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In The Hot Spot

Field of 108 Tennis Players Compete for One Berth in ATP Pre-Qualifying Tournament


STUDIO CITY — By sundown on Sunday, only one will remain.

Until then, the sun will beat down on players already facing high temperatures and long odds.

On Tuesday, the sounds of rackets swatting balls echoed around the Racquet Centre, where the field of 108 continued to dwindle in the second day of a men's open pre-qualifying tournament for the annual Mercedes Benz Cup.

Only one player will gain entry to the qualifying draw of the Mercedes Benz Cup, an ATP event at the L.A. Tennis Center beginning July 27. The field will include Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic.

Qualifying begins July 25 at UCLA.

Sixteen players were awarded byes at the Racquet Center and will play for the first time Thursday.

That left those among the remaining field, like Dexter MacBride of Newbury Park, out in the . . . heat.

"It's not really even that bad today," said MacBride, mopping perspiration with a towel after posting a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Cory Moderhak of Thousand Oaks. "But it's supposed to be worse tomorrow."

MacBride, head pro at North Ranch Tennis Club in Westlake Village, was among six players from the region to advance to today's round of 32.

Sixteen survivors after today will be matched against the 16 who were awarded byes. The pre-qualifier championship takes place Sunday.

For MacBride, 33, a former nationally ranked junior player in his native Virginia, the tournament was the latest stop on the comeback trail.

MacBride underwent surgery last fall to remove a melanoma on his right knee.

He competed against Moderhak, a former pupil, wearing a protective stocking.

"Physically, I feel fine," MacBride said. "Tennis-wise, I have a lot of work to do if I'm going to be playing competitively. I'm just getting back to playing tournaments. There is a lot of competition out here."

MacBride plays Michael Redman of Los Angeles today at noon.

Also advancing were Golan Sassoon of Encino, Tim Hammond of Thousand Oaks, Nino Gabriele of Agoura Hills, Steve Oliver of West Hills and Rick Rozen of Woodland Hills.

Rozen, 46, the oldest player in the pre-qualifier, disposed of 18-year-old Craig Kasala of Lake Forest, 6-1, 6-1, in under an hour.

Rozen, competing for the third time in the Mercedes Benz Cup, has been playing in open tournaments since 1975 and participates in the USTA National Men's 45 Hardcourt Championships.

Rozen, who faces David Maxwell of Los Angeles today at 1:30, didn't discount his chances.

"I always have a shot, I think," Rozen said. "But there are a lot of tough guys to get through. I have a shot to get in the men's draw, but beyond that, I'm not too optimistic. Being that the prize is so dear, this tournament attracts every player in town."

Sasoon defeated Enrique Mereles of San Diego, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) and will play Danny Jauregui of Los Angeles today at noon.

Hammond defeated Joe Zupan of Los Angeles, 6-3, 7-5, and plays Karthik Naidu of Palos Verdes at 1:30.

Gabriele defeated Omar Husain of Los Angeles, 6-1, 6-0. He plays Cordel Ezerins of Long Beach at 1:30.

Oliver struggled against Sergey Kordonskiy of Los Angeles, rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. Oliver plays Dan Kriegh of San Bernardino at 1:30.

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