Khahil and Rita Samaha sat stoically Tuesday at the New Mexico’s McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium, occasionally letting out some words of encouragement or applauding a nice shot. They kept their inner turmoil well hidden.
And it could not have been easy as their son, Georgio Samaha, a Lobo sophomore, played in his first professional tennis tournament as Albuquerque is hosting the United States Tennis Association/ITF Pro Circuit event.
Qualifying play ended Tuesday, with the main draw for singles and doubles continuing through Sunday’s championship match.
“It’s stressful but its enjoyable,” said Khalil Samaha, who first got his son into the game. “His mom can’t stand it, but I cannot not watch.”
Rita acknowledged the stress, but added, “I have confidence. I know he is going to do his best.”
And his best was pretty darned good as he took top qualifying seed Christian Lakoseljac to the very limit, losing in straight 7-6 sets that both went to tiebreakers, 9-7, 7-4.
The Eldorado grad traded baseline bombers, shots that painted the lines and screaming aces before coming up just short.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Georgio Samaha said. “There were breaks all the time, the second set especially. Those are the big moments that count.”
Still, he came out of it with a positive attitude.
“It puts experience under my belt,” he said. “Even though I lost, it is still good experience for me to move forward. It’s a learning process. Going into the (college) season, I’m excited. I’m ready.”
Playing someone of Lakoseljac’s level was quite an eye opener.
“Everyone surprises me; somehow they pull out shots out of nowhere. Services left and right, aces left and right. He’s a great player.”
Meanwhile, his parents were tingling with every shot, even if it didn’t show.
“You wait for every shot to see how it’s going to go,” Khalil Samaha said. “You’re on the edge all the time. Sometimes you hope the opponent makes double fault just so you can win a point for Georgio. It’s very exciting. Very interesting, very on the edge.”
Seeing his son going up against pros was seeing him realizing a dream, Khalil Samaha said.
“I can see he went up a level,” he said. “From high school to college, it’s up a level. From college to professional, it’s up a level. In high school, you have easy games. In college there are no easy games. In professional, it’s even worse. He lost two set tiebreakers, so right there, it could have gone either way.”
That’s what Georgio Samaha learned.
“I would say mentality part of it is the biggest part of it for me,” he said. “The little moments of every game is what counts the most. Every point counts, every moment counts. Every shot counts no matter what. That’s what I would say I would take away from this match.”
In addition to his parents, he had plenty of backing from his fellow Lobos.
“It’s always good to have some support at your back, cheering you on,” Georgio Samaha. “Whereas the other guy didn’t have anything. That’s always a pro for me.”