Tony Bujan can look back on a successful 2015 having gone undefeated in 40-and-over USTA national age-group tournaments. He can also look forward to some more potentially big moments ahead in the new year.
As the top-seeded player, the 45-year-old Bujan of Tustin captured his third consecutive USTA National Hardcourt 40s tournament with a straight-set win in the final over 40-year-old Brazilian Marcio Carlsson in the event that took place in December at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.
Bujan was unfamiliar with the former ATP Tour player once ranked as high as No. 119 in the world, and it’s probably for the best. “I called a buddy of mine who played against him on tour and he told me he was going to be tough and he gave me the scoop on him,” Bujan said of the No. 4-seeded Carlsson. “He had four or five set points in the first set, and I think he was the favorite. I couldn’t keep up with him from the baseline so I started to serve and volley a little bit. I was able to hit some big serves and some good volleys.”
Bujan was happy with the way he pulled out the win against a player of Carlsson’s caliber. “I’ve had some tour experience myself, and it’s hard not to play well there in La Jolla,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s close to home. But I am kind of surprised I’ve been able to win this tournament three years in a row.”
Bujan, who also won the Pacific Southwest Tournament in the 40s in 2015, said he will be back to try and win an unprecedented fourth straight Hardcourt National 40s title in 2016. Current USC coach Peter Smith is the only other player to have won the tournament three straight times.
Bujan, a former mortgage broker, played on the men’s professional tennis circuit briefly in the 1990s after being named an All-American at Texas Christian University three times. The down economy forced him to do some more teaching several years ago and he slowly picked up the game again teaching tennis and playing doubles.
“I wanted to get into shape again and slowly built up my coaching and teaching business in Tustin and San Clemente,” Bujan said.
He said playing national events keeps him relevant with his young students. “I coach the mental and the strategy side so playing kind of keeps me current,” he added. “There’s an art to winning a tournament and how you slowly progress and get better and better. I’m able to pass on that mindset of what I’m going through to my students. They saw me play. It’s a good thing for me to do. To be a good coach it helps to be able to play and stay current.”
Bujan, who is part Croatian, will likely be named to one of the USTA national young seniors age-group Cup teams that will travel to Croatia in 2016. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be selected because I didn’t lose a match last year,” he said. “I’m pretty excited because I’ve never been to Croatia before.”
Bujan was born in Anaheim and spent two years as a junior training in Palm Desert with Jose Higueras.
He said he does have regrets giving up on the tour so soon after college, choosing to go back to school and finish his degree. “I did kind of stop early,” he said. “I was struggling and wasn’t making it financially. I probably hung it up a little earlier than I should have.
I think you always have some regrets not seeing how good you could have been.
Yeah, there’s a little bit of regret there, but not that much.”
If only he knew then what he knows now. He said: “When I played on the tour I was trying to get from tournament to tournament and needing to win to get to the next tournament because I didn’t have money to travel. There’s a lot of pressure there. It’s tough enough just to win matches, but when you put the pressure that you have to win because you need the money to travel it’s puts on the pressure that much more. So now I’m just playing for fun and enjoying it.
“If I would have figured that out back then I would have maybe had a pro career. But I didn’t stay out there long enough to figure it out.”