It’s typically hard to ask a teenager to draw from their experiences, but Bayport’s Stephen Gruppuso did just that in his second round match at the West Side Tennis Championships yesterday afternoon.
Competing in the 14-and-under division at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Gruppuso, who is coming off winning two tournaments in a row earlier this month, reeled off 11 games in a row in upsetting No. 2 seed Ananth Ragavan of NYC, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-5, 6-0 victory.
“This is my sixth match in four days, so I’m definitely match tough at this point,” said Gruppuso, who is currently an eighth grader at Laurel Springs Online Academy.
After going down 5-2 in the opening set, Gruppuso said he began to alter his game plan against Ragavan.
“I knew I was going to have to make more balls in the court, so I started going more down the middle and he began to make a lot of errors from that,” said Gruppuso.
The plan worked out beautifully, with Gruppuso reversing the lead and hitting a strong forehand winner to wrap up the opening set. Ragavan became visibly frustrated throughout the second set after blowing the lead, committing numerous unforced errors. A backhand sent well long wrapped up the match for Gruppuso in just over an hour of play.
Tennis is serious business for this 14-year-old. He recently spent a year at the world renowned Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, FL, training several hours a day with some of the best junior players in the world.
“They definitely helped a lot with my serve and my conditioning,” said Gruppuso. “They compare your game to a certain professional player and tell you the areas you need to fix in order to model your game after theirs.”
Despite the added benefits of playing several hours a day year round, Gruppuso said he wasn’t sure whether he was ready to permanently call Florida home yet.
Gruppuso is scheduled to play his quarterfinal match today at 2:30 pm against Raizada Vaid of Old Westbury. To follow his progress throughout the event, visit the tournament drawsheet.