With three Bulls in the semifinals, USF kicked off its season with a splash.
It appeared the Bedford Cup, a Florida-only invitational tournament, would sport the name of a USF student this year, but Jordan Belga, from the University of Florida, had other plans. He would go on to defeat world ranked player Peter Bertran, 6-1, 6-2.
After a routine, 6-0, 6-3, victory over FSU’s Rana Bhullar, Vadym Kalyuzhnyy became Belga’s first victim. Kalyuzhnny was able to force a third set, but was ultimately bested in the decider to ten, 7-6(4), 1-6, 10-7.
The first day of action ended with two Bulls in the semifinals, and a third one not far off. Recent transfer Alberto Barroso-Campos made it to the second day with a rout of Florida’s Stephen Madonia, 6-1, 6-2, and a 6-1, 4-6, 11-9, victory over UNF’s Jefta Kecic in a match that saw the Bull save three match points.
Justin Roberts joined Barroso-Campos in the semifinals with two straight-set victories; the first over Florida Gator David Sarkissov, 6-2, 6-2, and the second over Loic Blanco of Stetson University, 6-4, 6-2. Bertan’s quarterfinal match was delayed until Day 2, but he also escaped the first day unscathed after a tight opening match against UNF’s Jonathan Deautriell ended in his favor, 6-2, 6-3, 11-9.
Roberts, who had yet to drop a set, was very optimistic after the first day, saying “ I think I can play much better… I’m defending well, and I’m fighting well… We’re playing much better than we were a year ago around this time.”
Head coach Ashley Fisher gave some insight after his players took on a trio of three-setters in day one. “These matches come down to thin margins,” he began. “The message is consistent. How you perform in those big moments will dictate your success. Overall, I was happy with how [we] handled those situations.”
The second day of Bedford Cup came with more success for USF players. Bertans began the day with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over FAU’s Remi Chancerel, ensuring that at least one Bull would appear in the final.
That victory set up a meeting with teammate Roberts, who was pasted by Bertrans in another three-set match, 6-3, 1-6, 10-7.
After the match, Roberts continued to emphasize a bright future. “I think I played better today than I played yesterday, so I’m happy with how I played,” he said. “Every match was better than the last one. I finished up playing [at] a pretty good level. It’s early, even in the fall. [It] can only improve from here.”
Becoming Belga’s second casualty en route to the title, Barroso-Campos took the first set 6-3, but lost the next two 6-4 and 10-2–ending his run just shy of the final.
His comments, however, added to the sense that this upcoming season was going to be a big one. He also put a premium on hard work, saying “It’s time to keep working and try to do my best in the tournaments that are coming now. I think so far we are all in good shape, and we have to keep working and get better.”
As for Coach Fisher, he saw a lot of positives in what Bertran, the lone Bull in the final, was doing. “He’s competing well. He saved match points in his first match, and that’s a big part of the message to these guys. Just do the best with what you have on a given day and find a way to win. You’re not always going to play your best. That rarely happens, to be honest. Pete’s done a great job in his first round match, and that’s kind of freed him up to play a very high level of tennis the last few matches.”
In the championship match, Belga wasted no time jumping out to a big lead. He rode two breaks of his opponent’s serve to a 3-0 lead. That lead would only continue to grow as he clawed back from 0-40 on his serve to hold. Bertran finally got on the board with a hold at 15 in the first game, but the first set was already out of his reach. The Bull dropped the set, 6-1.
The second set was a similar story, but it very well could have gone the other way. Two of the first three games were decided at deuce. Had they both gone Bertran’s way, he could have lead 2-1. Those two points instead were won by Belga, and he once again held a 3-0 lead. The Gator rode the momentum to a 6-2 second set victory and became the newest addition to the list of Bedford Cup winners.
After the match, Belga described his keys to victory as “having the mindset, trying to stay consistent, and pushing myself one point at a time and not trying to think too far ahead or think about the past, just trying to stay in the moment.” He also commented on the USF team, saying “They’re all really good players. USF in general has just been a very good team, and it was just a lot of tough matches. Two of the matches were three-setters, so either of them could have gone the other way with the super break in the third, but I think for me just winning the more critical points under pressure, especially the deuce points, helped me a lot.”
Bertran concluded the tournament with some comments on his opponent. “Jordan played really well in key points. He took advantage of that and he was smarter and he came out on top… I feel like the score doesn’t really tell how the match went… I feel it was a really good and positive tournament. I came from a tough first match that I was match point down, saved it, and made it to the finals. I think that gives me lot of confidence in my game.”
Coach Fisher addressed Belga’s impressive Bedford Cup performance in his closing comments.
“He’s a good player. He was taking the ball early, changing direction well. He got more and more confident as the weekend went on. He toughed out Vadym [Kalyuzhnny] in a close match and didn’t look back from that point. We just weren’t able to disrupt his rhythm,” he said.
“He could have easily been out first round. He saved match point in his opening match. He’s playing well. He’s progressing nicely. He’s got an ATP world ranking now, and he’s had a good summer. He’s getting better, and we’re excited about the path that he’s on,” said Fisher, when asked about Bertran’s deep tournament run.
© Photos by Jeffrey Waitkevich|TCN