Pablo overcomes rain, age

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2002

When Robert Pablo headed onto the court at the Howard Mast tennis complex for Local City Junior Championship competition Tuesday, he didn’t quite know what to expect. The 14-year-old had been playing tennis for about a year, often monopolizing the Suffolk Racket Club courts for up to seven hours a day to practice his forehands, backhands, and volleys.

But it didn’t seem to be paying off. In two previous tournaments, he’d lost in the first round. In his first match in the 14-and-under division at the local tournament on Monday, Jeff Kelsey had beaten Pablo 6-0, 6-1. Not that that was a cause for shame; Kelsey had won both the 12-and-under and 14-and-under divisions in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles in the 2001 tournament. Pablo, however, was still without a tournament victory.

Until Tuesday, that is. Using his trademark fast serve, he defeated Lalit Kapoor 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the 16-and-under division to finally take home a win.

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&uot;I don’t know how that happened!&uot; Pablo said. &uot;Playing Lalit was hard to get used to, because he’s left-handed. But it feels pretty good to finally get my first tournament win.&uot;

He and his competitors lost a significant chunk of playing time on Tuesday; rain soaked the courts for nearly an hour, forcing the players to enlist huge &uot;squeegees&uot; to dry the court.

According to Bart Grover, who’s attempting to take both the 14-and-under and 16-and-under divisions, rain isn’t a very large setback to a tennis player. &uot;I’m probably going to slip more on a wet court,&uot; said the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student, &uot;but we dried it off, so we should all be alright.&uot;

After he faces Pablo in the 14-and-under tournament, Grover may have to battle Regis Sullivan in the finals of the 16-and-under division. Sullivan, a sophomore at Lakeland High School, reached the finals of the oldest division by dispatching David Hugey 6-3, 6-0 on Tuesday.

&uot;I didn’t play very well at Lake-land last year,&uot; said Sullivan, playing in his first tournament, &uot;but I’ve been practicing all summer, so I hope to reach at least number-6 on the team when next season starts.&uot;

While Sullivan and the other youths charged around the court, Burr Henderson remembered the times that he found success at the Mast Complex in the early 90s. &uot;I feel slow, and it seems like they hit a lot harder,&uot; said Henderson, 27, who won the local tournament twice. &uot;I remember coming out here at 9 a.m., and it was already about 100 degrees. We had to play a singles match then, a doubles match in the afternoon, and a mixed doubles match in the evening. But these kids are working just as hard, maybe harder than we did.&uot;