The Manhattan Beach Open was a three-course feast: four days of great tennis, a local star won the women’s championship and rock star Redfoo was in the middle of it all.
But celebrity sightings and a great field, alas, does not ensure great final matches. That was starkly illustrated Sunday afternoon at Live Oak Park when Mira Costa star Maegan Manasse captured the Women’s Open final with a double bagel win – 6-0, 6-0 over Helen Tu – while Julio Peralta of Woodside rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Michigan’s Joel Kielbowicz in less than an hour in the Men’s Open final.
Luckily, those drama-free finals were preceded by three days of killer tennis and several dramatic matches decided in third-set tie-breakers.
“The MB Men’s Open is an ATP tournament now,” enthused Tournament Director Bennett Slusarz, using the acronym for Association of Tennis Professionals. “They’re all ATP tour level players now.” Considering that the long-running tournament had hit rock bottom just two years ago before the city hired Slusarz as director last year, he had every right to be excited about attracting such a strong field to the 46th edition.
And there was all kinds of other breaking news – on and off the court.
First, the important on court news: Redfoo got crushed in his first round match. World class tennis talent, apparently, is not transferable to your main squeeze no matter how tabloid ready the romance.
Second, the important off-court news: Manhattan Beach is now at least a part-time home to two of the top three female tennis players in the world. Everyone who hasn’t been living under a sand dune for the last ten years already knows that second ranked Maria Sharapova has a house in Manhattan Beach. But just in the last couple of months Redfoo (lead singer of the popular party-rock band LMFAO, and if you have to ask what those initials stand for you might as well apply for your AARP card right now) and his girlfriend, world number three Victoria Azarenka, bought a house near the Manhattan Beach pier. Next thing you know top-ranked Serena Williams, who grew up in nearby Compton, will move to Manhattan and complete the tennis triple play.
The thirty-seven year old Redfoo, who also happens to be the son of Berry Gordy, the legendary founder of Motown Records, is a very good tennis player who might have advanced several rounds or even won if he had entered one of the lower amateur divisions. But instead he chose to enter the Men’s Open Division, which attracted a bunch of guys who routinely play Futures events on the men’s pro tour and have held various rankings from about 150 in the world and up. Thus he lost his first round match, 6-1, 6-1 to a guy who quickly lost his next match and in the process illustrated just how tough the tournament has become.
The strong field was due to the $12,500 in prize money that has made the MB Open the most lucrative tournament in the LA area now that neither the men’s or women’s pro tours have an LA event.
Peralta pocketed $3,600 for his victory and Keilbowicz took home $1,800 for making it to the Finals. Manasse, who is headed to Cal Berkeley in the fall after graduating from Costa last month, took home $200 – money which she is allowed to accept under a new NCAA regulation and still retain her amateur status.
Manasse, who is a two-time Daily Breeze player of the year and won CIF singles last year, lost a total of two games in the tournament – both to her semifinal opponent, Beatrice Rosen of Manhattan Beach. She displayed the aggressive all-court game that currently has her ranked 12th nationally in the girls 18-and-under category.
Manasse started out playing more than a decade ago on the same Live Oak courts where she won Sunday’s championship, and she credited her mother, Cris, for her development from a little kid with a big racquet and big dreams to a nationally ranked player.
“She’s the one who paid for everything, she’s the one who drove me to practices and matches,” Manasse said. “I couldn’t have reached this point without her help and support.”
Tu, her opponent in Sunday’s Final, played four years at UCLA and has lived in Manhattan Beach for the last six years while watching Manesse grow her game. She said she knew how good Manasse was going into the match but still was surprised at just how dominant she was Sunday.
“Watching her play was like watching myself 20 years ago,” she said. “Except she’s going to be a lot better than I ever was.”
Good enough one day, perhaps, to make Manhattan Beach home to three of the top tennis players in the world.
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