South Xtra: Better late than never for Mt. Lebanon duo

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Nick Reese and David Mewkalo of Mt. Lebanon almost didn't make it into the 2013 Paul G. Sullivan Tournament on the clay courts at Frick Park because they missed the registration deadline.

But after being allowed to play in the 34-team field, the two Blue Devils took advantage.

Reese and Mewkalo won five matches, losing just one set, to win the tournament that took place from July 8 through July 21.

"I was just extremely happy, especially since we almost didn't get into the tournament," said Reese, who will be a senior at Mt. Lebanon High School.

"We registered a day late, but luckily [tournament director] Mr. Jose [Mieres] was nice enough to let us play."

The duo's two toughest matches in the tournament came in the second round against No. 1 seed Chris Kruppa and John Muza and in the final against No. 4 seed David Costa and Tom Sparta.

Against Kruppa and Muza, the team was able to break serve once in each set to knock off the top seed, 6-4, 6-4.

"Our biggest problem was returning serves," Reese said. "But after talking with my coach, he told us to step up on their second serves and that really helped us.

"It's more psychological than anything. Once you step up and hit a winner or an aggressive shot, the next time they have a second serve, they're going to keep trying to put more and more [speed] on it and that leads to more double faults. So as the tournament went on, that started happening and we were able to break more often."

Reese and Mewkalo, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon this past spring, breezed through their next two matches to reach the final, where they outlasted Costa and Sparta, 6-3, 6-7 (7-2), 6-4.

Costa and Sparta had won the Bob O'Connor Tennis Classic at Frick Park earlier in the summer.

With Mewkalo going off to college at Penn State next month, the tournament could be one of the last times the friends will play together competitively.

The duo has a doubles history together, playing No. 1 doubles for Mt. Lebanon in 2011 and then playing together in the section and WPIAL tournament last season.

"We always play together," Mewkalo said. "We also work together [at Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center], so we know each other well."

Mt. Lebanon coach Augie Garofoli wasn't surprised by their success at Frick Park.

"They had the tools to win," he said. "They are a little younger than most of the teams there and I know Tom Sparta is a good player. So the competition was good, but I think playing so much together really helped them."

It was the perfect way for Mewkalo to say goodbye to his partner.

"The fact that we may never play together really made me eager to win this tournament," Mewkalo said. "It was a good way to end it."

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