A happy return
Marini defends his 18-under singles title at Taco Bell tourney
One year ago, Mark Marini found out about the Taco Bell Western Slope Open tennis tournament at the last minute and he entered and ended up winning the boys 18-under singles title.
Marini, 18, came back to Grand Junction this summer and defended his title, defeating Aaron Gossage 5-7, 6-1, (10-7) in the final Wednesday at the Elliott Tennis Center at Colorado Mesa University.
“For me, it was a better match than last year (in the finals),” Marini said. “It was tight the whole way.”
Marini, from New Holland, Pennsylvania, started playing tennis three years ago and played in his first tournament last year in the Taco Bell Western Slope Open while visiting his sister, Joanna (Marini) Dindinger. Mark Marini graduated high school in May. He is playing in the men’s open singles draw starting today.
Marini struggled to find a rhythm in the first set against Gossage.
“I was trying to get a rhythm on the court (after the first set) with my forehand,” Marini said. “The thin air and altitude plays differently than in Pennsylvania. It took me the first set to get in a groove, but he played good too.”
Marini broke Gossage’s serve to start the second set and commanded play.
“I was trying to remember what was working for me and see if I could continue it in the second set,” Gossage said. “The first game was the deciding factor. He hit a lot of good shots and I lost a lot of my confidence right there. It was sort of a mental game today.”
Gossage took a 6-3 lead in the 10-point tiebreaker used in place of a third set, but Marini won six consecutive points and held on for the victory.
“I gave him a lot of confidence in the second set and that really hurt me in the tiebreaker,” Gossage said. “He was going for a lot of winners.”
Gossage, 17, reached the 18-under semifinals last year before losing to eventual runner-up Drake Giese.
This year, Gossage showed how much his game improved by making the 18-under final.
“I’m playing a lot better (than a year ago),” he said. “Today was an iffy day, but it happens.”
Gossage started serving and volleying about a year ago. He will be a senior this fall at Grand Junction High School and he hopes to compete for the No. 1 singles spot.
“I started doing it when I was playing opponents better than me,” Gossage said. “It changed the pace of the game and my volley game was my best part of my game. I started playing that when everything else wasn’t working well.”
Matt Miller had a busy day Wednesday, playing in two singles finals — winning one and losing the other.
In the boys 16-under title match, Miller defeated Tommy Mahre.
“It was fun,” Miller said. “Tommy and I met this summer. We became friends and started playing tennis together.”
They met in the Mesa County Junior Tennis Program, directed by Ron Elliott.
“He’s a good player,” Miller said. “I tried to keep it low and deep to his backhand and stay consistent.”
Miller, 14, has played more tennis this summer in hopes of making the Grand Junction High School varsity team this fall.
Miller, who will be a sophomore this fall, was the top player on the Tigers’ junior varsity last year.
Mahre, 14, will be a freshman at Grand Junction this fall.
Luke Aubert won the boys 14-under singles title with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Miller. Julianna Campos defeated Mary Williams 6-1, 6-2 for the girls 14-under title.
Christian Kelly won the boys 12-under title and Charlie Williams won the 10-under title.