By Griffin O’Hara
SOFIA, Bulgaria — This year’s U.S. Tennis Team proved itself a strong contender during team and mixed doubles Saturday, despite returning just two players from 2009’s team.
The first matches on Dema Tennis Center’s red clay courts belonged to the U.S.’s No. 1 doubles team, Emily Hangstefen and Laura Chapman, who faced Lin Chia Wen and Sha Te-Shiun of Chinese Taipei.
Despite having just met each other in June and practicing together only once since, Hangstefer and Chapman worked together efficiently to handily defeat their opponents, 6-0, 6-1.
Simultaneously, on another court, the U.S. No. 2 men’s doubles team of Javier Molinar and Richard Noel played Hungary’s Gabor Mathe and Istvan Horvath.
Noel and Molinar attempted to execute their strategy of directing the ball to Istvan Horvath, the weaker of the two Hungarians, but still lost, 0-6, 0-6.
In mixed doubles, brother-sister duo Daniel and Emily Hangstefer, a brother-sister combo were expected to make quick work of Russians Sergey Likharer and Svetlana Animora.
The Hangstefers won handily, playing as if they’d been a doubles team all their lives, even though this was their second time playing together. The final score: 6-0, 6-1.
Also in mixed doubles, Laura Chapman and Bradford Minns went up against an inexperienced Indian pair, Shafay Quadri and Parul Gupta, the first to play tennis in the Deaflympics for their country.
Chapman and Minns steamrolled, defeating the Indians, 6-0, 6-0.
Minns said the match was a good warm-up for upcoming games.
All American duos acquitted themselves well Saturday, despite the slight disadvantage of playing on red clay — a type of court not used in America, Chapman said.
Sunday is an important day for U.S. tennis, with Daniel Hangstefer playing in the men’s singles; Emily Hangstefer in the women’s singles; and Minns and Daniel Hangstefer in men’s doubles.