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Zafiros earns way into first pro tennis tournament

Despite severe cramping, The IMG Academy School senior Jason Zafiros was not going to be denied in Saturday's Hurricane Open pre-qualifying tennis tournament final.

Not after playing seven ITF tournaments in South America recently with inconsistent results. Not with only one wild-card entry into the main qualifying tournament at stake.

And, especially, not on his mother Tammy's birthday.

The 17-year-old Bradenton resident - who has signed to play college tennis at Arizona - gritted his teeth through the pain for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory against Brazilian Pedro Davisson on the green clay of the Racquet Club of El Conquistador and a wild-card into the main qualifying tournament, which begins May 10. It will mark the first professional tournament for Zafiros.

"My legs are still hurting (Sunday), but I got through the match," said Zafiros, who won his first three matches of the pre-qualifying tournament in straight sets. "I knew if I stuck with it, the cramps eventually would go away, and I didn't want to default.

"I thought I could win no matter what if I kept going."

Zafiros, ranked No. 116 worldwide in ITF juniors, said he was able to hit a few winners standing still because Davisson, an exchange student who played for Sarasota High, over-adjusted his game when he saw Zafiros struggling with tightness in his legs.

"He made some mental errors," Zafiros said.

Zafiros, who trains at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy on the campus of IMG Academy, beat fellow academy student Devin Britton in Saturday morning's semifinal 6-2, 6-4.

An enthusiastic crowd included Tammy Zafiros, who called her son's victory her best-ever birthday present.

"She said it was a good present for her," said Zafiros, whose best finish south of the equator was a semifinal appearance in Bolivia. "It didn't make me any more nervous, though."   

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