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Friday, June 14, 2024
Sports: St. Davids’ Kaige Zhu wins singles title at U12 tourney
Boys U12 champion Kaige Zhu, centre, runner-up David Rusu-Dan and consolation champ Jeremy Pukhkalo hold their winners certificates. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Eleven-year-old Jeremy Pukhkalo won the boys consolation final Sunday afternoon at the NOTL Tennis Club. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Adam Wodz started as a tennis instructor and co-ordinator at the NOTL Tennis Club only three weeks ago. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The NOTL club's Jeremy Pukhkalo, who lives in St. Catharines, won the boys consolation title. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Kaige Zhu of St. Davids only lost three games over six sets en route to winning the boys U12 division on Sunday. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

Adam Wodz started as a tennis instructor and co-ordinator at the NOTL Tennis Club only three weeks ago — and this past weekend he oversaw a successful major tournament at Memorial Park.

Niagara-on-the-Lake hosted the club’s first Ontario Tennis Association tournament, featuring 17 under-12 boys and three U12 girls.

Competitors travelled to NOTL from around the province and as far away as Montreal for the Nike Transition Tour event.

Two Niagara-on-the-Lake club players competed and Kaige Zhu of St. Davids won the boys singles title, dropping only three games over eight sets en route to the championship.

He defeated David Rusu-Dan 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

Club spokesperson Hugh Dow noted that Rusu-Dan had a “memorable match” in the boys semifinal.

It lasted almost two-and-a-half hours and ended with a third-set tie-breaker.

Rusu-Dan took the match 3-6, 7-6, 10-7 over Youssef Kanoun.

The NOTL club’s Jeremy Pukhkalo, who lives in St. Catharines, won the consolation title.

In the girls competition, Rosie Kowalewski from Grimsby was the champion and Elena Vamoser of Oakville was runner-up.

The participants ranged in age from 8 to 12 and “their overall skill level was impressive,” said Dow, “with many engaging in long rallies, using a variety of spins and tactics. Their young legs enabled remarkable court coverage.”

Club president Marilyn Francis said it was “very gratifying” to see the young players in action.

“Our club is committed to developing junior tennis both locally and through events such as this,” she said.

Wodz, the newest staff member of the NOTL club, said he has been playing tennis his entire life.

“I competed in OTA tournaments like this myself, many of them. I was ranked top 10 in Ontario at one time,” he said.

After an injury, he began coaching tennis, which brought him to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Scarborough.

Wodz, 22, was playing in clinics last year when the club’s head pro approached him to run some youth events.

He added that it was a “perfect storm of an opportunity,” where he fell in love with the town and NOTL needed young people to liven up the tennis club for kids interested in playing.

“I have a lot of experience running events with kids. I’ve operated a Boy Scout troop for the last six years,” he said. 

The club has another youth OTA tournament coming up on June 9 for rookie players. 

Along with leading the youth tournaments, Wodz’s co-ordinator role has him working for both the club and the coaching staff.

“I do lessons, a little bit of maintenance. I do any events that they need done, any drop-in clinics, any drop-in doubles, that kind of thing,” he said. 

While Wodz is in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the summer, he is excited to take on being the face of the club as a young new member of the community. 

He said everyone in town has been welcoming and accommodating during his first few weeks.

“I do this kind of thing in Toronto as well, where I coached at a club during the school year. People don’t send thank you emails in Toronto and I’ve gotten a lot of thank you emails here,” he joked. 

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