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Diaz, Nicolescu win qualifier

By Ann Miller


Two club pros who played collegiately at SC — Southern Cal and South Carolina — won U.S. Open Hawaii Pacific Sectional Qualifying singles titles Sunday at the Patsy T. Mink CORP Tennis Complex.

Maureen Diaz, from Glendale, Calif., defended her women's championship with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Punahou junior Scout Shutter. Diaz, 29, was an Easter Bowl finalist in 1998, then played No. 1 for UC Irvine as a freshman before transferring to USC.

Angelo Nicolescu, who won the Pacific Northwest qualifier last year, also created a sequel to his U.S. Open dream. He stopped former Hawaii Pacific player Anton Samuilau, 6-2, 6-3.

Nicolescu, 30, grew up playing at his father's tennis academy in Romania and was the country's top junior in the late '90s while competing against the likes of Andy Roddick and Marat Safin.

The winners advance, along with winners from the other 15 USTA Sections, to the U.S. Open National Playoffs at New Haven, Conn., in August. Singles champions there get a wild card into the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament at Flushing, N.Y., Aug. 23-26.

"That would be crazy," said Shutter, 16. "I would be so, like, happy. It would be a good thing because I would have nothing to lose playing against all these adults. It would be awesome."

Diaz and Erik Nelson-Kortland won the mixed doubles title in a super-tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 10-7 over Samuilau and Sarah Dvorak, a Waiakea sophomore who lost to Mililani's Alyssa Tobita in the singles final of last month's state high school championship.

Diaz and Nelson-Kortland, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the first set, also advance to New Haven, where the winning team gets a place in the U.S. Open mixed doubles main draw.

Shutter, just coming into her own in her third year of tennis, will have more chances. She lost the first two games, then broke Diaz's serve in the third. That would be the highlight against a Riviera Country Club pro too patient, proud and talented to lose. Diaz, 3 inches shorter than Shutter at 5 foot 4, won the last 10 games to finish in just under an hour.

"She should just play as many tournaments as possible," Diaz said of Shutter. "This is the best experience to have, just to play against pros and open players. You're never going to get anything like this against juniors."

She could not turn down an opportunity to defend — and vacation — in Hawaii. Along the way she gave Shutter, whose brother Cayman is a quarterback on the University of Hawaii football team, a valuable playing lesson.

"I gave her too many easy points," said Shutter, recently chosen to compete in the USTA National Open (16s) this July. "When you play a good player you can't give them opportunities. I need to work on that."

Shutter was sixth in the state high school championship last month and might have been coming off her best win. Saturday she defeated top-seeded Alexus "Ace" Jones, a 14-year-old from Florida who works with Serena Williams' coach, was ranked in the 18s at age 9 and has her own website, foundation and Under Armour ad.

Nicolescu, head pro at Cascade Athletic Club, in Greshman, Ore., since 2007, broke Samuilau's serve in the first game and finished in time for his 11:30 a.m. flight home.

The former Sea Warrior from Belarus now lives in Kona. Samuilau is returning to the game after a layoff that appeared to have little impact Saturday, when he lost just one game while winning two matches. He lost the first two games against Nicolescu, who patiently won almost every big point in a match much closer than the score.

"I'm glad Angelo showed me how guys play now," Samuilau said. "What a level."

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