While all eyes were on Boston the Peachtree Invitational once again showed that Atlanta is the home of the premier southern platform tennis tournament. Players came from as far away as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, and New York for their chance to experience some southern hospitality and snatch up some highly coveted National points.
However for the first time since 2010, it was a Region VII team who prevailed. Atlanta’s own Graham McNerney and newly adopted southerner Jerry Albrikes defeated Ohioans Eric Miller and Leland Morris by 6-0, 6-3 to take the title.
Round of 16
The first shock in the tournament came in the round of 16’s where regular finalists Steve Gareleck and Brian O’Connor fell victim to the Atlanta’s own Bob Stratton and Trevor Short in a grueling 2 hour 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win for the local boys. Trevor Short, new to the game just last year, showed his raw tennis skills with an unseen amount of chip and charge combined with seemingly second nature forehand volleys.
The tournament was a good showing for Atlanta’s David Eastman and Joe Perdue who made the quarter-finals unseeded for the second straight year. The first quarter-final saw their run end as the number three seeded Ohio boys Eric Heil and Dan Mott cruised to a 6-1,6-1 win over in what seemed like 25 minutes.
The second quarter-final put the five time Peachtree Invitational champions of Peter Lauer and Jay Bailey against the two seeds Leland Morris and the platform tennis journeyman extraordinaire, Eric Miller. Seriously though, is there a tournament this guy doesn’t play? The first set was a tight battle as Lauer and Bailey broke out to an early lead. Eric and Leland refused to go down without a fight and steadied their play to secure the first set 6-4. After that, it seemed the Atlanta team got flustered and the two seeds refused to loosen their hold over their match. Leading to a comfortable second set score of 6-2 to the visitors.
Next up came the battle of the Atlanta teams whose similarities forecasted an entertaining battle. The experience of Bob Stratton and the talent of Trevor Short versus the patience of John Moneypenny and unbelievable shot making ability of the former #108 ranked tennis player in the world, Doug Flach. Doug and John got hot early and jumped on Stratton and Short to take the first set 6-4. The set break gave Bob and Trevor a chance to regroup and in typical Stratton fashion, his second set was much better than his first leading his team to a 6-2 second. From here on out it was Trevor Short who stole the show leading his team to a 7-5 third set and a ticket to the semi-finals.
Last up, the team of McNerney and Albrikes had to defend home turf and hold off the strong team of New York’s Russ Jellinek and Charlotte’s Greg Schild. The first set was incredibly even with both teams being locked at 4-4. It was then Jerry decided to pull out an incredibly well timed net cord shot to earn the break. After a hold to secure the break, the one seeds wrapped up the first set 6-4. From there it seemed they grew in confidence, as Graham soon took control over the court to secure a quicker second set 6-1.
Albrikes-McNerney were first on the court to take on the surprise team of Stratton and Short. Stratton and Short were slow to get into the match, allowing Albrikes to take control and seize a quick 4-1 lead. But after a string of great points won by the underdogs, they gathered momentum and put the one seeds down in a 4-5 hole. Albrikes’ experience showed as he steadied the ship and led his team to a first set victory of 7-5. The second set was a violent affair, much to the enjoyment of the audience, where McNerney exploited the movement of Stratton by using the FYM shot to full effect over 5 times. After letting go of their grasp on the first set, it seemed Stratton and Short’s backs had been broken as they lost the second in a much quicker 6-3. This match proved to be the greatest test for Albrikes-McNerney and was said to be the most entertaining match of the whole weekend.
As the Atlanta players did their best to hit each other as hard as possible, it was a much calmer affair as Morris-Miller secured a seemingly comfortable victory over the fellow Ohio team of Heil and Mott 6-3, 6-2.
With perfect paddle weather of overcast skies and temperatures in the 40’s, the final took place in front of a large crowd at Cherokee Town and Country Club. McNerney started out on fire as he dominated the whole court to lead his team to a very fast 6-0 first set. Morris-Miller decided they had had enough of trying to beat fire with fire as they slowed the game down in an attempt to calm the red hot team of Albrikes-McNerney. Initially it paid off, as Morris-Miller won their two first games of the match to lead the second set 2-0. It did not take long for the one seeds to adjust, as they proceeded to win 6 out of the next 7 games to take the finals 6-0, 6-3.
It was Graham’s first National Ranking Tournament victory at the young age of 21. We will be checking the history books to determine if this is in fact a record, although it would not be the most impressive one, as he is seemingly the only 21 year old out there. Albrikes added another title to his long list that he brought down with him to Region VII. It will be interesting to see how the newly formed team of the Region VII’s strongest players can compete at the National level.