UNM duo wins pro doubles crown, then hits the road to Oklahoma - Albuquerque Journal

UNM duo wins pro doubles crown, then hits the road to Oklahoma

UNM Lobo tennis players Jan Pucalka, left, and Alex Maggs, right, pose with trophies after winning the doubles final of the USTA Pro Circuit tournament being held at the McKinnon tennis complex at the University of New Mexico on Saturday. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)
Not a bad way to start a road trip.

Lobo tennis players Alex Maggs and Jan Pucalka on Saturday completed their run from wild-card entry to doubles champion in the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament hosted by the University of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque over the past week at the McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium.

“One thing this really showed us is we can play with pretty much anyone,” said Pucalka.

“… I think it’s really important for the (college) season as well because it gives us confidence that, whoever comes here, we can we can play close games and fight and get the win. This tournament had so many close endings, and a little bit of luck as well. It’s good motivation for the future as well.”

In front of a raucous home crowd, the Lobo duo downed Demetris Azoides and Franco Ribero – a top doubles team from Texas Tech – in straight sets 7-5, 7-5 in a mostly evenly played match with the margin for error razor thin.

Through 24 games played, Maggs/Pucalka won 69 points while Azoides/Ribero won 67, and neither team took more than three consecutive games.

While the International Tennis Federation-sanctioned event allows for college players to compete and earn world ranking points in such events, NCAA rules still prohibit them from collecting the $930 prize money the ITF pays to the winners of doubles events at this level ($2,160 for the singles champion).

So, their payoff instead on Saturday?

In addition to two pottery-style trophies presented by the City of Albuquerque, they then hopped in a car to drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma with UNM assistant coach Sonam Phuntsok. There, several Lobo players will compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships, which began with qualifying draw matches on Saturday.

“We can definitely bring the confidence we just gained from this to that tournament now and hopefully just keep doing the same stuff we did here throughout the (collegiate) season,” said Maggs, a senior from Birmingham, England.

The Lobo duo rallied to win the final three games of the first set.

Tied 5-5, Maggs’ consistently strong play at the net – “he’s such a great finisher on the net,” said Pucalka, a sophomore from Czech Republic – grabbed a pair of critical points in a hotly contested 11th game, in which they broke Ribero’s serve.

After falling behind 3-0 and then 4-1 in the second set, the pair rallied again, evening things 4-4 thanks to Pucalka with a pair of winners at the net while Maggs was serving.

The two cruised down the stretch from there for the 7-5 win.

“They’re keeping it pretty simple,” UNM coach Chris Russell said. “We have some concepts that aren’t rocket science. It’s stuff that they’ve committed to – just simple stuff like making first serves, doing some things with returns to kind of open up the middle and then get to the net. …

“A win like this, it’s reaffirming what they’ve been working on for so long.”

SINGLES: Texas Tech’s Olle Wallin is having one heck of a fall.

The Red Raider junior from Halmstad, Sweden won last week’s $15,000 West Texas Pro Tennis Open in Lubbock, Texas – an ITF event hosted by Texas Tech similar to the one held this week by UNM.

Sunday, he is playing for another singles championship in Albuquerque.

Wallin on Saturday defeated Ireland’s Osgar O’Hoisin, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, in a two-hour, 10 minute semifinal match by scores of 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Wallin has now defeated in Albuquerque No. 1 seed Emiil Reinberg in the round of 32, No. 7 Cash Hanzlik in the quarterfinals and the No. 3 seed in the semifinals.

He’ll need to beat another seeded foe to win the singles crown.

In the last match of the day, No. 4 seed Maciej Rajski of Poland knocked off America’s Connor Farren (6-2, 6-2) to claim the other spot in Sunday’s singles final.

Rajski has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

Sunday’s singles final begins at noon with free admission and parking at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center at UNM.

Home » Sports » UNM duo wins pro doubles crown, then hits the road to Oklahoma


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