Sunday, July 07, 2002

Met's anyone's tournament

Men's champ picks only doubles event; Puentes No. 1 seed

By Dave Schutte
Enquirer contributor

        A changing of the guard will take place in men's singles at the Thomas E. Price Metropolitan Tennis Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Lunken Playfield.

        That's because six-time and defending singles champion Jeff Wolf elected to play just doubles in the professional-amateur event.

        A longtime teaching professional at Colonial Racquet & Fitness Club and Losantiville Country Club, Wolf made a career change late in 2001, joining MacEachen Reality.

        “In 30 years, Rod MacEachen never had a partner,” Wolf said. “When he allowed me to buy in, he made a commitment to me and I to him.”

        The long hours required to be successful in real estate factored in Wolf's decision to ditch singles.

        “I made a big career choice, which is working out great,” Wolf said. “I also decided it's important to spend time with the family rather than getting ready for a tournament.”

        Rey Puentes, the 2001 runner-up to Wolf, inherited the No. 1 seed in the 123-player field. Duke University sophomore Jason Zimmermann is No. 2.

        After an absence of three years, five-time women's champion Heather Hairston is back, seeded No. 2 behind two-time winner Kara Molony-Hussey in the 21-player draw.

        “The last time I played was in 1998 and I lost to Kara in the finals,” the 37-year-old Hairston said. “I felt if I waited another three years, I wouldn't have a chance to win it again.”

        Hairston first won the Met in 1984 when she was a freshman at Southern Methodist University. She also emerged as champion in 1989, '91, '95 and '97. She was runner-up in '88, '92, '94, '96 and '98.

        “I haven't played a tournament in four years and I'm a little worried,” said Hairston, a teaching pro at Queen City Racquet & Fitness Club and Hyde Park Golf & Country Club. “I hope to be a lot calmer and have more fun.”

        The men's draw isn't as strong in past years because Wolf, Craig Boynton, Jason Yeager, Dan Kronauge, Kelly Jones, Jason Pressel and Brett DeCurtins aren't entered. This makes it a wide-open tournament.

        “Looking at the draw, it appears that everyone has a chance,” said Boynton, a former pro and three-time Met champion. “There are no past champions but a lot of solid players.”

        Besides Puentes and Zimmermann, the other 14 seeded players are Isaac Yarrell, Amin Nabli, Matt Poulos, Ryan McCarthy, Matt Pledger, Matt Dektas, Chambly Halim, Warren Chamakoon, Eric Toth, Marshall Kuresman, Steve Palmer, Darran Giuggio, Todd Rich and Amine Benjelloun.

        Only four women were seeded: Molony-Hussey, Hairston, Lyndsey Molony at No. 3 and Khushchehr Italia, UC's No. 1 singles player, at No. 4.

        Action begins Wednesday with 32 first-round men's singles matches. Women's play doesn't begin until Friday or Saturday. The championship singles matches will be July 15.

        Entries for the men's and women's doubles competition, which begins Saturday or Sunday, will remain open until Thursday.


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