Jan. 5, 2005 - When Carlos Bermudez took the court Dec. 29 at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Road, to compete in the United States Tennis Associations' National Winter Championships, the 12-year-old Tucson native found himself battling much more than just a formidable opponent.
As if waging a war against blistering winds and spotty bouts of rain wasn't tough enough for the last remaining player from Tucson in the main draw, Bermudez drew the No. 6 ranked Christian Harrison from the John Newcombe (otherwise known as Newks) Academy in New Braunfels, Texas in his round of 32 match up.
Bermudez, ranked No. 20 nationally, and Harrison were just two of 512 12- and 14-year-olds competing in the annual national championships held in Tucson and hosted by the El Conquistador from Dec. 27 through Jan.1.
"I didn't have to hit it hard and it would fly out," said Bermudez of battling the 20-mph winds, which gusted up to 30-mph at times.
Bermudez was on his own against the elements. The only thing that can delay any of the 4,000 matches that will be played over the course of the two back-to-back national championship tournaments (see Copper Bowl page 37) that the El Conquistador will host over the 10-day period in January is rain.
Trailing five games to three in the third and final set against Harrison, those rains finally came and washed out the afternoon's matches. The rainout forced the cancellation of 200 of the day's 250 matches and was the second or third rainout in the past six years at the winter championships, said Jennifer Fuchs, director of tennis at the El Conquistador.
Nearly 24 hours would elapse before Bermudez and Harrison could complete their match, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win for the 10-year-old Texan. The unexpected downpour put a strain not only on the players, but also tournament director Don Dickinson as well. Dickinson estimates that it took nearly 10 hours for him to reschedule the 200 canceled matches, and finished somewhere around 5 a.m. Already working on a tight schedule with the pending Copper Bowl slated to open Jan. 1, Dickinson was forced to trim his consolidation rounds, which initially drew the ire of many parents.
"We've never quite lost a day like that," said Dickinson. "That's what we call a tournament director's nightmare."
Since its inception in 1988, Dickinson has personally witnessed the 12 and 14-year-old National Winter Championships grow from 183 players, eight of which were girls, to the more than 500 competing this year. Now the tourney draws between 3,000 and 4,000 people to the Tucson metro area.
The influx of people to the area generates between $1 million to $1.5 million for the local economy, said Dickinson.
The thousands of players and families that annually flock to the tourney will stay in either one of the dozen tourney sponsored hotels or at other local properties. For many of these tennis families, the main attraction to the tournament, aside from the tennis, is the timing. Families arrive in the seasonably warm Southern Arizona climate from all over the United States at a time when most players are on their holiday vacation.
On Dec. 29, the weather took an uncharacteristic turn for the worse, sending players and parents scrambling for the parking lot. When play resumed the following day, and over the course of the tourney's final two days, eight national champions were crowned in categories ranging from Boys' 14 Singles to Girls' 12 Doubles. Winners hailed from states as close as California and Texas and as far as New Jersey and Florida. Of the 512 players, only six were from Tucson.
Boys 14 Singles Match: (1) Chase Buchanan (Ohio) d. (2) Bradley Klahn (Caif.) 6-4; 6-4
Boys 12 Singles Match: (2) Jack Sock (Neb.) d. (3) Jordan Cox (Ga.) 0-6; 6-4; 6-1
Girls 14 Singles Match: (1) Brittany Augustine (Calif.) d. (5) Nadja Gilchrist (N.Y.)
Girls 12 Singles Match: (1) Christina Mchale (N.J.) d. (2) Jordaan Sanford (Calif.)
Boys 14 Doubles Match: (2) Kells/Samaha d. Harrison/Llompart 6-3; 6-2
Boys 12 Doubles Match: (1) Cox/Sock d. (2) Bernstein/Bloom 6-3; 6-4
Girls 14 Doubles Match: (1) Alexander/Embree d. (2) Hill-Hurtado/Oudin 7-5; 4-6; 7-6(6)
Girls 12 Doubles Match: (8) Sanders/Walker d. (9) Sanford/Scott 6-1; 7-5