Joshua Heilweil had to overcome a shaky start and a tough opponent to pull out the championship in the Men's Open singles bracket in the 75th annual Fairfield Town Tennis Tournament at the Fairfield Tennis Center on Sunday. Perhaps primed by his tennis-playing path that took him from a role of alternate on the high school team to where he is now, a 25 year old who plays for fun with a competitive edge, Heilweil had what it takes to shake off a first-set loss and top his former high school teammate, Nic Visinski 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
"The key was consistency," Heilweil said of winning the match. "I started off the first set with some nerves and a few double faults."
Then, Heilweil said, becoming more relaxed and not going for points but, rather, waiting for Visinski to make some errors became his approach. "That carried through for the rest of the match," Heilweil said.
Visinski, who went on to play at the University of Connecticut, and Heilweil were teammates at Fairfield Warde High School, although they never matched up against each other in practice or worked together as hitting partners. That was, in part, because Heilweil played junior varsity in his junior year and was an alternate player on the varsity team in his senior campaign.
Now a part-time student at Fairfield University, Heilweil hasn't been playing regular competitive tennis, but he's been at it on a mostly-for-fun basis, and certainly takes his game somewhat seriously. Heilweil defeated his current hitting partner, German Ruiz to advance to the championship match.
Both Heilweil and Visinski had to win two competitions the day before their 10:30 a.m. contest on July 27. Visinski got off to a solid start and, aided by Heilweil's early miscues, put his opponent against the wall. Heilweil, unfazed, was thrilled to battle back.
"I'm quite excited because it's only my second tournament as an adult," said Heilweil, adding that he's played in just five tourneys in his career. This was his first appearance in the Fairfield tourney, and he certainly made it memorable.
Prior to the Open match, Ross Raggio defeated Jim Baldwin 6-0, 6-3 to win the Men's 45-and-older singles title.
"I think my game was on. I think I was able to be more consistent than Jim and was able to win the big points," said Raggio, adding that Baldwin was quite competitive, particularly in the second set.
For the 53-year-old Raggio, this was his first Fairfield tourney triumph after nearly experiencing victory a year ago. He reached the finals in a doubles bracket but an injury sustained by his partner left them as runners-up.
Raggio has competed in the tournament perhaps three or four times, he said, previously participating nearly a decade ago.
"This is a great tournament. It's a lot of fun and the atmosphere's tremendous," Raggio said. "The fact it's been going on for 75 years is really substantial."
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter