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New twist on tennis tournament

A different version of this year’s St. Paul tennis club’s final tournament would see some of the club’s oldest and most experienced competitors go up against some of St.

A different version of this year’s St. Paul tennis club’s final tournament would see some of the club’s oldest and most experienced competitors go up against some of St. Paul’s youngest players, in a more light-hearted weekend of games than the club’s usual annual open.

The open usually sees competitors coming in from surrounding areas, such as Lloydminster and Vermilion to play, explained club treasurer Dan Zarowny. “Putting a tournament like that is a lot of extra time and we just didn’t have the resources for that this year,” he said, explaining the executive found themselves too busy to stage such an event. “This year, we adopted a strictly local tournament.”

Sixteen players of all ages, including men and women, would instead take part in one of two divisions, a higher, more intermediate 4.5 division and a more gentle, beginner to intermediate 3.5 division, in games that went on from Friday to Sunday afternoon.

The final game on Sunday afternoon would see a grueling match between the tennis club president, Dave Shankowski, and club member and tennis enthusiast Casey Enriquez. The pair would duke it out for the single 4.5 division winner’s title. After nearly two hours of competition and going to three sets, Shankowski would capture the title, after winning a tiebreaker on the first set, taking a 0-6 loss in the second set, and winning the third set, 6-4.

“It was very good competition. Casey was on top of his game this year,” said Shankowski. In the end, though, Shankowski said it came down to stamina. “I think I outlasted him – he just kind of petered out.”

In the 3.5 division finals, 74-year-old Ken Venugopal would take on 13-year-old Jonathan Taylor (J.T.) and youth would win the day, with J.T. beating Venugopal in two of three sets.

“I let him win,” joked Venugopal, following the match.

In the doubles final, Miguel Christensen and Somesh Moorthy would tackle 13-year-olds Noah Shankowski and Kohl McOuat, and would win in straight sets, 6-2 and 6-3.

“It was really fun – a nice opportunity for the youngsters,” noted Moorthy of this year’s format, adding that the kids seemed to enjoy the experience of going up against more seasoned tennis players like Enriquez.

It’s important to make newer, younger players in the game “feel comfortable and as though they belong here,” said Zarowny. This year, the club put a lot of resources into hiring a top-notch instructor, working in the schools, and providing equipment and lessons to young kids in the classrooms. For whatever reason, those efforts failed to bring in greater numbers of kids into tennis this year, he said. “What we did wrong, we don’t know.”

Next year, the club is talking about making registration fees minimal or perhaps even removing them altogether to see if it encourages more kids to take part. Tennis is a convenient and affordable option for kids since they can leave for holidays or other events during the season and come back to pick up where they left off, Zarowny notes. It just remains to show kids and parents the benefits of the sport and make the courts a place where kids want to come, play and socialize.

He’s hoping part of the appeal will be the new look of the tennis courts, located adjacent to the St. Paul golf course clubhouse. The club is currently undertaking some landscaping, and will be making the area a proper “tennis park,” said Zarowny.

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