The Alberta Senior Provincials were held July 12-15 at the St. Albert Tennis Club, coinciding with the Wimbledon finals. This charming venue is just one block away from the renowned St. Albert Farmer’s market, nestled among mature trees.
(Feature photo: Sara Mcneill serves to Caroline Benning)
“If the courts were grass, this would be just like Wimbledon,” a volunteer joked as he watered one of the many flower pots that dress up the courts and clubhouse. Benches for onlookers invite friendly banter among players and fans. Experienced volunteers provided an excellent lunch and barbecue along with enthusiastic support for players.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments. I love the setting and the volunteers are awesome. Many of the same volunteers have been here for a long time. The flowers and the special touches are lovely. The vibe is friendly and relaxed. I wish there were more seniors tournaments like this.” (tournament participant)
The tournament hosted 47 players in draws ranging from over 35 to over 60 years old. For many of the players, the provincials are a dry run for the nationals that take place this year in Montreal at the end of August. National winners will be invited to join the Canadian team to compete in international events.
Photo above, left to right: Keith Bienart (#2 seed), Jeff James (St. Albert Club Pro), and Dan Townsend (#1 seed and double champion)
It wasn’t Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, no, it was Dan Townsend who won both of his events, again. He finished first in the men’s singles (over 55), and he also won the mixed doubles with partner Liisa Wheadon (over 45).
The doubles events were particularly competitive this year. Dan and Liisa showed grit in matches won against Bonnie and Dave Crowther (6-2, 7-6), and Stuart Shaw and Joanne Vetsch (7-5, 6-2). In his singles final Dan defeated Keith Bienart in a close 6-2, 7-5 match.
This was Dan’s eighth consecutive year in the provincial finals, and his sixth time winning. He has competed twice at nationals. In August he will watch his son Ryan play on the University of Alberta Golden Bears tennis team at the national university finals in Toronto. Ryan is currently ranked #25 in Canada, just slightly below Denis Shapovolav (ranked #1 in Canada) and Milos Raonic (ranked #2), who WERE at Wimbledon.
Photo above: Caroline and Benning and Sara Mcneill after their singles match.
One of the best singles matches of the tournament was played by doubles partners Caroline Benning and Sara Mcneill in over two hours on court 1. The match featured long rallies, amazing defence, and a range of tactics. Caroline came back after losing the first set to win the match (1-6, 7-6, 10-5). The fans on court 1 provided Wimbledon-like applause for the most spectacular rallies.
The women’s doubles event featured experienced teams. Caroline and Sara defeated Iryna Laschuk/Alexandra Truscott (5-7, 6-0, 10-7), Alana Ng/Joanne Vetsch (6-2, 6-3), and Margo Jerace/Ainslie Lyons (6-2, 6-1). After two years working as a doubles team, this was Benning/Mcneill’s first championship win.
Caroline and Sara both train at the Royal Glenora Club with coach Marvin Hinds.
“Marvin gave us a plan for the year with goals. He makes the most of our strengths, is professional and caring. Even though we are senior players, he takes our development seriously.
Full tournament results are available here. Other winners were:
MD45. Keith Bienert, Stuart Shaw (1st); Buzz Robinson, Peter Rothwell (2nd)
MD60. Cyril Fried, Rob Gravells (1st); John O’Donnell, Dave Rudge (2nd)
MS35. Jeff Lewis (1st), Paul Guevara (2nd)
MS50. Luis Usevicius (1st), Thuy Cao (2nd)
MS55. Dan Townsend (1st), Keith Bienert (2)
MS60. David Crowther (1st), Jim Leavens (2nd)
WD40. Carline Benning, Sara McNeill (1st); Margo Jerace, Ainslie Lyons (2nd)
WS40. Liisa Wheadon (1st), Chandra Wanigaratne (2nd)
WS50. Susan Wright (1st), Caroline Benning (2nd)
WS60. Ellen Toth (1st), Susan Gilbertson (2nd)
XD45. Dan Townsend, Liisa Wheadon (1st); Stuart Shaw, Joanne Vetsch (2nd)
These senior tennis players, age 30 to 70+, are serious athletes and skilled competitors. Some had three or four matches in one day, starting from 7:30 a.m. and ending in the evening. Their love of the game is front and centre.
“Why do we like tennis? Tennis is fun. It is not like running on a treadmill. You make good friends and meet amazing people. Every game is different. You are always learning and growing.” (Caroline Benning and Sara Mcneill).
The next adult event in Alberta is the Sweet Spot Open, July 26-29.
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