News from Around Banderas Bay | August 2006
|Navarro Wins Title at XXII Copa Canto Del Sol|
Bob Cohen - PVNN
· XXII Copa Tournament Results
|Finalist 23 year old Juan Elizondo warming up prior to the Championship match.|
|Champion Lazaro Navarro as he came out for the Championship match.|
|Navarro stepping up to serve the championship point in the third set tiebreaker.|
|Not a bad Friday afternoon at the Canto Del Sol Tennis Club - not a seat to be found for the final event.|
It was a battle somewhat similar to a Frazier –Ali or Hearns - Leonard fight, except this was tennis, not boxing. In Puerto Vallarta, at the XXII Copa Canto Del Sol professional finals, the match was as well received as a Roger Federer – Rafael Nadal final. Top seed and Cuban born Lazaro Navarro took on second seeded Juan Elizondo from Leon; now playing out of Guadalajara.
The two breezed through all their preliminary matches on route to the final, held at 4:00 PM on Court #2. A year earlier at this same event the two met in the quarterfinals, but Elizondo was the top seed and Navarro was unseeded, coming back from a layoff. In an emotion filled battle, Navarro won that one and went on to take the Copa XXI. The 32 year old Cuban, who now plays out of Mexico City has been playing actively this year and earned his top seed.
I had an opportunity to speak with the recently turned 23 year old Elizondo prior to the match. He has been traveling recently, playing Challenger tournaments; those with smaller purses, but much larger than typical Mexican pro tournaments. He is currently ranked #430 in the world, and is in Vallarta this week mainly because he is the point leader in the Jalisco Circuit that is in pursuit of the new Mazda that will be awarded in November. Asking Juan who was second, the answer came easily; “Navarro.”
Juan has just returned from covering a good part of the Western Hemisphere, playing tournaments in Ecuador and Venezuela that has $25,000 purses, then on to California and Kentucky for tournaments with $75,000 purses (dollars, not pesos). He made the 2nd round in Ecuador and the semifinals in Venezuela, but lost in the first round in the U.S. events. After our talk I wished Juan the best of luck and he promised me a great match.
How right he was! When the players took the court at 4PM, it was apparent that the two have dramatically improved their games in the past year, strengthening some minor weaknesses and building on their strengths. The Navarro strength was his big booming serve, powerful and deadly forehand and his net play. Elizondo, who hits an unorthodox two handed forehand as well as backhand, added much power and accuracy in his groundstrokes, as well as an improved serve.
The stands were packed for the finals. The majority of fans were rooting for the younger Mexican, but the undercurrent feeling was that Navarro would take the match. Reality hit as each player held serve for the first eight games of the opening set, with almost each game going to deuce. At 4-4, Elizondo broke the tough Navarro serve to lead 5-4 and proceeded to serve the set out at love. The first set saw plenty of power, with both players serving four aces. The opening set lasted exactly one hour.
The crowd grew in anticipation of an Elizondo victory, but Navarro raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, breaking serve twice in the process. Juan broke back and closed the lead to 5-3, but Lazaro served the 40 minute set out, winning 6-3. Lazaro had three aces; Elizondo none. Juan also abandoned his two handed forehand midway through the set, attempting to slice the ball more to bring Navarro in closer, hitting a more awkward shot.
Navarro had momentum and confidence going for him as the players began the final set, and with Elizondo serving, he needed to establish an early lead, however Navarro broke serve to take a 1-0 lead with his serve, broken only twice in two sets coming. Juan, playing with guts and determination broke right back to even the set and each player held serve until Navarro broke Elizondo again to take a 3-2 lead and potential command of the match. Juan broke back at 40-5, once again evening the set up at three games apiece. The next two games saw each competitor holding serve at love to tie it at four.
Juan held serve to lead 5-4, only needing a break to win the championship. Navarro built a 40-love lead, but Elizondo passed him with three consecutive deadly passing shots to bring the game to deuce, just two points from a possible championship. Juan, lunging for a wide forehand slipped badly on the following point and Lazaro held serve to bring the set to a 5-5 tie. Once again, Elizondo held serve to lead 6-5, but Navarro followed suit, bring it down to a tiebreaker, for the purse, trophy and points towards the new Mazda.
Navarro opened the tiebreak with four consecutive points, dropped one and added another twice to build a commanding 6-2 lead, just a single point from the championship. Juan, behind the urging of the crowd hit some spectacular shots to win the next three points, closing the gap to 6-5. The match couldn’t have been more thrilling, as Navarro served a volleyed a winner to take the championship 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). The match lasted close to three hours.
In the final set and tiebreak, there were many objections and complaints about calls from the chair, mostly by Navarro which resulted in this writer’s opinion, some poor sportsmanship. There was a bit of racquet throwing and at match point, Navarro barely shook Elizondo’s hand, letting whistles of fans grow loud. Whistling in tennis is the same as booing in other sports.
For tennis fans, regardless of the outcome we couldn’t have seen a more spectacular final. Nearing the end of the tiebreak the Vallarta skies exploded as well, with a huge downpour. After all, it was only fitting for such an explosive match. Congratulations to both competitors; a great win for Navarro and a most disappointing loss for Elizondo.