The Tennis Academy in Calgary hosted its 6th annual Alberta Grassroots Charity Tennis Championship (AGCTC) on the snowy weekend of April 25-28.

While cars were slipping and sliding in the snowy Calgary streets,  players were keeping the ball between the lines in the largest indoor public tennis facility in western Canada.  The snow, or rather the show, had to go on, if you catch my drift.

The competition attracted 66 players who competed for $14,000 in prize money (and $6,000 in hospitality costs).  The Men’s Open category was top-loaded featuring sixteen players from western Canada and Ontario.  Acceptance into the open championship draw was based on rankings and a four-tournament qualifying series.

Rounding out the event were 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 draws, a clinic for under 8 year-olds, and a Saturday evening Gala Reception and Charity Auction.  An estimated $35,000 was raised for four charities and junior scholarships.

(Photo above:  Riaan Dutoit is presented with his champion’s cheque for $2,500).  Left to right:  Steve Kresnyak, Gary Gordon, Riaan Dutoit and Ralph McNiven.  Ralph, Gary and Steve are Directors of the AGCTC)

Ralph McNiven, Director of Operations at the Tennis Academy, described the tournament highlights:

“The number one highlight is the $35,000 raised for charity, and for junior scholarships.  Second is we introduced more than 20 children age eight and under to the game of tennis.  We also gave Alberta players the opportunity to compete at a high level, and spectators the opportunity to watch.  This is one of the few high level tournaments that take place in Alberta.” (Ralph McNiven)

(Photo above:  Participants in the bring-a-friend to the AGCTC youth clinic)

High Level Players Vied For The Open Championship

Those top players selected for the Men’s Open Championship group were:

Riaan Dutoit, #1 seed, 25 years old.  Champion at the Alberta Open tournament in August 2018.  From Abbotsford, British Columbia.  Currently ranked #19 in Canada.

Carl Ho, #2 seed.  Recently came 2nd to Riaan Dutoit at the Davis Trading Holiday Open in Richmond, B.C., and first in doubles.  Currently ranked 26th in Canada.

Shane Nicholls, #3 seed. Currently ranked 59th in Canada.  From Winnipeg, 25 years old.  On the Calgary Dinos tennis team.

Andrew Ochotta, #4 seed and a qualifier.  Currently ranked #73 in Canada.  A best national ranking of #24.  The player-coach of the Calgary Dinos tennis team. Read more about Ochotta’s tennis career.

Qualifiers were:  Jeffrey James (University of Alberta Golden Bear Captain, national rank #60), Andrei Afilipoaei (age 16, from The Tennis Academy in Calgary.  Ranked #67 in Canada), and Eric Yee (Tennis Academy coach, former top junior in Saskatchewan).

Other players qualifying were:  Kevin Kylar (age 24, runner up at the 2018 Alberta Open, from Manitoba), Ryan Townsend (recent U. of A. Golden Bear captain), Matthew Akman (competitive seniors player from Ontario), Daniel Henschel (U. of A. Golden Bear and runner up at the 2019 Saville Open), and Ayush Gupta (Calgary Dinos tennis team).

Wildcards were awarded to: Tyler Sinclair (Calgary Junior), Stefan Frljanic (former high-ranked Canadian junior, age 23, currently based in Washington), Kevin Butler (former high-ranked junior from Ontario, age 31), and Liam Spiers (Calgary Junior, recent winner of the Alberta Junior Open).

How The Men’s Open Championship Played Out

The tournament script went as expected for the Men’s Open Championship event.  All of the wildcards and qualifiers lost in the first round, except for the 16-year old Calgarian, Andrei Afilipoaei, who moved on to the quarter finals with his first ever match win at this event.  In the quarter finals, Andrei constructed a well-executed 6-1, 6-4 win against Matthew Akman and moved on to the semi-finals as the local favourite.

In other quarter final matches, Daniel Henschel lost to the #1 seed (6-3, 6-2).  Ryan Townsend lost to the #2 seed (6-2, 6-0).  And Shane Nicholls lost to  Kevin Kyler (6-1, 6-4).

The semi-finals featured the #1 and #2 seeds against challengers Andrei Afilipoaei (vs. Riaan Dutoit) and Kevin Kyler (vs. Carl Ho).  Andrei lost 6-3, 6-2 to the #1, and Kevin lost in a close encounter, 7-5, 6-4 to the #2.   This set up the all-BC final between the first two seeds.

The final went two sets with the #1 seed Riaan Dutoit earning the championship title over Carl Ho, 6-3, 7-5.  Ho made a surge in the second set to the delight of the fans who weathered the snowstorm.  Just like full-out ATP matches, serving was key and Dutoit’s gave him the edge.

In Mens Open Doubles

The Mens Open Doubles also went as anticipated, until the semi-finals.  In the semi-finals, Ho/Ochotta (#1 seed) faced Afilipoaei/Kyler.  And Dutoit/Frljanic (#2 seed) faced Henschel/Townsend.  Here we had our first upset when unseeded Henschel/Townsend defeated the #2 team to move on to the finals.

In the final, under dogs Henschel/Townsend from Edmonton took on the Ho/Ochotta #1 seeds, a BC/Calgary duo.  The Edmonton duo made the top seeds work for their prize money, losing 6-4, 6-3, providing a competitive ending to a unique and special tournament.

(Photo above, doubles runner up team of Daniel Henschel and Ryan Townsend, best result for Alberta players)

Other Results

Other event winners and runners-up were:

MS Open–Dana Pallesen, Chayse Marion

5.0–Bill Turk, Terry Leighton

4.0–Andrei Khoma, Arjun Singh

3.0–Don Collins, Roger Lai

MD 4.0–Teryy Leighton/BillTurk, Nipun Mehta, Michael Oliver

XD 4.0–Sam Lim/Heather Churchill-Smith, Willie Jung, Elizabeth Huculak

WS Open–Sarah Rubinstein, Christine Lilley

WD Open–Christine Lilley/Ivana Stakic, Mika Kirchner/Susan Wright

For complete results, read more.

Read more on the tournament in the Calgary Sun.


Contact me with ideas, suggestions or comments at