Aggressive baseliner Jorge Guerra scored his best victory last month in the North Florida Designated Tournament in Tallahassee.
More challenging than the six matches to the title was facing his practice partner and friend Garrett Betsarakis in the final.
"In some ways it's easy and other ways it's hard," said Guerra, 16. "It's easy because I've gotten to know Garrett's game since we practice and play each other a lot, and he knows mine. But it's mostly hard because he's a friend."
Through the contest, Guerra won four straight-set matches and two three-setters. In the final, top seed Guerra beat No. 5 Betsarakis 6-2, 7-5.
"In this last year, I've improved both technically and tactically, and my confidence in my strokes has really improved," Guerra said. "I like my backhand down the line and surprise a lot of people with it, but I also feel comfortable with my forehand."
Guerra and his younger sister came to St. Petersburg with their parents about three years ago to escape the stressful political atmosphere in Venezuela.
Guerra's mother, a former college player in her homeland, introduced him to tennis when he was 6, but at the time he preferred other sports until he and some friends began playing two years later. From that point on, Guerra became serious about learning the game.
"Jorge is an incredibly hard worker, and his game is progressing along," said Rich Terrell, who works with both Guerra and Betsarakis. "... I try to impress on Jorge to not get too tired too early, but to relax and just enjoy and take advantage of the strokes he has."
Guerra has recently had impressive doubles results. At the state doubles tournament, he played to the final in the backdraw. In the Florida Bush Open, Guerra reached the boys 16 doubles final with Wesley Chapel's Paul Polarczyk.
Guerra hopes to become among the top 15 players in Florida's boys 16 singles division. Longterm, he said he plans to work toward getting a full tennis scholarship to college and study engineering.
The rising junior hopes to help his Northeast High team earn to a trip to the state tournament. As a freshman in 2005, Guerra was unbeaten in the No. 1 position and was named the Times' all-Pinellas County player of the year. Last year, Guerra lost one match in the top position. Both years, Guerra advanced to states.
This weekend, Guerra hopes to match his Tallahassee results at a designated contest in St. Augustine.
LEAGUE NEWS: Countryside Country Club was named champion in the 7.5 division, and Royal Racquet Club was crowned the 8.5 winner.
Countryside tied with St. Petersburg Tennis Center with a 6-1 record but had 19 individual wins compared to SPTC's 17. Royal had an 8-1 record. Both teams advance to the USTA Florida sectional tournament in January.
- In mixed doubles, Tampa Aces/Isla del Sol won the seven-team 7.0 division, Royal Racquet won the 8.0 division among eight teams and McMullen won the 9.0 three-team division.
NET SHOTS: St. Petersburg's Skyler Fanning reached the boys 10-and-under final in last month's Beat the Heat Rookie Tournament in Orlando. In the final, Fanning fell 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-7.
COMING UP: Royal Racquet Club hosts a Summer Designated Classic beginning Aug. 11 for men's and women's open, 35-and-over, 45 and 55 age divisions. Call 799-3200. ... Hot, Hot, Hot Rookie Tournament begins Aug. 11 at Largo's Southwest Tennis Complex. Call 518-3125.
News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to & email@example.com; or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756.