Cruz earns return trip to finals


Bobby Cruz prepares to serve against Tony Kim during their semis game in the men’s open singles event in the 2017 White Coconut Tennis Classic yesterday at the Pacific Islands Club court. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Former CNMI National Team member Bobby Cruz got another chance to win his first men’s open singles title in the White Coconut Tennis Classic after advancing to the finals yesterday.

Cruz swept junior player Tony Kim, 6-2, 6-1, in their semis match at the Pacific Islands Club court, to gain a finals entry for the second straight year. He lost to Carol Lee in the 2016 title game, 1-6, 3-6.

Cruz will be going for the division championship against Moris Villanueva, who fell short in his bid for the men’s open crown in the past two years. In 2015, Villanueva bowed to Luke Beling in their title match, 0-6, 0-6, while last year, the former was forced to retire due to cramps while leading in the second set of his semis match against Lee, 1-5. Before his withdrawal, Villanueva went toe-to-toe against Lee, who pulled off a 7-5 victory in the opening set.

Villanueva is back in the finals after eliminating CNMI coach Jeff Race in the first semis game last Saturday, 6-4, 6-3. Villanueva has yet to drop a set in the 2017 edition of the annual tournament as he also swept Colin Ramsey in the quarterfinals last week, 6-3, 6-3. The second-seeded Race, on the other hand, needed a super-tiebreaker third set to oust Ken Song, 5-7, 7-5, 13-11, and set up a Final Four duel against Villanueva at the bottom half of the draw.

Meanwhile, Cruz is also in the finale of the mixed-up doubles after getting back-to-back wins over the weekend.

The second-ranked Cruz and his teammate Richard Steele first defeated Seo Hee Lee and Race in the quarterfinals last Saturday, 6-3, 6-4, and then downed No. 5 seed Andy Kim and Colin Ramsey in yesterday’s semis game, 6-2, 6-1, to book the finals berth at the bottom half of the draw.

At the upper half of the draw, No. 1 seed Daniel Kang and Dong Min Lee also posted a pair of wins over the weekend to set up a title showdown against Cruz and Steele. Dong Min and Kang prevailed over No. 7 seed Steven Goodwin and Seung Won Lee in the quarterfinals last Saturday, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to arrange a semis duel against Isabel Heras and Hyunmin Cho.

Sixth-ranked Cho and Heras earlier booted out Jaeyun Jung and Tania Tan, 6-3, 6-4, to enter the Final Four. In the semis, Heras and Cho took the first set, 4-6, to boost their finals bid. However, Dong Min and Kang regrouped and swept the last two sets, 6-4, 10-6, to make it to the finals.

The title game between the Top 2 seeds in the draw will be played today at 2pm. The championship games in the women’s singles, boys U10, U12, U14, and U16 singles, girls U10, U12, and U14 singles, and men’s over 40 singles will also take place today.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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