LAS VEGAS, October 28, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Three months ago Blaz Rola was lying in a hospital bed in Slovenia not knowing if he would ever play professional tennis again.
Following an ATP 250-level event in Austria at the end of July, Rola was admitted to the hospital complaining of a very low energy level and nausea. The 28-year-old former NCAA singles and doubles champion from Ohio State was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Hypocalcemia, which is caused because of too much calcium in the blood, and remained in the hospital for an entire week undergoing tests.
In his first tournament back, Rola couldn’t be happier to have advanced to the singles final tomorrow at the Las Vegas Tennis Open taking placeat the Fertitta Tennis Complex at UNLV following a 6-3, 7-5 win over J.P. Smith of Australia in a battle of lefties at the ATP $50,000 Men’s Challenger.
“Not knowing about the future of my career has helped me play better out here,” said Rola, who is taking medication to lower his calcium levels. “It takes some pressure off. I’m more grateful and know how it could all be gone tomorrow. So I’m just so thankful.”
Rola will face unseeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia in the Sunday singles final to follow the doubles which starts at 12 noon. Kokkinakis downed No. 3 seeded Casper Ruud from Oslo, Norway in the second semifinal, 6-4, 6-1.
Rola didn’t lose his serve in the match, and both he and the former University of Tennessee All-American Smith were on serve in the second set until Rola got the break he needed at 5-all before serving out the match.
“Best serve I faced all week,” said Smith, catching a plane back to his home base in Knoxville, Tenn. “It was a good week for me.”
Rola is here this week with his coach Grega Zemlja, who is a former finalist in Las Vegas. In the 2015 Las Vegas Tennis Open Zemlja, won four consecutive matches in three sets before falling in the final in three sets to Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands. In the second round he beat Amercan star Taylor Fritz before eliminating his current pupil Rola in the quarterfinals.
Rola recalled that match four years ago, and is happy his Slovenia coach is in the stands now, and not on the other side of the net. “I’m really happy to be in the final,” he said.
In the doubles final on Sunday starting at 12 noon, Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Roberto Maytin of Venezuela will take on the final remaining Americans left in the tournament Robert Galloway and Nathan Pasha.
For a complete schedule and more information, visit the tournament website at: www.lasvegastennisopen.com.
Men’s Singles – Semifinals
T. Kokkinakis (AUS) d  C. Ruud (NOR) 6-4, 6-1
B. Rola (SLO) d J. Smith (AUS) 6-3, 7-5