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Chicago connection nets two titles, one runner-up at Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open at IMG Academy

Chicago connection wins two titles and a runner-up at the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open that was held at IMG Academy.
Chicago connection wins two titles and a runner-up at the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open that was held at IMG Academy.

BRADENTON -- When Alex Ross, Gianni Ross and Axel Nefve depart Bradenton and return to the Chicago area, they'll be doing so with some silverware in tow.

The trio were a part of several top junior tennis players that descended on the Friendly City for the inaugural Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open at IMG Academy.

The tournament crowned six champions on Monday in three age divisions.

Two of those winners came from the Chicago contingent with Gianni's older brother Alex earning a finals appearance before losing to Sahil Deshmukh in the boys 15s.

Gianni claimed the boys 13s and Nefve polished off the boys 11s bracket.

Other winners included: Jessica Ho (girls 15s), Nicole Krykanov (girls 13s) and Abigail Desiatnikov (girls 11s).

However, the three Chicago-based players were primed for success.

Brothers Alex and Gianni share the same coach with Nefve, which gives them an advantage in training for upcoming tournaments.

"It's efficient, because we all get to play and its

good hitting for all of us," Nefve said. "That's how we mostly win our matches, because we've been playing with each other."

When the Ross brothers train together, their matches develop into a normal sibling competition.

"I don't know if he looks up to me, but I hope he does," said Alex, Gianni's older brother by 20 months. "And we have a lot of battles at our club and stuff. Whenever he wants to hit, I want to hit. And we have a mutual relationship with playing ... and it's unbelievably competitive when we get on the court. Because I don't want to lose, because I'm the older one. And he always wants to beat me, and when he does, it's a great accomplishment for him in a way."

That's made their games against each other healthy, and given each the added strength in tournament competition when pressure can be at an all-time high.

On Monday, Gianni captured the boys 13s division over top-seeded Tatsuki Shimamoto.

Gianni Ross said the turning point came in the opening game of the second set.

"Normally most of my matches, I'm terrible in the second sets," he said. "And my dad tells me, 'Try to win the first game like it's the last game of the match.' I played with that, and I believe that's what changed the whole match for me from losing the second set to having a good 6-1 blowout."

Winning titles wasn't the only prize at stake for the junior tennis players that began the tournament on Friday.

Rather, each winning player will return to IMG Academy for further evaluation and one player will be awarded a scholarship for one year's worth of tuition -- roughly $70,000 -- at the Manatee County facility.

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