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Sewickley native takes Philly tennis tournament

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 10:29 a.m.

The Philadelphia Open was closed easily, efficiently by Luke Ross.

Ross, 13, of Sewickley, didn't lose a set en route to the boys' 14-and-under singles championship. Five matches, five straight-set victories in his bracket of the Philadelphia Open Junior Tennis Tournament, played Aug. 10-12 at William Penn Charter School.

That included a 6-0, 6-0 rout of the No. 1 seed, Justin Chong, in the semifinals and a 6-2, 6-1 win against Adam Oscislawski in the championship, both on the final day. Ross lost only eight games in 10 sets.

"Everything was clicking," said Ross, adding that he was initially "pretty nervous ... but after I won a couple of matches, I felt confident."

An eighth-grader at Sewickley Academy, Ross has been competing in U.S. Tennis Association events for three years. He said he had won before, but this triumph "was the biggest so far."

Frank Baritot certainly was impressed. He is the instructor who works the most with Ross at the Pennsylvania Tennis Academy and Pure Athletics in Wexford. Baritot did not attend the open, but got a detailed report.

"The scores kind of shocked me, especially the 6-0, 6-0 against the top seed," he said. "Luke had shown some gains in some tournaments, but nothing compared with how he did in Philadelphia."

Baritot said Ross has been coming to his facility for only about three or four months, yet that has been long enough for the Sewickley youth to display his ample physical skills and an ideal demeanor. He does that frequently, in tennis and while competing in soccer, basketball and lacrosse at the academy.

"He's a natural," Baritot said. "Because Luke plays a number of sports, he catches on pretty quickly in anything else he tries.

"He doesn't get emotionally up or down and he isn't overwhelmed by anything. He doesn't say anything, just goes about his business and works really hard."

A 5-foot-8 right-hander, Ross said he likes "to go for the big shots, but I will play it safe if I need to."

Again, the demeanor.

The Ross family has become accustomed to athletic success. Luke's sister, Caroline, helped the Sewickley Academy girls' tennis team win a state championship last year while also taking PIAA gold in doubles. She is a freshman lacrosse player at Tufts University.

Now it's her brother's turn, although it is too early to tell how his athletic future will turn. At this juncture, he isn't favoring one sport.

When Ross does, Baritot has a vision of what will occur.

"Once he figures out his skills, I think he'll do fine in what he wants to do in athletics," Baritot said. "He knows how to compete.

"If he makes the commitment to tennis, he could play at a high level in college."

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