Zheltova, Seeberger capture SB Open singles titles

Katrina Zheltova added an international flavor to the 77th Santa Barbara Open tennis tournament.

The native of Belarus also took home the women’s open division singles title on Saturday at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. Zheltova defeated local standout and No. 2 seed Lauren Stratman, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, in the championship match.

In the men’s final, Matt Seeberger of Redwood City defeated his doubles partner, Cal Lutheran star Nicholas Bailou, when Bailou retired with a lower back injury at 2-2 in the second set. Seebarger hammered out a 7-6 (3) win in the first set.

“I strained the muscles in my back and I’ve had two surgeries for a herniated disc, so any time I have an injury near my lower back I tend to pull out quickly,” said Bailou, who matched Seeberger stroke for stroke for most of the time they were on the court.

“He missed one volley at 3-2 in the tiebreaker and that ended up changing the momentum and decided the first set,” said Seeberger, a former two-time NCAA Division 3 singles champion at UC Santa Cruz.

Bailou was able to handle Seeberger’s big serve, which Bailou estimated was coming at 130 mph.

“It kind of stinks to be on the other side of it,” he said.

Despite the flare-up in his lower back, Bailou was pleased how he played.

“That’s some of the better tennis I’ve played in the last month or so,” he said. I just finished the semester of school at Cal Lutheran and took a break. I’m not practicing as much as I want to.

“Matt and I just won a gold ball in San Diego playing doubles. It was our first tournament together, so coming out here to play singles against him was a lot of fun.”

Seeberger, who came into Santa Barbara with three singles titles in Northern California tournaments, felt he was at the top of his game on Saturday

“I feel really good how I played,” he said. “I played with the intensity and aggression I’ve been training at. It’s unfortunate (the match) had to end abruptly. This is probably the best I’ve played in my life.”

Zheltova was in top form in the first set of her match against Stratman. She broke the former Dos Pueblos High star in the first game and built a 3-1 lead behind big service returns and surgical placement of her ground strokes.

“She played really well; she was zoning, just painting the lines,” said Stratman of Zheltova’s pinpoint shot making.

“Just 50-50. You just got to go for those shot, you got to go for those winners,” said Zheltova, who came to the U.S. to play for her former youth coach at Sacramento State from 2007 to 2010. Their teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament all four years.

Zheltova kept the pressure on Stratman early in the second set, breaking her again to start the set and going up 4-2. But Stratman picked up her game and the momentum of the match shifted. She won four straight games, breaking Zheltova in the eighth game, en route to a 6-4 win.

“I started to get some energy in the second set,” Stratman said. “I started getting a few more shots in and she started making errors, so it kind of went my way in the second set.”

The new Westmont College player used her big serve to set up winners and jammed up Zheltova with her power forehand.

“I think I lost a little bit of my focus, plus the return wasn’t working for me like it was on the first serves,” Zheltova said. “She had a bigger serve and my return was a little inconsistent. I think that’s why it was hard to pick up my game.”

Zheltova got the momentum back by breaking Stratman in the first game of the third set.

“I just told myself, ‘Just do your best and just focus, and play every point as hard as you can,’ ” Zheltova said. “That was pretty much the last set, just try to be more consistent.”

In the fourth game Zheltova ripped off back-to-back aces to close out the game and take a 4-0 lead.

Stratman kept battling. She hit a hard, crosscourt backhand to win the eighth game and pull to within 5-3.

But Zheltova came back with a crushing volley that propelled her to the victory.

In other Santa Barbara Open action, Boise State’s Garrett Patton outlasted Cal’s Jack Sanford for third place in the men’s open. Patton won 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.

In the men’s semifinals, Seeberger defeated Patton, 6-4, 7-6, while Bailou beat Sanford 6-1, 7-6.

In the USTA National Men’s 50s Hardcourt Championships at Tennis Club, Palm Desert’s Mike Fedderly defeated Ventura’s Thomas Kong for the singles title, 7-5, 6-4.

Fedderly also won the doubles, teaming with former ATP World Tour player Mark Wooldridge, to beat defending champions Ross Hessler-Jon Tyrell, 6-4, 6-4.

John Saviano and John Sutter topped David Porte-Thomas Schlack for third place, 6-2, 7-6.

The local team of Greg Tebbe and William Davies won the consolation title over Danny Darnell and Steve Dawson, 7-6, 7-6.