Tony Velo of Richmond relied on a powerful and consistent serve to win the Middle Atlantic Lawn Tennis Association Championship yesterday over Ben Bishop of Rockville, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, at the Aspen Hill Racquet Club in Silver Spring.
Velo, the 16th seed, smashed eight aces in upsetting the eight-seeded Bishop.
"I don't think I served as well as I did yesterday (Saturday)," said Velo, who had 10 aces in upsetting El Motaz Sonbol in the semifinals. "I mainly wanted to get a better angle on my first serve and hit deep in the corners, so I was only serving at about three-quarter speed to keep my consistency."
Nearly 67 percent of Velo's first serves were in the first set. Velo made a flock of unforced errors on the Har-Tru court as the combatants played most of the points in the first set from the baseline.
But Velo came on strong in the second set, holding his first two serves and breaking Bishop for a 3-0 lead.
But in the fourth game Bishop changed strategy, coming in behind his serve to hit volley after volley for winners. Bishop dazzled Velo with his net play for four straight games and climbed back to take a 4-3 lead.
However, in the eight game, Bishop stopped coming in behind his serve and reverted to his early second-set form of rallying with Velo from the baseline.
The smaller Bishop was no match for the 6-foot-4 Velo, who pounded numerous top-spin forehands from the baseline for outright winners to break Bishop's serve and go on to assume a 7-5 second-set win.
Velo continued the power assault in the third set, hitting at least two aces each service game. Each time Bishop fell behind he came to the net and, volleyed his way back into the match, then reverted to the baseline where his fate was sealed.
The most crucial point of the match came in the third set with Velo leading, 4-2. Bishop, trailing, 30-40, on his serve, followed his first serve to the net and punched Velo's return crosscourt for an apparent winner, but Velo stretched out and rolled a forehand down the line to break Bishop. Velo went on to easily win the third set, 6-2.
"I didn't think anybody could go out and hit outright winners down my throat for an entire match, but he did," said a surprised Bishop, a tennis instructor at Indian Spring Country Club.
"To tell the truth, I thought I would win three and three (6-3, 6-3) coming into the match. There's always hope when you're playing a hot-and-cold guy like him. You don't find too many players pounding the ball on a clay court surface."
The MALTA championship is the first tournament Velo has played since graduating two months ago from the University of Richmond. "I may try to play in the pro-circuit qualifiers," said Velo, who currently is staying in shape as a construction worker.
In the doubles final, Scott Kidd of Alexandria and Peter MacDonald of Springfield, defeated the father-son team of Dek and Steven Potts of Chevy Chase, 6-1, 6-2. CAPTION: Picture 1, Tony Velo prepares to crack a forehand in his winning match. . .; Picture 2, . . . over Ben Bishop, who fell in MALTA a final, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. By Margaret Thomas -- The Washington Post