Going into the semi final match in both singles and doubles at the Utah Fall Classic this weekend, the only participant who was not a member of the BYU team was high school senior John Pearce, son of BYU head coach Brad Pearce.
Between matches, the teammates talked and laughed like there was no competition. Sophomore Patrick Kawka said, “it feels just like another day at the office doing what we do every day.”
Unfortunately for the Cougars, not all of them could share the victory. For the second year in a row Keaton Cullimore and John Pearce won the doubles championship in an upset against senior Spencer Smith and freshman Francis Sargeant, 9-7.
“It’s always exciting repeating,” Cullimore said in a news release following his victory. “It was a battle and I’m glad we dug it out.”
Also for the second year in a row Cullimore and his partner defeated Kawka and his partner in the doubles semifinals. According to Kawka the two have faced each other many times in singles and doubles. Before coming to BYU both played extensively in junior tournaments sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association all over the nation.
The singles tournament was won by Smith as he defeated Cullimore in three sets. Cullimore took control early winning the first set, 6-3. Smith battled back winning the second set, 6-3. The final set went back and forth until Smith finally took control beating Cullimore, 6-4.
Smith is the only junior on the BYU roster and spent most of his summer playing tennis in Europe. Teammate, Georgy Batrakov, a senior from Yaroslavl, Russia, has played with Smith for the past three seasons, but did not get to participate in the tournament due to a wrist injury. He cheered for Smith, and his other teammates, from the sidelines.
“These tournaments are really important to get going,” Batrakov said. “Even though it’s more individual, we’re still together as a team and cheer for each other, so it’s good preparation for the season.”
Pearce shares similar feeling to Batrakov when it comes to these tournaments.
“This is an excellent way to begin the year,” Pearce said. “Early on this was an Intercollegiate Tennis Association sanctioned event, meaning only college players could play and every match would affect your college ranking. Four or five years ago, we opened it up and made it a USTA sanctioned event. It allows good juniors, pros and ex-pros in our community to play. I like the format. It’s a great event for the community to get involved.”
Smith’s victory marked the fifth year in a row a member of the BYU team has won this tournament.