Liversage Prevails in Open Hard Court Championships
by Marc Lucero, 3 July 2009
People like to say that tennis is the sport of a lifetime. Anyone who was at the Balboa Tennis Club June 8-14 would definitely testify to that as an eclectic cast of characters descended upon San Diego to compete in the USTA National Open Hard Court Championships. With a check for $1,000, a gold ball, and a Pro Circuit Wild Card all going to the men's singles winner, both has-beens and future players to be laid it on the line.
For the second straight year, Thomas Liversage found himself in a third set in the championship match, only this time he was facing a much younger player rather than a peer. A year ago Liversage was a graduating senior from the University of San Diego and took on a fellow senior from the University of Tulsa, Will Gray. This year, Liversage faced off with a rising high school senior, Zach Leslie.
Liversage was the top seed in the event and made his way through the draw with little pressure. His toughest match was a 7-5, 6-4 win over Wisconsin
recruit Christopher Freeman
in the Round of 16. He followed that with a couple of impressively routine wins over Virginia Cavalier
Lee Singer and then former Australian pro Jaymon Crabb, formerly top 200 ATP singles and top 30 doubles.
Leslie's road to the final was equally as uneventful. Coming off his second straight win in the California Interscholastic Federation San Diego Section's singles championships, he took out LSU player Jonathan Tragardh in the quarters and then Brazilian Alessandro Ventre in the semis, in what was his toughest match of the tournament. Leslie is a blue chip prospect currently ranked #9 on the TRN National Class Rankings and attends San Diego's Point Loma High School.
The first set was relatively uneventful tennis-wise until Liversage was serving at 3-4. On break point, Liversage donated an unforced error and the break to Leslie and promptly fired his racquet from the baseline to the back fence on the fly. Chair umpire and tour veteran Bob Christianson coded Liversage to make the score 5-3 and 15-0 with Leslie serving. Liversage seemed to be fired up by the deficit he faced and started to grind more effectively especially with Leslie getting noticeably tighter.
Liversage saved two set points and on the third set point he faced, he played an aggressive point, maneuvering Leslie around the court and then pulled the trigger on an inside in forehand into the corner furthest from the chair umpire. In the first of many controversial moments, Leslie called the ball out, which the umpire had to go with due to the distance from his chair and the fact that he was partially blocked by Leslie. Liversage went nuts and started jawing at both Leslie and the umpire. The exchange continued through the changeover and Leslie, who is never at a loss for words on the tennis court, was happy to engage Liversage. It was nothing more than empty words - the first set belonged to Leslie.