The last time anyone instructed me on the finer points of tennis was over ten years ago, when I would spend Sunday mornings with my uncle who, bleary-eyed and, as I now recognize, hung over, would repeatedly lob tennis balls at me, yelling no further instructions than to try harder and run faster.
So it was with unbridled confidence that I woke up Saturday morning and slogged through the miserable rainy weather to the Stagg Courts, where the Chicago Tennis Club was holding its first annual spring tournament.
Two hours later, shamed and embarrassed after my partner and I were quickly swept aside in successive doubles matches, failing to win a single game in either one, I was left to watch from the sidelines as undergraduates, graduates, university professors, as well as members from the community, including the organizers’ parents, played out their own matches.
“When we were organizing the event, in the back of my mind I was worried that the only people entering the tournament would be the people who were organizing it with me,” third-year Alex Mahylis, president and founder of the Tennis Club, said. “I was definitely impressed with the diverse turnout. Some of the people were club regulars, and some of them were people I’d never seen or met before.”
“Only about a week and a half ago, we really didn’t have too many people signed up, so I was really glad we could get as many people as we did,” third-year Jason Hao, who ran the registration for the event, added.
Although the several dozen participants spanned a wide range of skill levels, there was still an opportunity for everyone involved to play at a level at which they felt comfortable. Experienced players engaged in heavily competitive matches, while those less familiar with tennis were offered the chance to participate in a beginners clinic to learn the basics.
“I was glad that there was a wide competitive range. We were able to structure the matches so that we were able to make the competition fair,” Mahylis said. “Everyone got to play multiple matches and multiple people, and everyone who played got at least one competitive match.”
In mens’ singles play, two graduate students played their way past a field of 24 competitors. In the final, Pierre Gratia, a physics Ph.D. candidate, came out on top over Greg Ruth, a Social Sciences masters student. In the womens’ competition, a five-player round robin eventually proclaimed Susan Klumpner, a social worker involved in the community, as champion, while graduate students Mallika Thomas and Ivan Davis came away with the title in the mixed doubles competition.
The tournament has yet to reach its thrilling conclusion, as the mens’ doubles tournament has yet to be completed. This afternoon at 4 p.m. Mahylis and his fellow third-year doubles partner, Maroon Sports’ own David Kates, will be taking on third-years James Tsai and Frank Li in the mens’ doubles final after seeing their way past the other six teams in the draw.
Regardless of whether he wins that final match, Mahylis and the rest of the Tennis Club are just glad that their first event provided everyone involved with a great opportunity to play the game.
“I think the best part is that everyone is able to find someone with whom they can have a good time hitting,” Mahylis added. “That’s why the club got started in the first place.”
“For it being the first time we organized a tournament, I think it went as well as any of us could have hoped,” Hao concluded. “We’re already looking forward to next year’s tournament, which should be even better.”
Food watch: An excellent spread of sandwiches and sides ordered from Hyde Park Produce really hit the spot after a hard match of tennis. The potato salad and coleslaw were prepared in the only acceptable way: absolutely smothered in mayonnaise.