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Charlie Garfinkel: Miller pros sweep open Muny titles

Miller Tennis Center’s teaching professionals won all five Open Division Singles and Doubles Championships in the recent Municipal Tennis Championship held at Delaware Park.

This never had been accomplished in the 94-year history of Western New York’s longest-running tournament.

The Open winners and their titles: Men’s Open Singles – Sergio Arevalillo; Men’s Open Doubles – Arevalillo and Pablo Alvarez Diaz; Women Open Singles – Marta Morga Alonso; Women’s Open Doubles – Morga Alonso and Margarita Kotok; Mixed Open Doubles – Morga Alonso and Alvarez Diaz.

Tony Miller and Jonah Epstein, also Miller teaching pros, lost in the Men’s Open Doubles final.

Arevalillo played an exciting match against Alvarez Diaz in the men’s singles final. The first set could have gone either way, with Arevalillo eking out a 7-6 win. The first set was as well played as any singles final set that has ever been played in the Muny Championships. In the second set, Arevalillo won handily, 6-2.

“Pablo played extremely well in the first set, and I was fortunate to eke out such a close win,” Arevalillo said, “I was fortunate to pick my game up a little bit in the second set, and his level of play dropped slightly.” Arevalillo noted that his game plan was to be as aggressive as he could.

“I try to wear my opponents down; regardless of who I play,” he said. “I also have a never-say-die attitude.”

Arevalillo said it’s always tough playing Alvarez Diaz. In addition to being best friends, Alvarez Diaz was extremely helpful in recruiting Arevalillo to the University at Buffalo. Arevalillo also gives great credit to UB tennis coach Lee Nickell for recruiting him. He picked UB over outstanding colleges such as St. John’s, Temple and Yale.

Arevalillo, born in Madrid, started playing tennis at age 3. Although he showed great promise as a youth, he didn’t start playing any tournaments until he was 11 years old. He improved so much that a local tennis club gave him a tennis scholarship. As his prowess increased, he started traveling to play in tournaments in the 11-12 division. At 14, he went to tournaments throughout Spain, Portugal, Greece and France. He owes much of his tennis success to his former coach Javier Perez. Perez helped him greatly with his mental game, was always positive with his advice and was responsible for Arevalillo’s reputation of being a gentleman on the court.

Arevalillo starred at UB the last two years at first singles. His greatest win occurred in 2015 when he was playing in the Mid-American Conference finals against a Binghamton player. He lost the first set, 6-1, won the second, 6-2, and was down, 5-1, in the third set. UB needed Arevalillo’s win to claim the MAC title and a berth in the NCAA Division I Championships. Arevalillo came back to tie the match, 6-6. He then went down three match points before rallying to win one of greatest matches in UB history.

Arevalillo has loved every minute of his time in Buffalo and at UB.

“I really have enjoyed the city of Buffalo,” he said. “There is so much to do and everyone is so friendly. Teaching tennis at Miller is so much fun. I will be teaching throughout the fall and possibly further as I work toward my degree in sociology and marketing.”

Morga Alonso defeated Nasha Ghajar, 6-3, 6-2, in a well-played women’s open final. Morga Alonso’s great ground strokes, mental toughness, court demeanor and steadiness impressed the spectators. She is very hard to play against, as she has no apparent weaknesses.

Morga Alonso was born in Madrid and became interested in tennis when she was 7 when she saw some youngsters playing tennis on a nearby court. From the ages of 7 to 10, she played twice a week at a local club. As her prowess improved, she moved to another club that had better competition and older kids to play against.

When she approached age 15, it was evident that she was going to be an outstanding player. She actually played in a few Women’s Tennis Association pro tournaments; meeting with mixed success. She was ranked No. 2 in Madrid in the 16 & Under Girls Division and 29th in Spain.

As word spread through recruiting networks in the United States, she was offered full scholarships to the University of Memphis, Penn State and Indiana University. She decided to attend Memphis because it had defeated Virginia, the nation’s No. 1 team the year before. She played third singles for Memphis this past year.

Pablo Alvarez Diaz and Morga Alonso have had a long-distance relationship and have been dating for three years. When a teaching opportunity opened up at Miller Tennis Center, she was pleased to get the opportunity to work there.

“Marta Alonso is a great role model for our students, especially the girls,” said Todd Miller, who owns the Miller Tennis Center with his wife. “She has a wonderful style of play, is very intelligent, patient, and has been a great addition to our coaching staff.”

Wayne Martin was the tournament director for the Municipal tournament. He acknowledged that the number of entries were down quite a bit from past years. However, there are many tournaments being played at local clubs and many players also participate in local USTA matches.

“I know that the numbers were lower than in years past,” Martin said. “However, players were pleased that matches generally ran on time and their were very few conflicts.”


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