LONG BEACH, January 15, 2018
For the second consecutive week, an unseeded former college player captured the singles championship as the $25,000 Long Beach Pro Futures Tournament Presented by the Southern California Tennis Association came to a close on Sunday.
Three-time NCAA champion from the University of Virginia Collin Altamirano took out former USC star and eight-time singles Pro Circuit winner Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, 6-1, 7-5, in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the El Dorado Park Tennis Center on a gorgeous, 75-degree sunny day in Long Beach.
The 22-year-old Altamirano on Sunday was trying to duplicate what former UCLA player Karue Sell accomplished last week at the USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 event at USC as the qualifier Sell won both the singles and doubles titles. Altamirano came up just short of that double feat as he and University of Norte Dame junior Alexander Lebedev fell to the top-seeded team of Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico, 6-3, 6-2, in Sunday’s doubles final.
Despite the easy looking first-set scoreline of 6-1, Altamriano of Sacramento said after the match it was anything but. “I wasn’t feeling that good at all,” he said. “I was nervous and tight. I was just so fortunate to pull it out so easily and the score doesn’t indicate how tough it was.”
Down a break and 2-4 in the second set, Altamirano used his big serve at key spots to get him back into the match with a break of Gomez’s serve and a hold to make it 4-all.
“I was just getting so frustrated and finally let my anger out a little bit,” said Altamirano, a very loud and demonstrative player a year ago, but who says he’s working on his vocal bouts of anger. “That loosened me up a little bit and I started playing better.”
“Absolutely,” Altamirano said when asked about being less animated on court this year as opposed to last year when he made it all the way to the singles final. “I don’t want to say it’s been a weakness of mine, or has held me back. But yes, it’s something I’ve been working on. It’s been a process and I’ve been really working on it.”
It was the third consecutive year a former college player won Long Beach as former UCLA player Marcos Giron (last year) and former USC Trojan Yannick Hanfman (2016) were the past two winners.
Altamirano, who made $3,600 with the win, was coached this week by Jimmy Roberts of Sacramento, and supported by his parents, who took a five-hour train ride from the Bay Area to Long Beach Saturday to watch their son’s special first Pro Circuit win.
Altamirano still works with his Sacramento coach Joseph Gilbert, and said it was Gilbert who first introduced him to tournament tennis more than 10 years ago. He smiled when he was asked to recall winning the Boys’ 14s at the venerable Ojai Tennis Tournament way back in 2010 when he resided for a short time in Santa Barbara.
“I love that tournament,” he said. “Just the crowds and everything about is great. My coach Joseph Gilbert won it twice in the juniors. And he never said anything. So we’re in the park looking at all these pictures of the past winners and there he was twice. I just thought it was the coolest thing. That venue [Libbey Park] is awesome and the crowds. It’s just awesome.”
Altamirano won the National 18s Hardcourts at Kalamazoo in 2013 at the age of 17, and was the youngest player in the US Open main draw that year.
“I remember I barely got into Kalamazoo,” he said. “I had to play another national event and had do well right before to get in and I ended up winning it.”
At the Zoo, Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the 18s, beating Jared Donaldson in three out of five sets in the final.
“It was just a cool time,” said Altamirano, who also made the singles quarterfinals as the US Open Junior event that same year in 2013. “I didn’t play a lot in the juniors. It just showed all the hard work I had put in had paid off.”
Sunday’s Singles Final Results
Collin Altamirano, U.S., def. Emilio Gomez, Ecuador (q), 6-1, 7-5
Sunday’s Doubles Final Results
Luke Bambridge, Great Britain / Hans Hach Verdugo, Mexico (1), def. Collin Altamirano, U.S. / Alexander Lebedev, U.S. 6-3, 6-2