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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews from Around Banderas Bay | December 2006 

Antonio Ruiz Wins 1st Copa Pacifico
email this pageprint this pageemail usBob Cohen - PVNN

Antonio Ruiz, with the winners plaque and a nice pay check, addresses and thanks the crowd after the finals in the professional division.
Click HERE for more Copa Pacifico photos.
Antonio Ruiz of Monterrey, the 6th seed and 16th ranked tennis professional in Mexico, utilized a booming, accurate serve and strong ground strokes to capture the $16,000 peso first prize in the 1st Annual Copa Pacifico at the Canto Del Sol Resort and Tennis Club.

Ruiz, who just graduated from the University of Georgia, and won the NCAA singles and doubles championships in 2006, is now setting his goals for success on the professional tour. His ranking is deceiving, as he played much of the year on the college level and was not able to accumulate many points as a national player.

Ruiz defeated 2nd seeded Juan Manuel Elizondo, a 22 year old star playing out of Guadalajara 6-1, 3-0 before Elizondo had to retire due to injury in the final. Juan actually injured his leg in the opening game of the match, unknown to the fans in attendance, but struggled through the final, unable to hit his normal winners with his two handed forehand and backhand. This is not to take anything away from the sterling performance from Ruiz, who breezed through the draw with only one difficult match.

That came in the quarterfinals against 15 year old Manuel Sanchez of San Luis Potosi, who came to the tournament with his personal coach from Argentina in attendance. Ruiz won a thriller, defeating the youngest player in the tournament in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Look for Sanchez to improve with age and experience.

Ruiz then went on to destroy top seeded Victor Romero from the State of Mexico 6-0, 6-2. Standing 6-4, Ruiz played both with power and finesse as he heads to Manzanillo for this week's $150,000 peso purse in the national tournament.

The professional part of the event was competitive right from the start of the 24 man field after one qualifying round. The 4th, 5th and 8th seed were eliminated in the opening round and top seeds were beaten all the way to the final. Fans were treated to a tremendous display of professional tennis.

The other part of the tournament was the competition in the "A", "B" and "C" amateur divisions played mostly by local Puerto Vallarta competitors as well as winter residents and a few vacationers. The fields were full and competitive, as amateur bragging rights were on the line as well as those looking to move up a level in tournament play.

In the "A" division, a familiar face made it back to the winners circle after an absence from the top spot. Emile Larrivee, a long time Puerto Vallarta resident from Montreal, defeated Kosmas Mamadopoulos, the #1 ranked 55 year old in Greece 6-5, 3-6, 6-0 in the semi finals and then faced 13 year old Esteban Said, who knocked out the seconded seeded Duncan Forbes 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals the evening before.

The final was quite a contrast in almost every aspect of the game. Emile, a big strong man who plays strictly a power game, putting everything into almost every shot, faced the much smaller youngster who utilizes finesse and accuracy.

Emile was pushed to three sets after leading each set 3-0. He easily won the opening set 6-1, before Said adjusted and facing a quick exit, rallied from the 3-0 deficit to tie the second set at 3-3, going on to win 7-5 and force a final deciding set.

Larrivee, who began to hit some shots out, combined with the hustle and amazing maturity of the youngster, regrouped and won the final set 6-1 over the frustrated Esteban, who just couldn't hit back the powerful, well placed ground strokes. Those who know Emile are aware he plays at one speed; hard and powerful. Congratulations Emile and welcome back to the winners circle.

As for the young Esteban, although he lives in Puerto Vallarta, he startled people that were unaware of him when he reached and won the semifinals. Starting the game at the age of 5, in recent years he has traveled throughout Mexico to play in almost all Junior Championship events.

At nine years of age, Esteban went to play the Jalisco circuit and won the regionals. He's been on the road ever since. At 12, he traveled to Cuba and won a 12 and under doubles tournament. Currently he is ranked 6th in the 14 year old division in Mexico. He has a slight build and has yet to build any muscle mass, but that should be soon to come as he grows older.

When Esteban plays a finesse player as he did in Forbes, he is at his best, but couldn't keep up with the usually accurate power game of Larrivee in the final. We will be watching Esteban's progress and will report as he goes back out on the national circuit.

In the "B" division, Caesar Huerta, who runs almost every shot down, defeated Armando Siordia 6-3, 6-4 in the finals. Both came into the finals with relatively easy semifinal straight set victories.

In the competitive "C" division, youngster Gerry Lopez finally broke through into the winners circle, defeating Hugo Heritera, who was having his way with his opponents the first three rounds. Nobody took more than two games from him in a set prior to the finals.

Lopez hit extremely consistently and patiently and kept Hugo from winning with his speed and return everything style of play. Gerry won the first set in a tie break 7-6. Wearing down his older opponent and perhaps frustrating him a bit, Lopez went on to win the second and final set 6-2 to collect his trophy.

Congratulations to Antonio Ruiz in the professional division, as well as to the winners of the first big tournament of the winter season. The amateurs in Puerto Vallarta always play very competitive tournaments and since many are local full time residents, the competition becomes that more intense. By wining this event, all players will be gunning to take the winners out in the next event which is not yet scheduled.

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