The King of the Chanda Rubin Circuit Does It Again~~~
When Attila Bucko (pronounced Bootch-ko) finally lost a Chanda Rubin match last week, to eventual champion Clint Bowles in the quarterfinals, his Federesque or Nadalian streak ended. He had won three straight titles on the ITF circuit in the U.S. which is sponsored by the foundation of the former Top Ten WTA player from Louisiana, These events are the minor leagues of junior tennis, where 18 & under players go to earn enough points to get in ITF-controlled Grand Slams, Grade A or Grade 1 tournaments. Until Rubin and Jerry Simmons came around, it was difficult for U.S. players to accumulate ITF points without traveling overseas; now that there are more ITF points available in the U.S., these smaller events, mostly Grades 4 & 5, serve as rites-of-passage for those interested in competing beyond the USTA's national format.
Bucko, whose success this year installed him as the number two seed for the final event on the Chanda Rubin calendar at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, won his fourth title today, defeating the top seed in straight sets there. He has played in six of the eight Rubin-sponsored tournaments this year, and won four of them. He is 28-6 in ITF competition this year and with this win should approach the Top 100. But, as Annie Paton at juniortennis.com discovered this week, none of the wins could possibly be as special to Bucko as this one.
The soap opera began when it looked like hurricane Wilma would force a move from the Evert Academy to Key Biscayne. But cleanup went more quickly than expected, and Bucko was able to play on the same courts where he had qualified last year and reached the quarterfinals. Originally from Serbia, Bucko, who now has his green card, has been training in South Florida for four years and often his father has accompanied him to tournaments. But he had not seen his mother and younger brother in three years, and they were to arrive in Florida Saturday evening, meaning Bucko had to reach the final to have any hope of their watching him play. Not enough drama? How about adding a tangle with fire ants that required hospitalization on Friday evening, before Saturday's semifinal match.
Again, I'm indebted to Annie Paton of juniortennis.com for discovering and reporting this remarkable story. And Barbara Frongello provides some terrific photographs to accompany it. Exhibit A in why I find the junior tennis circuit superior to any other of the tennis "beats."