The dream of competing in this year’s U.S. Open is still alive for Port Washington residents Paul Saferstein and David Fischbach, but one other local player will have to wait another year.
The trio were among more than 100 competitors who played this weekend at the U.S. Open Eastern Sectional Qualifying Tournament, located at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, in which the winner advances to a national event for the chance at a qualifying wild card into this year’s U.S. Open. Saferstein advanced into the third round on Sunday morning with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Nelson Valladares, while Fischbach advanced past Steven Wilson with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
Kachinga Sinkala was not as fortunate, having to retire from his opening round match against Sam Swank with back spasms. Sinkala was trailing 3-6, 2-1, before he was forced to stop.
“I’m just trying to take this event match by match and see how far I get,” said Saferstein, who works as a portfolio manager. “I’m not at a pro level, so at a certain point it’s inevitable you’ll end up facing someone of that caliber.”
Saferstein, who trains twice per week at , has been utilizing an off-speed game to fluster his opponents into unforced errors, dropping just eight games in his first two matches.
However, Saferstein says he still has yet to play his best tennis.
“It’s been cold and windy the last couple of days, so the conditions make it tough to hit the ball cleanly,” he said. “Hopefully, I can just keep improving with each round.”
Fischbach used his slice backhand to rush the net repeatedly during his match against Wilson, visibly flustering the 16-year-old as he took the opening set.
In the second set, Wilson began to pin Fischbach behind the baseline with his strong groundstrokes, pushing him around the court during the rallies.
Fischbach lost the second set and trailed 3-1 in the third set, but Wilson began to become noticeably fatigued after spending more than two hours on the court. A series of double faults gave Fischbach the break of serve back, and he began to use off-speed shots to draw errors from his opponent.
Reeling off the final five games of the match in succession, Wilson knocked off a forehand volley winner to advance into the third round.
“He plays a really unusual game that you’re not used to seeing in the juniors,” said Wilson. “I wasn’t sure what to do in the beginning.”
Playing against Swank, who is the No. 3 ranked player in the east coast for the Boys 16-and-under division, Sinkala appeared visibly troubled by his back from the beginning of the match. Unable to move at full speed, he lost the first set easily and quit while serving at the beginning of the second set.
Both Sinkala and Fischbach were not available for comment after the match.
The U.S. Open National Playoffs are open to any player over the age of 14, and participants can be of any playing level. The winner of each sectional qualifying tournament will advance into a national tournament at Yale University from Aug. 18-22. The winner of the national tournament will receive a wild card into the qualifying draw of the Men’s singles event at the U.S. Open, held from Aug. 23-Sept. 11.
Tournament play will continue until April 22. To follow Fischbach and Saferstein during the rest of the event, visit the tournament drawsheet.