Last Friday at the USTA National Center, Bayport’s Stephen Grupposo made sure that history didn’t repeat itself.
Playing in the first round of the Boys 14-and-under division at the BJKNTC Junior Tennis Classic Championships in Flushing, Grupposo thought back to the memory of blowing a 5-2 lead at a national tournament in Florida earlier this year as he tried to serve out the match. This time, he didn’t make the same mistake, landing all four of his first serves in the final game as he advanced to the second round with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Josh Druger of Manilus.
“I started to think about losing that lead before (in Florida) a little bit,” said Grupposo, who won the first ten games of the match. “He (Druger) started to play better at the end today and I just really wanted to close it out.”
Only 11 spots separate Grupposo from Druger in the USTA rankings (Grupposo is currently ranked No. 85 in the east coast for his age group, while Druger is ranked No. 96), but the numbers didn’t matter in the early stages of this match. Varying the tempo of the rallies and pace on his shots, Grupposo, who spent the last year training at the world renowned Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, FL, was content to keep his shots deep and allow Druger to commit numerous unforced errors.
Druger only had one game point opportunity in the first set which he failed to convert on, allowing the eighth grader at Laurel Springs Online Academy to take the first set 6-0. Grupposo then raced to a 1-0 lead before rain halted play and matches were moved to the indoor courts at the USTA National Center.
“I’ve never had to make the switch from outdoors to indoors in the middle of a match,” said Grupposo. “I’ve been training outdoors all summer and the courts inside were a little bit faster, so I wasn’t comfortable initially.”
The switch didn’t seem to help Druger much. He committed three straight double faults to trail 3-0 in the second set, and mistimed a forehand on his only break point opportunity of the match in the next game, eventually going down 4-0.
A strong service game from Druger finally got him on the scoreboard to 1-4 and he began to find the range on his groundstrokes.
“The indoor courts suited his game better because he’s bigger and hits the ball harder than me,” said Grupposo.
However, the Bayport native utilized clever shotmaking to win the momentum back, retrieving several deep shots with high lobs to bring the points back to a neutral position. He erased a break point at 4-1 with a well timed overhead and comfortably served out the match two games later.
Next up for Grupposo is a match on Saturday morning against No. 1 seed Ananth Ragavan of NYC. The second round contest is a rematch of at the West Side Tennis Championships three weeks ago, which Grupposo won 7-5, 6-0, but he said he will not be taking the match lightly.”
“I’m just going to act like we’ve never played before,” said Grupposo. “I don’t want how that match turned out to affect the way I play in this one.”
The finals of the BJKNTC Junior Tennis Classic Championships are scheduled for Monday afternoon. To follow Grupposo’s progress in the event, visit the tournament drawsheet.