The Rob Bell Memorial tournament was hosted June 6-9 by the Saville Community Tennis Centre in honour of the man who laid the foundation for the beautiful Saville Centre and its highly successful tennis program. The tournament is 21 years old this year.
Rob Bell was the Tennis Manager at the University of Alberta Tennis Centre from 1986-1995. He was one of the top tennis coaches and players in Alberta, and a builder of tennis facilities and tennis communities in Alberta.
His legacy lives on through the work of Russ Sluchinski, the current Tennis Manager and Head Coach at the Saville who was mentored by Rob Bell; his student Corey Stewart who coaches at the Saville Centre and is one of the top coaches in Canada; and his son Carson Bell who was one of the top players in the province and is also currently one of the top coaches in Canada. Read more on Rob Bell in an article written by his wife at the time, Syrill Wilson. Syrill was also one of the top female players and coaches in Alberta at that time.
Since Rob Bell started the tennis program at the University of Alberta in 1987:
- The Golden Bears have won 22 Western Championship titles and 7 national titles
- The Pandas have have won 19 Western Championship titles and 2 national titles.
(Photos in this article by Magdalena Barry)
The two Open champions at this year’s Rob Bell Memorial tournament, Kirsten Prelle and Connor Khademazad, are both university players coaching for the summer at the Saville youth camps. Kirsten is from Edmonton and Connor is from Texas. Ironically, Kirsten played at the University of Texas last year, and Connor played for the University of Alberta. Apparently the Texas-Alberta pipeline transports more than oil, tennis players too!
Connor: “I started tennis at the age of 13, playing at a tennis academy in Dallas. I have dual citizenship and I always wanted to live on the west coast, so I decided to join University of British Columbia’s tennis team. Russ Sluchinski recruited me to the University of Alberta tennis team on scholarship last year. As a junior I played mostly high school tennis and open tournaments in the Dallas area. I chose tennis over football because it is safer, and because of the challenge. It is just you out there, no excuses, no one else to blame.
Russ Sluchinski commented on what attracted him to recruit Connor:
“When I reached out to Connor I saw a mature hard working athlete passionate about tennis with a big serve and a solid baseline game. I felt he was a great fit for our program and I am very happy he transferred to University of Alberta.”
Connor’s road to the final was long and tough. He played five matches, singles and doubles, on the last day of the tournament. His first two matches tested his skills and his resolve, both going the full three sets. First he defeated his Golden Bear teammate Neel Phaterpakar, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Next up was the Golden Bear captain and number 2 seed, Jeff James. Connor came back from a first set loss at 3-6 to win 6-3, 6-2. Then in the quarterfinals he found a solid rhythm and downed 19-year old Alex Vukovic, 6-1, 6-0.
In the semi-final, he faced #3 seed Daniel Henschel. Connor found a way to win in two close sets, 6-4, 6-4.
The final was the battle of unseeded Connor against the #1 seed, Shane Nicholls from Winnipeg, currently on the Calgary Dinos team. It was a University of Alberta/University of Calgary showdown. Connor managed the moment with calm resolve, and took the victory 6-4, 6-3, reaffirming his game as one to be reckoned with.
Connor commented on the tournament:
“The first matches were just survival. I eased into the tournament. I think my strength was staying mentally strong, and not getting upset. Coach Ivan Quintero has helped me a lot with my mental game, my tactics and strategy. It is not easy to stay calm and I have worked hard on that part of my game with Ivan.”
Connor was selected by the coaching staff as the Golden Bear’s Most Valuable Player this year. He and the rest of the Golden Bear tennis team is focused now on the Canadian University Tennis Championships, August 8-11 in Montreal.
Kirsten: “I started tennis at age 5 in Edmonton and went through the Saville’s tennis program with coach Dan James, then Lan Yao-Gallop. My best results were a doubles win (2016) and also a doubles second place at Nationals, and a second place at the Edmonton ITF. I had a very good year at the University of Texas this year, playing the #1 position, and making the top 16 in the Conference.”
“Freshman Kirsten Prelle from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada finished her outstanding freshman season with UTEP’s only victory in their opening round loss to Florida International at the Conference USA Championship Tournament last weekend…Prelle seems poised to breakout and may be the best tennis prospect since Vivienne Kulicke transferred from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2016.” From an article in The Prospector, University of Texas. Read more about Kirsten’s outstanding year at the University of Texas.
Kirsten’s draw was small at the Rob Bell tournament and her road to the final relatively easy in both singles and doubles partnering with veteran Kristina Sanjevic. Kirsten plans to compete in other ITF and Open tournaments this summer, and next year to continue moving up in college rankings with her new tennis team at the University of Arizona. “I have played tennis for thirteen years now. I hope to play tennis all my life. For now I want to see how far I can go at the ITF/Open level.”
Other winners and second place results at the Rob Bell Memorial were:
MS 5.0. Ivan Quintero and David Crowther
WS 5.0. Michelle Lewis and Lydia Samis
MS 4.0. Dan Townsend and Thuy Thanh Cao
WS 4.0. Jennifer Rymes and Biyu Liang
MS 3.0. Kaveh Farjadfard and Sonny Nguyen
MD Open. Daniel Henschel/Jeffrey James, and Neel Phaterpekar/Quin Pon
WD Open. Kirsten Prelle/Kristina Sanjevic, and Lydia Samis/Riyo Tomita
WD 5.0. Mayumi Hagiwara/Mika Kirchner, and Chandra Wanigaratne/Kyoko Watanabe
XD 5.0. David Crowther/Bonnie Crowther, and Jonathan Pearson/Michelle Lewis
MD 4.0. Andre Hoffmann/Stuart Shaw, and Alex Pang/James Please
Congratulations to all who took part in the Rob Bell Memorial Tennis Tournament, 2019! Well done taking on Mother Nature as the uninvited opponent who brought cold and rain to your matches.
Going to a pro tournament? A club experience of note? Travel that includes some tennis? If anyone has summer tennis stories, opinions, or ideas that they would like to share, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.