Published in the August 20, 2019 edition.
MELROSE — While countless news stations declared severe heat warnings and to stay in the comfort of air conditioning, many of Wakefield’s top players endured the heat in some high-level competition on the Tremont and Crystal Street tennis courts of Melrose.
The Melrose Open, held annually, took place on July 20 and 21.
Wakefield was represented by seven players across six different brackets: Noah Greif, the No. 1 singles player for Wakefield Memorial High School, Rich Greif, Charles McGuire, William Ryan, Richard Winant, JoAnn Winant, Jacqueline Chouinard, and Eve Champlon.
In the men’s B doubles division, Charles McGuire paired up with Paul Atkinson. McGuire is 61 and Atkinson is 78, making them one of the older duos in the tournament, but their experience proved worthy as they won their first-round match, 6-3, 6-1.
McGuire and Atkinson were defeated later that day by brothers Ming Tuan Nguyen and Ncgoc Minh Nguyen, 6-1, 6-1, who were about a third of their age. McGuire described the pair as “quite good.”
“The heat made it tough, and in the second match everyone – even our young opponents – were struggling to get through. Overall, the tournament was really well run and everything went smoothly,” said McGuire.
The Nguyen’s would play even a younger duo of Ashton Hoang and Naveen Nemalapuri in the B doubles final and were defeated, 6-2, 6-3.
In the mixed doubles, Wakefield was represented by two teams: husband and wife Richard and JoAnn Winant, and Eve Champlon along with partner Cliff Liberman. The Winant’s lost their first-round match to Parker and Lisa Cassidy, who were the champions of the divisions.
Champion and Liberman defeated Jackey Garvey and Diego Rojo and lost a nail-biter to the mixed doubles finalists, Ganesh Sivarman and Gauri Barar, 6-0, 6-7, 10-8.
“It was very intense and we ended up losing 8-10 [in the tiebreaker] after two and a half hours! I was exhausted,” said Champlon of her mixed doubles match.
In the mixed doubles final, Parker and Lisa Cassidy defeated Ganesh Sivarman and Gauri Barar, 6-0, 6-0.
In the women’s singles division, JoAnn Winant, and Eve Champlon, who played three divisions totaling six matches under 48 hours, represented Wakefield.
Winant and Champlon squared off in a first-round match, with Champlon getting the win. Champlon then took on Robie Helm and had to forfeit after losing the first set 6-3.
“The court had no shade, and it was insanely hot. After a few games, I started to feel dizzy and out of breath. I decided to forfeit at 3-6 because I just could not keep going and got scared for my health. Also, I knew I had more games to come and I did not want to let my partners down,” said Champlon on her decision to forfeit.
Helm went on to win the women’s singles division by defeating Anna Mullane, 6-1, 4-6, and 10-5 in the third set tiebreak.
The decision by Champlon paid off well, as in the women’s doubles division, Champlon and partner Cindy O’Donnell made it to the finals. The pair defeated Betsy Atkinson and Sheila Flanagan, 6-4 due to a forfeit after the first set. The teams were familiar with one another, with Flanagan and Atkinson coming from the Melrose Tennis Association.
Champlon and O’Donnell were efficient in their next match on Sunday morning, defeating fellow Wakefield player Jacqueline Chouinard along with her partner Ariana Clark, 6-0, 6-1.
“We needed a quick win to have a chance to survive the day,” said Champlon on the quickness of her semifinal match.
In the finals of the women’s doubles, Champlon and O’Donnell fell short as the sun began to set in what was a long day for the players. The duo played friends, Sue Caffey and Linda Whalen. Caffey and Whalen prevailed in a two-hour match, winning 7-5, 7-5.
In the men’s B singles division, Wakefield was written all over the draw, with Rich Greif and son Noah Greif reaching the semifinals, and Richard Winant reaching the finals.
Noah Greif defeated Tom Pawlina in his first match, 6-0, 6-3. Greif shot out of the gates quickly, but Pawlina began to raise his game, but Greif eventually used his youth to push to the finish line.
Later that day, the Wakefield tennis captain defeated Derek Curtin, 6-3, 6-1. Greif forced his opponent to make mistakes, a trademark part of his game.
“In that match, I really began to find my game. I hadn’t played really since the high school season, so I was shaking off the rust,” said Greif.
In the same half of the draw, Richard Winant defeated Raja Ram Tipirneni and Aaron Mailhot with ease to set up an all-Wakefield semifinal with Noah Greif.
Winant got the better of Greif with a 6-3, 6-2 win. The rallies were long, testing the players’ endurance with the heat. Winant was able to capitalize on the angles of the court.
On the other side of the B singles draw, Rich Greif made it to the semifinals. In his first-round match, Greif played Lorenzo Russo, a former Lynnfield High School player who now plays for Curry College. Greif won 6-4, 6-0.
“It was a long first set as the much younger Lorenzo was trying to take advantage of the heat by drop-shotting me. But I started hitting high lobs that were too much for him and I won the first set. I would eventually frustrate him with my consistent play and won the second set,” said Greif.
Greif then got a bye into the semifinals as former Melrose High School player Sean Donovan had to default due to a shoulder injury.
In the semifinals, Greif was faced with a tough task of playing Naveen Nemalapuri, a rising freshman from Malden who is currently ranked No. 8 in Massachusetts. Greif was defeated 6-2, 6-0.
“There were many long points in the first set especially at deuce and I had a chance to be even when it was 3-2, but he went on to win,” said Greif.
In the finals of the B singles, Rich Winant had his chance with Nemalapuri but wasn’t able to keep up with the solid yet powerful game of the young star, losing 6-3, 6-0.
“It was as hot as I’ve ever experienced on any tennis court. It was difficult to stay focused and concentrate. Overall, it was a positive experience. All of my matches were quality matches,” said Winant on his experience.
In the men’s A singles division, William Ryan made an outstanding run to the finals, barely losing in a match tiebreaker. Ryan defeated Sen Ly, Rene Perez, and Pkaisayout Eng to set up a finals match with Alex Chin.
Chin jumped ahead 3-0 to start the match with his “powerful groundstrokes” in the words of Ryan. Ryan adjusted to the game of Chin to battle back on a 6-1 run to take the set 6-4. Chin stormed back to take the second set 6-3, with his signature shot of a down the line topspin backhand.
In the third set tiebreaker, Ryan lost a long point and soon found himself down 8-4. He battled back, but would ultimately fall 10-7.
The Melrose Open was dominated by the heat, but Wakefield participants showed up well, with three finalists and five semifinalists.