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ARIAS AND KRICKSTEIN FOCUS ON FUN

Jimmy Arias chased down a shot and his momentum carried him off the court and into the crowd, where he promptly took a seat in the bleachers and started chatting with a fan.

"You're not 40 yet!" his opponent and friend Aaron Krickstein said from across the net.

A few points later, when he missed a forehand long he muttered, "Now that was 40."

Arias, the Grand Island native and former No. 5 player on the ATP tour, turns 40 on Aug. 15. But on Sunday night, he showed that he still has plenty of game as the main attraction for around 500 fans at the Night of Stars at the Amherst Hills Tennis Club.

He hit some fine passing shots and drew out some sharp baseline rallies. Arguably with a little gentlemanly help from Krickstein, Arias won the abbreviated pro-set match, 8-6.

Still, he asked jokingly in the early part of the match if they could play best three out of five games.

It was a long day with a healthy number of sets already under his belt that made Arias a little nervous.

Are playing in these comedy central, no-pressure exhibition matches fun?

"Well, ask me after the match," Arias said, after he finished a question-and-answer session with various tennis players and instructors who came to Amherst Hills for the first two-day Eastern Tennis Symposium. "I've been playing tennis so long, it was my career for so long, that I don't like to practice, for sure, anymore and my body is tired and sore."

Arias plays just two tournaments a year these days, and one of them happened to fall Sunday morning in Lancaster, Pa. He played Murphy Jensen, and after splitting the first two sets had to default in the third to make his flight to Buffalo in time. Murphy, who played doubles with his brother Luke at the Night of Stars, was scheduled to take a later flight.

The Jensen brothers, who won the 1993 French Open men's doubles title, are aces of the tennis comedy tour. They entertained the crowd with their banter and antics -- Luke would often throw his racket down when the doubles play failed to come to him while Murphy hit a perfect winning volley, from his back.

During the Arias-Krickstein singles match, the Jensens provided some color commentary, with Murphy playing the role of NBC analyst Mary Carillo. Murphy also gave the crowd some insight to his game.

"I was No. 1 on the tour," he said, "socially."

"Unfortunately," Luke reminded him, "they don't pay for that."

In the doubles showdown, the Jensen brothers won the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (4), but Arias and Krickstein won the second set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (6). With the evening already late and a good number of the fans departed, the players agreed to a "super tiebreak" -- first one to 10 wins. The Jensens took the super tiebreaker, 10-8, and the match.

It was an impressive ending to a solid weekend for Western New York tennis. The symposium, the first of its kind in the Buffalo area, attracted about 70 participants and was deemed successful by Todd Miller, the executive director and head pro at Amherst Hills.

Sunday night's exhibition match served as a fund-raiser for the Buffalo Niagara Community Tennis Association.
e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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