With all of the talk about the rise of tennis in Canada, Red Deer is holding up it’s end of the bargain.
Twelve-year-old Michael Robinson is a fast riser on the provincial scene and is a prime example of the success of the local club’s junior program.
On Sunday, he found himself in the 4.0 Play Provincial final at the Red Deer Tennis Club where he took 40-year-old Vincent Leong of Edmonton to a third set tie-breaker before losing 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).
“It was pretty big for me, some of my matches I had to come from behind in the third set.
This included the final where not only did he have to rebound from a slow start in the opening set, he needed to break Leong just to force the tie break. The trail position, however, is one Robinson relishes.
“I find it easy to come back, because normally when I’m down I play better and it’s hard for the other person to keep the lead,” he said.
Robinson has only been playing the sport for four years, but is already in the Tennis Alberta stream, having accompanied the association this summer in France where he competed and trained with some of the best junior players in Europe. He is also the eighth ranked U-14 boys singles player in the province.
“We were playing on clay, it was different. I personally like it more than hard courts because it was slower and the clay makes it spin faster.” said Robinson. “I learned you have to be more consistent and you have to make the points longer instead of just (going for) the winner.”
His biggest strength is a deadly forehand, which he uses almost exclusively, though he is working hard at improving his two-handed backhand.
Tennis club board member and tournament director Vega Wong has watched Robinson since he joined the club and has been impressed with his improvements under the guidance of club pros Rene Simon and Tyler Begg.
“When I first met Michael he was only eight years old and he was already really good,” said Wong. “He has tons of potential.”
Robinson opened the tournament with a 6-0, 6-0 win over John Dunn followed by a 6-1, 6-4 win over Oliver Lawrence on Friday. On Saturday he beat Christiaan Grundling 6-3, 6-4 in his only match. In Sunday’s semifinal, he got his first big test, needing three sets to beat Mike Simister 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 and then ran into the tournament’s top seed Leong in the afternoon final.
The weekend was all about gaining experience as he prepares for next year’s junior provincials.
His success this weekend coincided with the some Canadian history in the sport as Ontario’s Milos Raonic beat his idol Vasek Pospisil out of Vancouver in the first ever all-Canadian final on the ATP tour at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. To see Canadians have this kind of success on tour is huge for the next generation.
“We have kids seeing Canadians play these tournaments and they say to their parents ‘I want to be like Eugenie (Bouchard)’ or ‘I want to be like Milos, I want to get a racket and hit some balls,’” said Wong. “That’s why we have so many kids in our summer program at this moment.”
It was a big weekend for the club as a whole as tournament hosts with picture-perfect weather.
Calvin Patterson beat Jordan Sluchinski 6-2, 6-2 to win the men’s open title; Daniel Henschel and Jeffrey James beat Ivan Quintero and Vuk Radovic 7-5, 6-4 to win the men’s doubles open title; Katie Johnson and Kristina Sanjevic beat Christine Lilley and Karla Lima 6-2, 6-4 for the women’s doubles open title; Tobiasz Strozyk and Sanjevic beat Fandhi Irawan and Talia Jang-Stewart 6-2, 6-3 in the mixed doubles open final.
Next up for the club is the club championships from Aug. 28-31.
“It’s good to see local players do well, because it shows that tennis is growing in Red Deer,” said Wong. “We have a good junior program and a good senior program as well.”