals.

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