It seems a decision made by Ruth Fuchs, tournament director, to schedule the USTA/ITF Southwest Desert Wheelchair Classic a week later in February really paid off for the players. After three years of rain and snow wreaking havoc on the finals, the wheelchair tennis tournament was played Feb. 11-13 in ideal weather conditions at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort, giving players the opportunity to showcase their unquestionable skills and talents.
Thirty-eight tennis players, mostly returning athletes, entered in numerous divisions, and the play was simply amazing. The event committee enjoyed the opportunity to catch up and see all the friendly faces.
Local favorite Hayden Snell, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School, won the consolation in the Men’s B division; he is looking forward to joining the University of Arizona team with coach Bryan Barten.
The Men’s Open was won by Australian Adam Kellerman in three close sets against Jon Rydberg; Kellerman and his partner, Noah Yablong, teamed up to capture the doubles title as well. David Wagner, the Australian Open Quad Champion, came back to compete in his old hometown. He thrilled the fans in the Open division as he made his way to the semi-finals.
Volunteers from the El Conquistador membership and the junior program as well as the assistance from the U of A Disability Resource Center were a pivotal part in the event’s success. Not only does the U of A DRC play a large part in supporting the event but many are also players. DRC Director Sue Kroeger competed in two divisions, and her first tournament victory is now in the books. Amanda Kraus is the proud winner of the Women’s A title. Steve O’Brien, who before, between and after competing in matches of his own, singlehandedly manned the repair station. Bryan Barten, unable to compete as the Quad division fell short on entries and initiated the entire aspect of player transportation. He and player liaison Claudia Dill teamed up before and after the event and mastered the art of transportation. USTA/SAZ Treasurer Linda Helixon volunteered her time, enabling the ITF players to receive their prize money in cash and alleviate the hassles foreign players sometimes have when cashing checks.
USTA SW Community Program Coordinator Keeley Hutchinson assisted with the entire event and was on site for the duration as the official photographer.