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Same players vie for titles in multiple divisions at Taco Bell

Alex Ilic returns a shot Thursday during his 6-2, 6-0 victory over Cal Hegstrom in the 12-year-old singles championship match at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center.

Sweat began pooling along the outside of Cal Hegstrom’s hat, slowly coloring it a darker blue as he powered through his second championship match in a three-hour span.

Thursday’s junior championship rounds at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center saw a trend: the same finalists competing for titles in multiple divisions.

Hegstrom dropped his two title bids — 6-0, 6-1 to Dillon Leasure in the boys 14-year-old singles and 6-2, 6-0 to Alex Ilic in the boys 12-year-old singles — and was visibly exhausted during his final set.

Ilic secured his 12-year-old singles title by forcing errors. The Aspen player frustrated Hegstrom with crafty shots that Hegstrom either struggled to return, or put into the net.

Hegstrom did force a competitive championship match with Leasure. The Carbondale tennis player not only won the championship at his correct age group, but also played up and won the 16-year-old singles bracket with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Scott Nolan.

Leasure also made it to the quarterfinals in the 18-year-old singles division before falling to Grand Junction High School product Aaron Gossage.

Leasure forced a 10-game tiebreaker with the Grand Junction junior.

Palisade student and Central No. 1 singles player Drake Giese fell in the 18-year-old singles to Mike Marini, a 17-year-old from Lancaster, Pa., who won the bracket despite being unranked.

“I was a lot more consistent at the beginning (of the tournament),” Giese said. “In that match I got a little flustered I guess. I was a little nervous there at the beginning, and during a championship that’s a whole different thing.

“I always have a lot of fun here. It’s my favorite tournament because it’s big and you get to play with and against family and friends.”

Continuing the trend of players competing for multiple titles — and fueling a rivalry that has become a common sight at Grand Junction tournaments — Sarah Fleming, 13, bested Carolena Campos, 15, twice.

In the 16-year-old singles championship, Fleming topped Campos 6-4, 6-2.

Less than 20 minutes later, the pair returned to play the 18-year-old singles championship where the pair joked that they “should just flip a coin.”

It was nearly a coin-toss finish, where Fleming topped Campos 6-4, 7-5 leaving both players exhausted.

“I’m really tired,” Campos said after her second match in four hours. “I feel like my legs are going to fall off. Right now, I’m glad that I can go home, hop in the pool, and not have to come back.”

Fleming said that she and Campos enjoy the competition of facing one another. Fleming currently leads their matchup 4-2.

“She’s just a really great player and I love playing against her,” Fleming said. “It feels really awesome to win these titles, but I’m too tired to really have it sink in. And I still have to play a doubles match.”


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