University at Buffalo tennis players dominate the Men's Top 10 rankings for 2010. The UB players selected are: Vusa Hove, No. 1; Marcello Mazzetto, No. 3, Alex Kalinin, No. 4; and Eric Rothstein, tied for 10th.
Rankings are based on participation in a minimum of two local tournaments and head-to-head matches. Local experts and this writer contributed their observations for the final determination of these rankings:
1. Vusa Hove: His game has improved tremendously since he played fifth singles for UB last spring. His crowning achievement came in the Muny Open Championships, where he defeated Matt Kane, 6-1, 6-1, in the semifinals and Joe Schafer, last year's top-ranked player, 6-2, 6-3, in the final. In both matches he displayed a brilliant forehand, steadiness, and a tremendous mind-set. He also won four other tournaments. Hove feels that the key to his improvement was the help that he received from Lee Nickell, his head coach at UB. Nickell changed Hove's toss and showed him how to serve with more power and spin. He made Hove's volleys more penetrating and deeper. Most important, Nickell made Hove's forehand a real weapon and improved his mental game. Hove is a sophomore from Zimbabwe.
2. Joe Schafer: He had another great year. Although he lost in the Muny final, he defeated Mazzetto, Stephen Sayoc, Ken White twice, and split two matches with Kalinin. He is a sophomore at Davidson College, where he played first singles, a noteworthy achievement in the strong Southern Conference. He has always been a power hitter, but now he appears to also be more patient and devises more ways to capitalize on his opponent's weaknesses. Schafer feels his serve-and-volley game has gotten stronger due to the many doubles matches he has played in college.
3. Marcello Mazzetto: The senior from Brazil was a stalwart on the UB team and won the deciding match against Ball State, 6-4, 7-5, rallying from a 4-2 deficit in the second set, to clinch the Mid-American Conference team championship for UB, 4-3. Mazzetto has a devastating forehand and doesn't let his emotions bother him. He is intelligent and tough to defeat as he will stick to his game plan. His serve has been clocked in the low 120s. He is an excellent doubles player, going undefeated in league play. He defeated Hove, White, and Kalinan in tournament play and lost a close three-setter to Schafer.
4. Alex Kalinin: The UB junior alternately played fourth, fifth and sixth singles last year. He was recruited from Russia by former coach Sharif Zaher. He hits a heavy topspin forehand that he uses to open the court. Kalinin will run around his backhand, even if it puts him out of position. This strategy worked as he split two tournament matches with Schafer and lost close three-setters to Mazzetto and Hove. He is in phenomenal physical shape, which he attributes to Nickell.
5. Alex Parker: He has one of the strongest forehands in the area and he hits it much flatter than other players in the top 10. He used it well in his 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over White and his 6-1, 6-2 win over Boris Borovcanin. In addition, he lost a close three-setter to Hove. He is one of the few players in the top 10 to hit a one-handed backhand with both topspin and slice. At only 17, his game keeps improving, especially his mental game. Parker, who is home schooled, is also a top golfer. He holds the junior course record for one round in tournament play at the Orchard Park Country Club, a 68 he shot two years ago.
6. Matt Kane: He reached the semifinals of the Muny Championships, where he lost to Hove, and won a summer Village Glen tournament, defeating Sayoc, 6-4, 7-5, in an earlier round. His most impressive match was his three-set rematch with Hove at a Miller tournament. "After losing, 6-1, 6-1, to Hove in the Muny tournament I was very discouraged," Kane said. "I tried to overpower Hove and that was a big mistake." He revamped his game for the rematch and waited for a good shot to approach the net. He also alternated both his ground strokes with heavy topspin and slice and won the first set, 6-1, with an array of shots that left Hove stunned. Hove recouped to win the second set 6-2 and was tied with Kane at 3-3 in the third set before winning 6-3. Kane alternates between first and second singles at Niagara University.
7. (tied) Stephen Sayoc: He is the director of tennis at South Towns Tennis Club. He reached the semifinals of the Muny Championships, defeating White, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the quarterfinals, before he was defeated by Schafer. He had 4-1 leads in both sets in his loss to Kane at the Village Glen. Sayoc, who is 41 but could easily pass for 30, is in great physical shape. It is amazing that he plays as well as he does as his tournament play was limited this year. Why? He is heavily involved in Beach Tennis, which he plays throughout the United States. He is the No. 1 ranked Beach Tennis player in the United States and hopes to play a full schedule in the U.S. and abroad this year.
7. (tied) Ken White: The legendary White continues to amaze everyone. He admits to being a "shade over 45 years of age." For almost 20 years the former UB All American and Western New York Hall of Famer has been ranked among The Buffalo News top 10 male players, which is unprecedented. He is also ranked in the top 10 nationally in the 45-over division. White defeated Borovcanin, 7-6, 6-2, in a summer tournament, and played close matches with Schafer, Mazzetto, and Hove. His booming ground strokes and mental toughness are phenomenal for a player of any age.
9. Boris Borovcanin: He defeated Rothstein, 6-1, 6-4, during the summer and also played close matches with Hove and White. The former Nichols star is playing first singles for the University of Rochester. The biggest improvement has been with his serve, which is flat and consistent.
10. (Tied) Eric Rothstein: He is the player no one likes to play. "Eric is as strong as a bull," Nickell said. He is athletic, fights for every point, and frustrates opponents by running down every ball. His strokes are unorthodox but effective. He defeated Parker and Tony Miller during the summer, both in straight sets. He has finished his eligibility at UB, where he is now a medical student with a 3.91 undergraduate average.
10. (Tied) Tony Miller: The 16-year-old's forehand is among the best in Western New York. Miller's play in the Marsh Cup (team matches with Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Toronto) in June was outstanding. Russ Reinagel, who was Buffalo's captain, said, "Miller's improvement over the past year has been remarkable. He is going to be one of Buffalo's best." During the summer Miller defeated Joe Zelic and played well in losses to Hove and Rothstein.