ESCANABA - The Michigan-Wisconsin Tennis Tournament field continues to shrink, but that doesn't stop Brett Girard from continuing his domination in Class A men's singles.
The Marquette netter won his fifth M-W title here Saturday, barely eluding Mark Stinski of Appleton in a pair of tough tie-breakers. Following a 50-minute delay to let the courts dry after a brief rain shower, Girard quickly won four straight points to complete his title defense with a 7-4 overtime decision in a 7-6 set. He won the opening set 7-6 with a 7-2 OT conquest.
"With the prestige of this tournament, it is fun to win," Girard said while packing his equipment bag in Ludington Park.
Holly Richer |?Daily Press
Ed Adiska of Escanaba returns a shot in the Men’s B final Saturday against Jacob Espinoza of Negaunee during the Michigan-Wisconsin Tennis Open at Ludington?Park. Adiska won the match 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
He wasn't sure what impact the rain delay would have, but knew one thing was certain. "I didn't want to play another set," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe the rain delay helped."
He drilled two straight serves for the tying and go-ahead points when the match resumed, then collected two more quick points to end play.
"Mark is a good player. He serves and volleys well and makes a lot of tough shots. Only a handful of points decided it," he said of the surprisingly tight give-and-take match against an opponent who is some 20 years older. His serve led to some quick points but he admitted mis-firing on several other points in a match where the players have different styles.
"He comes to the net and I like to stay back," said Girard, noting he wasn't sure how this match would turn out despite his recent domination. "I haven't been hitting as much lately."
Ed Adiska of Escanaba won Class B, outlasting Jacob Espinoza of Negaunee 7-6 (12-10), 4-6, 6-4 in a quality, very competitve match. Espinoza fell to the court shortly before the shower with a severe leg cramp but recovered after a brief break to persist.
Adiska, who also won this division five years ago, was wearing a bright orange t-shirt as part of Team Payten. He said Payten Bozzo LaMarch, 16, of Bark River, is being treated for leukemia.
"We're trying to get some awareness out there," said Adiska, noting he and his wife and friends are holding a car wash fund-raiser Saturday at Advanced Auto.
Adiska just turned 40 and was excited to beat three younger opponents in his title march. "It feels good to turn 40 and knowing that I can still compete," he said.
The title match resumed after the rain delay and Adiska needed just seconds to secure the title. "Once we had the rain delay I thought he might recover and come out steaming, but I was able to hang on."
He said learning some of the game's nuances has helped over the years. "I've learned to forget the good and bad shots and go to the next one. Once I started rolling the ball better (today) I got sharp."
Only 95 players entered the 66th annual tournament, a drop of 25 percent from last year, according to director Dennis Lueneburg. "It was really down with the youth and women's divisions," he said, noting only three women entered, one in Class A and two in Class B singles, and only 14 men entered Class B singles.
At one time, there were more than 200 entrants, then it fell to 150. "About 120 has been the average," said Lueneburg. "A lot of late entries came in to even get it to 95. It is hard to get women to compete."
Lueneburg, who is coach of Escanaba High School's successful girls team and conducts annual summer clinics for youth and adults, said "there is an unwillingess to work at tennis. They will do clinics but they do not apply it on the court.
"I don't know what to do to light the fire. It is not an easy sport. It does take a lot of time to get the feeling of stroking the ball and it takes time to play disciplined tennis. Some people don't want to put the time in."
Another obstacle may be felt by the upcoming elimination of the EHS boys tennis program due to a budget cut, which has also claimed girls gymnastics for the 2013-14 school year.
Girard said Marquette, which is developing an indoor tennis complex in an old warehouse, has also struggled to maintain interest. However, he noted "Marquette is recouping, it is starting to come back."
Luke Ogren, a former Esky High School standout who has also conducted clinics for the Escanaba Recreation Department, has a good perspective on the local tennis scene.
"There are a lot less serious players," said Ogren, who plans to tryout as a walk-on for the Lake Superior State University tennis team this fall. "A lot of people come to the park to participate just for fun. Some good athletes are playing instead of actual tennis players."
He noted the EHS boys and girls teams have each had about 40 participants in recent years, but said "I don't see any of them down here playing."
He said the elimination of the EHS boys program will be a big hurdle, even if it would be maintained on a club basis. "It will be tough to maintain interest because there would be no (varsity) letters for it. What better way is there to say you played No. 1 singles in high school.
"Obviously you see some people have that passion, but the lower level players play just play to have something to do."
Lueneburg hopes the sport undergoes a renaissance in the near future and people "discover it is a good life-long sport. This place used to be a hangout for kids, there would be 15-20 here every night. I think the sport takes a little bit more work than they think it does."
Class A men: Brett Girard, Marquette, def. Mark Stinski, Appleton, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4).
Class B men: Ed Adiska, Escanaba, def. Jacob Espinoza, Negaunee, 7-6 (12-10), 4-6, 6-4.
Men's age 40-55: Jerry Levra, Hurley, Wis., def. Mark LeClaire, Kingsford, score not reported
Boys 12-15/16-18: Noah Ackerman, Munising, def. Alex Olivier, Marquette, 6-3, 6-2.
Girls 12-15/16-18: Hannah Tresedder, Kingsford, def. Dana DeBreto, Negaunee, 7-5, 6-4.