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Simmonds, Asatrian One Step Closer to the US Open

June 18, 2014 11:16 AM
Rima Asatrian hits a forehand, working her way to a Championship win.
Former world No. 219 Phillip Simmonds captured the crown without dropping a set.
University of North Florida alumni Hleb Maslau and Simona Weymar take home the mixed doubles title.

By Andrew Eichenholz

Sitting in traffic is a helpless feeling. But sitting in traffic caused by a fatal car accident as her quarterfinal match time in the US Open National Playoffs Eastern Qualifier quickly approached? That was torture. Eighteen-year-old Rima Asatrian of Tenafly, NJ, overcame the adversity to go on to win the entire tournament, defeating world No. 761 Petra Januskova of Canada  in the final. In the men’s draw, former world No. 219 Phillip Simmonds captured the crown in dominating fashion, not dropping a set all week.

Rushing onto the court after her eagerly awaited arrival, Asatrian composed herself. Composure would be the theme of the rest of the tournament for her, as she overcame obstacles to advance to the US Open National Playoffs Championships in Connecticut this August.

In the semifinals, Asatrian found herself in a familiar spot. She had played Magda Okruashvili two years prior in the final of the same tournament. In 2012, when Asatrian was 16, she fell in a relatively routine, straight-sets match. This year, the righty turned the tables, advancing to the final once again with a tough straight-sets victory of her own.

Fast forward a day, and Asatrian found an obstacle in her path once again. Playing a world-ranked player is tough enough, but the mental toughness added when her final’s opponent, Januskova won the first set, 6-0? Tremendous. It wouldn’t matter, as Asatrian, who grew up training in the USTA’s Player Development Program at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the location of this event, bounced back to grind out the title with a 0-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Simmonds, a former touring pro, Long Island native and current teaching professional for SPORTIME, did not face as much difficulty in his title run, losing an astoundingly low 29 games in eight matches. In the final, the 28-year-old used his experience and toughness in windy conditions to fight off the challenge of local favorite and former St. John’s University player Gary Kushnirovich, 6-3, 6-2.  

With his victory in the Eastern qualifier, Simmonds also earned himself a berth in the final of the men’s tournament in New Haven.

Vying for an even more direct trip to the US Open were the 19 teams in the mixed doubles field. Even current and former cast members of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” LuAnn de Lesseps and Jill Zarin got in on the action, getting eliminated simultaneously on indoor courts during a rainy day in Queens.

The eventual champions were University of North Florida alumni Hleb Maslau and Simona Weymar, both from Southampton, NY. The duo fought through a tough draw full of current and former college standouts to advance to the Mixed Doubles Championships with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Elizabeth Kobak and Cory Parr.

The final rounds of the mixed doubles qualifier, from which the winner will earn a main-draw entry into the US Open, will also be held in New Haven.

For all four players who advanced at the Eastern qualifiers, their path to the US Open is clear, and it is now about getting through the home stretch to earn a return trip to Flushing Meadows. Twelve other US Open National Playoff qualifiers around the country will determine the opponents of Simmonds, Asatrian and Maslau and Weymar in Connecticut, bringing their dreams of reaching the US Open that much closer to a reality.

 

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