COSTA MESA — The junior tennis ranks are a time for shaping one's game, both physically and mentally, in an effort to forge the ability to persevere through thick and thin.
Newport Beach resident Bjorn Hoffmann's challenge in the boys' 16 final of the Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic on Friday primarily involved the thick.
Thick, as in body type of opponent Kyle McCann of Rossmoor, whose powerful game is somewhat unique among a field of leaner, smaller opponents.
The lanky Hoffmann, who lost to the much stockier McCann last year in their only previous meeting, used his counter-punch attack to prevail, 6-1, 6-4, at Costa Mesa Tennis Center.
"I just kind of had to adjust what I was doing," said Hoffmann, the No. 1 seed who as a freshman at Corona del Mar High last spring played No. 3 singles for the Sea Kings. "I did what I needed to do to win the match."
Hoffmann continually frustrated No. 2-seeded McCann by taking pace off his quick-strike serves and booming, low-driven ground strokes. More often than not, it was McCann's inability to keep the ball in play that helped Hoffmann pile up his points.
"Every one of [McCann's shots] are dangerous, because they are low and they are hard," Hoffmann said. "I just had to do my best to get low and put it in back in the court. He hits hard and I had to deal with that.
"It's something that I don't ever play against, because it's so unique," Hoffmann said of McCann's explosive repertoire. "You don't practice against people who play like that, so it's a different ball that you see [against McCann]. I had to adjust and sometimes that's difficult."
Hoffmann's placement gave McCann some difficulty. When McCann was getting the ball in, Hoffmann was still able to consistently earn points by guiding passing shots toward the sidelines and placing his serves in the corners.
Hoffman's play, which included strong showings at the Southern California sectional and regional tournaments, has helped him advance his game this summer, he said.
"It's just everything," Hoffmann, the son of former UC Irvine standout Carsten Hoffmann, said of his improved play of late."I've been gaining confidence and that is helping a lot; just being able to play within myself. And winning [a tournament] never hurts."
Hoffmann said he played the Costa Mesa tournament in order to stay sharp for the zonal championships that begin Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Utah.
All five of his victories in the Costa Mesa tournament came in straight sets and McCann was the first opponent to win more than four games against Hoffmann.
Hoffmann broke McCann's serve twice in the opening set to seize a 5-0 lead.
In the second set, Hoffmann broke McCann in the opening game, but a double fault on game-point helped McCann break Hoffmann's serve to pull even, 3-3.
But Hoffmann immediately broke back, also collecting game-point on a double fault, and held on to avenge his previous loss to McCann.