New and Returning Players Heat Up Wheelchair Competition
By Shima Grover
The 2013 Midlothian Athletic Club Wheelchair Tennis Open was held on an unusually cold spring weekend. Wind added a chill on mostly cloudy weekend. On the court, however, the competition sizzled. Three of six men’s division A singles matches went to three sets using an elimination knockout with consolation play format. Men’s and women’s divisions B and C were played using a round robin format in which each player played every other player in the division.
MAC hosted the Richmond Tennis Association event for the fourth year. Players came from NJ, PA, MD, WVA, NC and VA.
Bruce Patton of Richmond upset second seeded Billy Eno of North Carolina in the first round in one of the hotly contested three set matches in Men’s A play. Patton went on to earn a berth in the final against the number one seed and returning division A champion, Todd Cox of NC. Cox prevailed, 6-3, 6-1, in two long sets. Momentum swings were also the order of the day in a tightly contested Men’s A division doubles final that saw Pat Burns of Maryland and Eno defeat Larry Soular of Maryland and Felix Suero of New Jersey in a third set match tiebreak, 6-0, 2-6, 1-0 (10-7).
Paddy Donaghey from Charleston, WVA returned to wheelchair tennis competition after an eleven year hiatus. Donaghey recalled his win at the 2002 Jana Hansaker Memorial Wheelchair Tennis Tournament in the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the home of the US Open. Donaghey started his comeback at the MAC Wheelchair Tennis Open this past weekend and was crowned the undefeated champion in the men’s B division. Chris Lamps from Richmond was the runner-up with two wins. In addition to his wheelchair tennis success, Donaghey also played on the US Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball Team in the 1996 Payalympics in Atlanta, GA and toured Italy with the US National Team.
Valeria Reyes-Chian, a Chantilly, VA high school sophomore, was introduced to wheelchair tennis when she was eight. Brenda Gilmore of the Prince George’s Tennis and Education Foundation, herself a wheelchair tennis player, continues to coach and train Reyes-Chian. Reyes-Chian won all four of her matches in Division C play to emerge as champion. There was a three way tie for the runner-up position. The tie was broken in favor of Michael Sullivan of Philadelphia. As the holder of the best record among the tied players, Sullivan placed second.
Tai Cleveland, an Iraq War wounded warrior, is a newcomer to wheelchair tennis. Although Cleveland is new to the sport and was playing in his first tournament, he was among those tied for the second place in the C division. Cleveland, who is also an avid competitive bass fisherman, has now made his first mark in competitive wheelchair tennis. The RTA and MAC look forward to Tai’s participation in the 2014 MAC Wheelchair Tennis Open.
The MAC Wheelchair Tennis Open is the second stop on the Truong Wheelchair Tennis Grand Prix circuit. This circuit, the nation’s first wheelchair tennis grand prix circuit, was created to encourage participation in the sport. Truong Rehabilitation Centerof Fredericksburg is the circuit’s title sponsor, and USTA Virginia and the USTA MidAtlantic Section are presenting sponsors. The VCU-Bertier Foundation and Data Technologies, Inc. are presenting sponsors of the MAC Wheelchair Open, and the Henrico Saladworks restaurant is a supporting sponsor. MAC and the RTA thank Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A at Chesterfield Plaza and Costco for donating food for the tournament participants. Player prizes were donated by the USTA, Holiday Inn Koger Conference Center, Fresh Market, Gearhart’s Chocolates, Costco and Dicks Sporting Goods.