Defending champions tested in Kailua
Minh Le and Wei-Yu Su, the two-time defending Kailua Night Doubles champions, will get a chance to defend their title tonight in the championship at Kailua Racquet Club.
It took everything they had to get there.
Le and Su took down Michael Bruggemann and Erich Chen in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, fighting off the 2003 and '05 champions 6-7 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6), 7-5. Along the way, they treated a capacity crowd at the club's center court with countless exhilarating plays at all angles and areas of the court.
By the time it was over more than 3 hours later, the four competitors were given a standing ovation and applause that lasted several minutes.
"Minh and I are both good competitors ... we hate to lose," said Su, 32, of Taipei, Taiwan. He and his playing partner have only been together since 2006 after their first championship. "We like to play the big points, we can step up and take them."
Although both pairs have two titles each under their belts over the past five years, it was the first time they played each other.
The fourth-seeded Bruggemann and Chen, former playing partners at Santa Clara, weren't about to let a squandered opportunity - a 6-3 tiebreaker advantage in the second set that they went on to lose - get them down for long. The emotional Bruggemann, who had played excellently at the net all match long, dropped his racquet in frustration, but Chen went over and picked up his spirits.
They broke Le's serve to start the third set and enjoyed a 4-2 lead behind Chen's powerful serves. But like they had all game long, Le and Su rallied to knot things up.
The final game, with the defending champs up 6-5, was a microcosm of the match - Bruggemann and Chen jumped out to an early lead, only to watch it evaporate. It was also the longest game of the night, featuring three deuces and two match points before Le smashed the match-winner off Chen at midcourt.
"We had nothing to lose, but they did play well. They played all the big points well," Bruggemann said. "We just could not finish, and that's a credit to them. They're great players."
Su elevated his game when it mattered, and was key in fighting off the three match points in the tiebreaker of the second set with superb net play and a timely lob. He forced Bruggemann into the net for his team's fifth straight point to win the tiebreaker 8-6 and extend the match to a third and deciding frame.
"I tell myself just play one point at a time in that moment," Su said. "Minh's helping me a lot, supporting me on the side. He complements me."
In the nightcap, second-seeded Jan Axel Tribler and Mikael Maata defeated third-seeded Ikaika Jobe and Bryan Wooten 6-2, 6-4 to advance to play Le and Su in tonight's final. It's the third straight year the two teams will meet in the championship.