Around 240 entrants, many of them signing up in the final days, participated in this year’s 52nd annual Manhattan Beach Open Tennis Tournament at the Manhattan Beach Country Club, which concluded last Sunday.

The men’s open singles competition drew 73 entrants playing for the top prize, including defending champion Phillip Bester of Malibu, who defeated University of Southern California freshman Jake Sands, 19, of Pacific Palisades to defend his title.

It was a hard-hitting affair with plenty of great shot making. Ultimately, Bester made most of the key shots to break through near the end of both sets to pull out the win 6-3, 6-4.

“When I don’t really practice very much, I don’t always know what to expect so I kind of lean on my experience,” said Bester, who previously played professionally and is focused on open tournaments these days.

With the score tied 3-3 in games in set one, Bester was down 15-40 on his serve. He managed to compose himself and came back to win the game to take a 4-3 lead and then broke Sands on his serve to make it 5-3.

He closed out the set to then have the early advantage.

“That’s experience-big moment there, things can completely change,” Bester said. “I played some big points. I raised my level. That’s momentum in tennis. Couple points here and there, the score can be different.”

It was similar in the second set with the score tied 4-4. He held on to break Sands on his serve for a 5-4 lead and then served it out for the title.

“He is a very experienced, good player,” Sands said. “He was just better than me today.”

He won $2,200 for winning, Sands took home $1,000.

“It’s just so fun to compete,” Bester said. “It was a good match today. Obviously, Jake is a great player.”

Bester said he had his hands full during the tournament.

“Everybody I played were really, really good,” Bester said. “These guys are college (NCAA) Division 1 players so it is not a walk in the park.”

He said he will be back to go for three in a row if he is “healthy.”

Sands meanwhile had his first experience in Manhattan Beach and enjoyed it.

“A friend told me about it,” Sands said. “Very big tournament, I was surprised about the entry size. It was a lot of fun, just wish it turned out better.”

He said he will be back if he is “in town.”

Women's Open Singles

In the women’s open singles final, Brazilian Ingrid Gamarra Martins, who played collegiately at the University of South Carolina for four years and has just started her pro career, faced University of Southern California’s Constance Branstine of Orange. Martins won 6-1, 6-0.

She has already won two lower level professional tournaments, one in singles and one in doubles.

“I am trying to play in some tournament and start my pro career,” said Gamarra Martins, who is 22.

She currently lives in La Canada Flintridge and is originally from Rio de Janiero. She won the SEC Conference Tournament singles title and was tournament MVP and SEC Conference Player of the Year. South Carolina won the team title and finished in the top eight in women’s tennis in NCAA Division 1.

Her coach signed her up for the tournament.

“It was great to play, my first time. It was close to home and my coach got to see me play. It was a very nice tournament.”

She followed the game plan from her coach.

“I was being aggressive and just doing what he told me to do. I think that worked well.”

She plans to come back next year.

Martins, who was ranked the No. 1 in NCAA in doubles won $855 for winning. Branstine, who has one year left at Southern California, took home $375 for being the runner-up.

“The tournament went beyond my expectations,” Branstine said. “I play these tournaments a lot and it was just a great atmosphere. I was pretty happy with everything overall.”

She had a tough challenge in the final.

“Ingrid is a great player and she really played some good tennis today,” Branstine said.

Both finalists were playing in the tournament for the first time. There were 18 in the women’s open draw.

In the men’s doubles open division, local player Joseph Rotheram, 21, of Redondo Beach and Victor Krustev, 20, of Toronto won back-to-back titles. The defending champions defeated Clay Thompson of Venice and Blaine Hovenier of Encino.

“It was a good match, really tough competition,” Rotheram said.

Rotheram said Thompson’s serve was tough to break. But they have played college tennis together and had a slight advantage that came through in the end.

“It’s great,” said Krustev, who enjoys playing on the courts. “We were the No. 1 seed. We had high expectations on us. We did it again.”

Rotheram, who has two years left to play left to play at Santa Barbara, played in the tournament for the third time.

“I love playing in front of my home crowd,” Rotheram said. “I love people supporting me.”

Women's Doubles and local winners

In the women’s doubles open division, Sofia Booth of Marina del Rey and Siobhan Anderson defeated Anna Gorzkowski of Manhattan Beach and Heidi Nelson of Torrance.

While there were many locals participating in the lower divisions, there were some that made it to the finals just below the open divisions.

Jonathan Martinez, 29, of Manhattan Beach competed in the men’s open singles draw last year, but decided this year to play in the 5.0 and ended up winning 7-5, 6-2 over Michael Scovotti, 40, of Hawthorne.

“I was not expecting less,” Martinez said. “A little bit more enjoyable for sure (versus last year).”

Karina Kraines, 42, of Manhattan Beach played in the women’s open 4.0 singles and lost 0-6, 6-2, 10-4 to Carrie Arsenault, 46, of Hermosa Beach.

This is her second time playing. She won 3.5 singles last year.

“She lobbed me to death,” Kraines said. “That is something I have to work on.”

Not bad though for just having taken up tennis less than two years ago.

“I’m totally into it, addicted,” she said.

The winner in the men’s singles 4.5 was Toni Hsu, 39, of Redondo Beach. He defeated Mike Hayes, 38, of Manhattan Beach.

In the men’s doubles 4.5, Jonathan Rapoport, 47, of Redondo Beach was also a winner with Tony Shaver.

There were more winners locally in the lower divisions.

“There are really like two parts to the tournament,” said Manhattan Beach Open Tennis Tournament director Michael Hudak. “There is the showcase part and there is the local, South Bay event.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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