2011 Midwest Wheelchair Championships

Grand Rapids, Michigan USA  experienced some hot weather this past weekend with temperatures averaging in the high 80’s all weekend but the players from the south didn’t seem to mind! This was our 3rd year at the beautiful completed outdoor tennis facility at the Orchard Hills Tennis Center in Grand Rapids, MI.   This is home of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association.  It is a beautiful site to host an event with 12 outdoor courts (4 stadium courts with lights) and up to 8 indoor courts where the Quad division was held.  Players, families and guests are also invited to use the water park onsite, which makes for a great family tournament and a place to cool off!

The tournament, part of the NEC Wheelchair tennis tour and an ITF 3 level tournament offering a total of $11,500 in total prize money is known for its great volunteers and hospitality and well run professional event.  We staff every court with 2 ball runners per court and use area tennis academy students.  The tournament kicked off on Thursday night with a pro exhibition featuring Robinson Mendez from Chile and Steve Welch from USA playing in an 8 game pro-set featuring up/down doubles with two local head tennis pros from the facility.  

Play ran all day Friday with courtside entertainment over dinner by Mariah Moore the "Eskreamadora" an 8 time world champion sword and stick fighter.  All day Saturday and offering a cardio tennis session in the evening for all wheelchair tennis athletes, volunteers, family members that over 16 participants joined in on for a great cardio tennis work out and play continued on Sunday with all the division singles and doubles finals.  
In the women’s open divisions, # 1 seed Emmy Kaiser from Ft. Mitchell, KY breezed through her division by defeating Jessica Sporte from Grand Rapids, MI 6-1, 6-1 and then for the finals matched those same scores by defeating Jan Proctor from Florida 6-1, 6-1.  

In the Men’s Open division, there were some surprise defeats along the way while highlighting some great competition throughout the event.  #1 seed Robinson Mendez from Chile was upset by #3 seed Stephen Welch from TX in the semi-finals and the #2 seed Masahiro Honma was also surprised by his defeat in the other semi final bracket by being taken out by Jon Rydberg from US easily with scores of 6-1, 6-1.  Unseeded Rydberg went on to the finals in an all USA Mens final against Steve Welch with Rydberg coming out on top in a tight 3 set match  6-3, 5-7, 6-4.  After a grueling singles final, Rydberg went back out on the court for another tight match in the mens doubles finals with his partner Anthony Anderson and they came out as champions in another 3 set match by defeating Mendez/Moran in a close one with scores of 5-7. 6-3. 7-5.  

In the Quad Division, it was unseeded Marc McLean who came out victorious as he had a tough battle to get to the finals.  He defeated Francois Trawalter in the quarter finals by scores of 6-1; 6-7(6); 6-3, then advanced to the semi finals and had another 3 set match and took out the #2 seed Gary Luker from Canada with scores of 6-4; 1-6; 6-4.  The finals were a little easier as McLean dug deep to take out the #1 seed Adrian Dieleman 6-2, 6-0.  

In the lettered divisions, Mens A singles champion and Grand Rapids player #1 seed Scott Bonk claimed his title by winning both the singles and doubles division partnering up with Scott Cole from Grand Rapids.  In the Mens B division, Grand Rapids own Pat Besta the #2 seed came out on top by defeating David Gant in the finals easily with scores of 6-2, 6-2.  In the Mens C division Dave Briggs also from Grand Rapids defeated Kevin Hughes from Indiana 6-2, 6-2.  In the womens A division, Denise Esrey defeated Beth Redford in a tight match 4-6; 6-3; 6-2.

55 athletes competed from all across the United States including international athletes from Canada, Japan and Chile.  15 Grand Rapids players participated in this year’s event, all members of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association.  For more information about becoming involved as a player or a volunteer in our local wheelchair tennis programs, please email info@grwsa.com

*Photos by Pam Cook