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Flushing’s Kryvonis falls in first round

But then the headaches and cramps set in, and Kryvonis went from...

By Mitch Abramson

Mykyta Kryvonis was making it look easy. The 17-year-old from Flushing was running Scott Lipsky around the court and was leading 4-1 after breaking him in the second game of the first set.

But then the headaches and cramps set in, and Kryvonis went from being a fresh-faced junior player with unlimited potential to a kid struggling to survive the first round of the West Side Tennis Club’s Clay Court Challenger at Forest Hills on Tuesday.

Lipsky would lose the first set 7-5, but with Kryvonis’ body language spelling doom, Lipsky, ranked 570th in the world, talked and willed himself back into the match before winning 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the second round.

“I could see that by the second set he started taking more time in between points and he wasn’t moving the same,” said the resident of Merrick, L.I. “I was feeling good and I decided to put my foot on the gas and try to close it out. I felt that if I could control the match with my play that I had a good chance to win.”

A victim of a right leg infection that required two surgeries in January and March of last year, Kryvonis began playing again in November, but he still suffers from recurrent head and leg pains, and he’s watched his under-18 ranking drop to No. 49 because of innactivity.

In the second set, down a break 2-1, he asked for the trainer’s assistance. After popping two Tylenol, he shoved himself back onto the court, where his movement was limited to hitting winners from the baseline after artfully setting up his shots in the first set.

“I really don’t care about winning or losing,” said Kryvonis, who was born in the Ukraine, where he was the top-ranked under-13 junior. “I’m really disappointed because I couldn’t play my game because of the headaches and the cramps. I know that there are plenty of more matches for me to play in. But it bugs me that I wasn’t at my best today.”

Kryvonis and Lipsky represent bastions of hope in American tennis and received wild cards from the USTA to play at Forest Hills to give them the necessary credentials to play in pro tournaments overseas, testing grounds for young American players.

Kryvonis, a boyish-looking player with shoulder-length blond hair, is no stranger to seeing the world. Six years ago he and his parents acquired a permanent visa to go to the United States, and they moved from Donetsk, Ukraine to Flushing.

Soon Kryvonis was playing tennis at the Fila Sports Club in Long Island City. Then in 2000 he and his father relocated to Florida to practice at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Pompano Beach. With so many players vying for personal attention, they returned to New York to train with Nick Brebenel in Glen Head.

It’s a vagabond existence, but Kryvonis is used to traveling around the world to play in tournaments and he’s racked up frequent flyer mileage to play in the Italian, Belgium, and Jr. French Opens. A day after the Forest Hills tournament, he was set to go to Europe to compete in another tournament.

“That’s the reason we came to America — for the opportunities,” said Kryvonis, whose mother works as a computer specialist at the mayor’s office. “I travel all over the place, then I come home and relax for a couple of weeks and then it’s off again to another tournament.”

To shield Kryvonis from the pressures and hazards of competition, his dad accompanies him wherever he goes, and the athlete is home-schooled at Keystone National High School. A businessman in Florida supplies the money, but the rest is up to Kryvonis. The Forest Hills Tennis Classic was the second pro tournament he’s competed in and, because of its proximity, made quite an impression on him.

“I live 10 minutes away from here,” he said. “That’s the reason I was so excited to play in this tournament. When I was younger, I used to sneak into the US Open to get the real good seats and watch the players. This is my first time playing at Forest Hills, and if I had won, I would have stayed and played the next round instead of going to the next tournament. I like playing at home.”

Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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