It's not too often that a coach and their player get to be on the same level, competing together. But Frankie Garofalo and her coach, Kings Highway Tennis Club professional Kosta Zinchanka, both of Norwalk, joined forces last weekend to battle in the Westport Tennis Open at Greens Farms Academy.
The tandem won a match and lost a hard-fought battle in the round-robin format mixed open doubles bracket to finish second among three teams. The winners were Norwalk's Zack Lamar and Weston's Marie Gargiulo, who prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) over Garofalo and Zinchanka.
"It was really fun," said Garofalo, a 17-year-old junior at Greens Farms Academy. "I really never get to play mixed doubles."
Garofalo plays year-round, four or five days per week, competing in United States Tennis Association-sponsored tournaments such as the Westport Open, when her schedule allows.
The Westport Open is a new tourney this year, and happened to be at Garofalo's familiar Greens Farms courts. Sharing match-play responsibilities with her coach made for a nice change of pace, she said.
"It was fun because it was the first time when we could help each other out," Garofalo said.
The tandem worked together to earn a 6-0, 6-1 win over Jennifer Dubinsky of Greenwich and Georgian Marcu of Weston before falling to Gargiulo and Lamar, a tandem that also defeated Dubinsky and Marcu.
Garofalo has played singles and doubles, as needed, on the GFA team since eighth grade and is the team's top singles player. She's been playing tennis since she was 10.
The Westport Open's doubles competition was intended to be played over the course of two days but rain resulted in much of the tournament getting truncated into one busy day. Garofalo and her coach-turned-teammate competed twice in a rigorous morning and afternoon. "By the end we were pretty tired," Garofalo said.
Garofalo helped Greens Farms earn second place in the New England Class A Tournament last year. She looks forward to another two potentially successful high school seasons and hopes to continue playing upon graduation.
"I hope I play in college. It's been a goal for a long time," she said.
Zinchanka is a native of Mink, Belarus. He has represented his country in European and World Junior Championships, and continued his playing career on the professional circuit for two years. He came to the United States in 2000 and went to the University of South Alabama, where he earned runner-up status in the NCAA fall championships.
Chris Clarke was another Norwalk resident who competed in the Westport Open. He battled in the Men's 3.5 singles bracket. Clarke, seeded fourth in the bracket, got a bye in the round of 16 and fell to Warren Abbay, 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.