At right, Rob Whitehouse, Steve Virgona, Sam Howe, Mike Gooding.
Steve Virgona, number 2 in the world and assistant professional at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, showed his mastery of this court in defeating Mike Gooding of the New York Racquet and Tennis Club on Sunday, January 15, 2006 – allowing his opponent only two games (score of 6/1,6/1,6/0) – to win the 2006 National Open. Steve reached the finals with a victory over Josh Bainton, who himself had two great victories over Rob Whitehouse and Andrew Fowler. Mike may have given it his all on Saturday, reeling off two victories, first defeating Rich Smith in the quarterfinals and then upsetting #4 in the world Tim Chisholm in straight sets.
The finals were met with anticipation as the young assistant professional from Philadelphia Steve Virgona set out versus the wily veteran professional from New York Mike Gooding, determined to make a statement to the court tennis world. With no clear strategy early on by either player, Gooding and Virgona split games before the latter took charge. With several grille winners and smart floor shots, Virgona was able to stay on the service side controlling the pace of play. He won the first set 6-1 with Gooding never holding the service side for more than three straight points.
The second set was the best of the match with both players playing up to par with great rallies for the Philadelphia faithful. Virgona positioned himself perfectly on the hazard end, effectively cutting off Gooding’s forehand and creating chases by dropping many in the galleries. At 5-1 to Virgona, Gooding was able to get back on the service side. Defending chase the last gallery, Gooding went for the winning gallery but Virgona managed to dig it out and lay it on the floor for an eventual winner. Two straight chases later, Virgona was back over to serve out the second set to win 6-1. A charged-up Virgona kept the pressure on, returning shots with great precision and accuracy.
In the third set, Virgona’s chases made to the first and second galleries continued to allow him control of the service end, and the match. At 5-0, play intensified and so did the crowd’s response. Great digs from both contenders dazzled the Philadelphia faithful, but Virgona continued to find the grille time after time for the eventual victory.
The win was indeed a statement to the court tennis world that Steve Virgona is gearing up to be a strong opponent in the World Eliminator and there can be no doubt that he is focused on getting to the World Challenge. His shot-making, his variety of serves, his focused strategy, and his exceptional athleticism, make Steve a worthy National Open Champion and a player who the current world Champion will have to deal with in the years ahead.
In the Sponsors’ Cup Pro-Am, Josh Bainton and Brian Owens defeated Tim Chisholm and Temple Grassi 8-7. Thanks go to Rob Whitehouse and his staff for a great weekend. Thanks to the Patrons, supporters and friends that helped make the 2006 National Open a huge success! Finally, we would also like to wish the best of luck to Steve Virgona and Tim Chisholm on their upcoming Eliminator matches and we hope that one of these two North American professionals will bring back the World Championship.