Lobo doubles team makes stirring run into pro tourney finals at UNM - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo doubles team makes stirring run into pro tourney finals at UNM

UNM Lobo tennis players Jan Pucalka, left, and Alex Maggs, right, advanced to Saturday’s doubles finals of the USTA/ITF event being hosted by UNM. (Photos courtesy UNM)
These kids are all right. Perhaps even better than all right.

The University of New Mexico doubles duo of Alexander Maggs and Jan Pucalka rallied from a set down to win their semifinal Friday and advance to Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals of the United States Tennis Association/ITF Pro Circuit event at the UNM McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium.

They will meet professionals Demetris Azoides and Franco Ribero.

The day also will include two semifinals singles matches.

But all local eyes will be on Maggs and Pucalka, who are in their second season as a tandem, after they beat pros Kalman Boyd and Warren Wood 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) and 10-7 in the “super tiebreaker.”

“It was close,” Maggs said of the first set. “I struggled a bit on the serve. We lost four or five deciding deuce points. We lost the set but we could have won the set. We knew it wasn’t over. We knew there was a lot of tennis yet to be played. We said it to each other. We believe in ourselves. We’ve played some great doubles this week and in the last year. We’ve always believed in it. Nothing changed. We just kept doing the right stuff. Kept playing the right way.”

The right way to these two is to charge the net on every occasion , putting the onus on the opponents to make great shots every point.

“We have a very specific way of playing doubles and we don’t back off of it,” Maggs said. “Go to the net whenever we can. Full aggression, that’s the way I’ve always played doubles. I love playing doubles that way, and everyone else has bought into that.”

The match was a tight one throughout, with neither side gaining a decided advantage.

But Maggs and Pucalka had a built-in advantage as the home audience was solidly in their corner cheering every point.

“It was amazing,” Maggs said. “The whole team was out (Friday), and loads of community, loads of tennis members. And a lot of people who I have not seen before, which is amazing. It means other people are getting excited about tennis. It’s hard not to get excited when you have, well, I don’t know how many people we had here, but a lot of people cheering your name and yelling ‘Let’s go,’ all the time. It’s loads of fun and I appreciate every single person that came out. They got us through the match.”

Pucalka, from the Czech Republic, credits the pair’s camaraderie away from tennis for creating a winning team on the court.

“Maggsy took care of me when I came for the first time,” Pucalka said. “He was here for me, whatever I needed. He used to play with a Czech guy before me so the friendship off the court makes us so strong together on the court because we know he cares about me and I care about him and we have each other’s back. When someone is not playing his best, we know the other one is there for him. It’s really helpful.”

That came into play in the first set as Maggs struggled with his serve and Pucalka had issues with his ground strokes. But they were able to get each back together and played much stronger the rest of the match.

And the result is a finals berth.

“It’s very exciting to be in the finals and it means a lot,” Maggs said. “It gives a us a lot of confidence. We always knew we could play good doubles and now that we’re playing against professional tennis players and beating them, it gives me a lot of confidence and I’m sure it gives (Pucalka) a lot of confidence that we can play at this level. That we belong here and we can do this every match.”

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