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No.1 seed Chris Hanson will face unseeded Jesus Camacho in the finals of the Kiva Club Open in Santa Fe on Sunday. Hanson is a 24-year-old left-hander who is ranked No. 85 in the world. Camacho is a 17-year-old right-hander who is ranked No. 202 in the world.
Hanson was severely tested by unseeded Ahmad Alzabidi Saturday in his semi-final match, but he squeaked out a five-game win.
Hanson had been cool and surgical on the court during this Kiva Club Open, but Alzabidi quickly ruffled him by asking the referee for lets. Before the match's first point, there were two lets. And the first point was a stroke.
Between the complaining, there were many long rallies and wonderfully athletic points from both players.
Alzabidi, a lefty who is world No. 304, varied his speed, mixing soft shots with smashes, but Hanson was the more consistent and patient.
Alzabidi eventually worked his way to a 9-7 lead, but Hanson battled back, got a "no-let" call to make it 9-9, and won the next two points and the game, 11-9.
The second game picked up where the first left off, as both players argued their cases.
With the game tied 5-5, Alzabidi hit a winning shot, then turned to the referee and yelled, "No let! No way!"
"I didn't even ask for one," Hanson yelled back.
Alzabidi took the next two points, and never lost the lead, winning the game, 11-7.
In the third game, both players slowed the pace, using more lobs and off-speed shots. And they even agreed on a let call.
Alzabidi took the first three points, and Hanson the next three.
The game tied at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 and 7-7. Then Hanson got a stroke call and Alzabidi hit the tin with a smash to give Hanson a 9-7 lead.
Alzabidi then played patiently, hitting rails until he had a chance for a winner. He won the next three points to get to game point, and Hanson tinned a possible winner to give Alzabidi the game, 11-9.
Hanson changed his shirt before the start of the fourth game and jumped to 4-1 lead. Alzabidi interrupted Hanson's serving rhythm by adjusting his shoes and circling the court. He won two points before Hanson hit a perfect forehand drop to make it 5-3.
Hanson stretched the lead to 10-4 with the help of three unforced errors by Alazibidi. Alzabidi tinned at game point to give Hanson the game, 11-4, and tie the match at two games apiece.
Alzabidi tried to speed the pace at the beginning of the fifth, but Hanson blunted the tactic with his quickness.
Both players renewed their "let/no let" arguments.
After the game was tied at 5-5, the arguments became more heated, but Hanson edged ahead, finally taking the game, 11-7, to win the match.
Alazbidi's out-sized personality matches his physique: He is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 203 pounds. He lives in Washington DC and plays for Jordan
Hanson, 24, lives in Greenwich, CT. He is 5-feet, 11-inches tall and weighs 165 pounds.
Alzabidi played more matches and games to reach the semis than any of the other semifinalists.
No. 6 seed Diego Gobbi took him to five games and qualifier Juan Gomez Dominguez took him to four games, both in the main draw.
Alzabidi also had to get past Kiva Club pro Drewe Williams in the qualifying round. That took three games.
So Alzabidi played 12 games before meeting Hanson.
By contrast, Hanson played just six games before meeting Alzabidi. Hanson beat each of his two main-draw opponents in straight games, giving up a total of only 18 points.
Alazabidi won more games and points against Hanson than Hanson's first two opponents combined.
In the day's other semi-final, unseeded 17-year-old Jesus Camacho upset 22-year-old No. 4 seed Faraz Khan in a thrilling four-game match.
The first game lasted 15 minutes, with many long rallies as both players tested the other with a mix of shots. The drop shot was much in evidence with both players following a drop with a drop, often leading to three or four drops in a row.
The difference in the game was unforced errors: Camacho made several more than Khan, and he lost the game, 11-8.
In the second game, Camacho's play became more consistent and he took a commanding 8-1 lead. He hunted down and returned every Khan shot and made no errors.
He won the second game, 11-3, in 10 minutes.
Camacho changed his shirt to start the third game, but didn't change his intensity. He took a 3-0 lead, frustrating Khan by retrieving absolutely every shot. Khan fought back, getting even at 4-4.
Camacho then ran off seven straight points with flawless play to take the game, 11-4, in 12 minutes.
Camcho changed his shirt again for the fourth game, setting a record for shirt changes in a single Kiva Club Open match.
The fourth game started with both players hitting to all four corners, making their opponent run. Neither player could pull ahead. The game tied at 3-3, 5-5, 6-6, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10. At 10-10, there were five let calls in a row.
Camacho finally hit a winning drop to get it to match point, 11-10.
This was followed by another let, then Camacho hit a winning backhand crosscourt to perfect length, winning the game, 12-10, and the match, three games to one.
The match lasted an hour and eight minutes.
Camacho and Khan, both right handers, share similar physiques. Each is under 6-feet tall and weighs less than 140 pounds. Both are lightning quick on the court.
Khan, who is world No. 170, was born in Trenton, NJ, and now lives in Old Greenwich, CT.
Camacho was born in Mexico City and now lives in Cuautitlan Izcali.
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Feb. 20-23, 2020