Bossier Tennis Center pro Todd Killen finished runner-up in men’s singles and doubles Sunday in The City Tennis Championships, but for him that wasn’t what mattered the most.
Just the fact that the four-day tournament was held was a win for him and the large group of prominent local tennis figures who helped revive it.
The tournament, once a staple of the August sports scene, hadn’t been held for at least seven years and even before that had turned into a shadow of itself.
Killen, a three-time City singles champ, and veteran players Jeffrey Goodman and Rick Holland spearheaded the effort to revive the event.
It was held at the Bossier Tennis Center over four days this year. Querbes Tennis Center, the event’s longtime home, was not in good enough condition to host. It’s starting to be renovated.
“Whenever Jeffrey Goodman, Rick Holland and I started this — revived it I should say — we just wanted to make awareness,” Killen said. “That was kind of our goal. It became much more than people just being aware of the tournament. We had a lot more support than we envisioned.”
Killen said the hope this year was to get a 16-player men’s singles draw. Instead, 29 players competed.
The organizers did extensive research on the tournament’s history. Killen said the biggest men’s open singles draw they saw was 39.
“So for our first time, that’s really incredible,” he said. “It far exceeded our expectations. This is just the stepping stone for us to build on. We look forward to seeing how much it grows and how much the city support its. We’re excited about it.”
This year’s tournament featured only men’s open doubles and singles. But the plan is to bring back many if not all of the singles and doubles events held when the event was at the height of its popularity.
Killen had a busy day Sunday. In addition to helping run the tournament, he played three matches in 90-plus degree heat.
In a match that started at 10 a.m. and lasted until the early afternoon, the third-seeded Killen defeated No. 1 Joel McGregor of Monroe. McGregor won the first set 6-4, and Killen rallied to win the second 6-2. Killen then won a tiebreaker to decide the match. (In split-set matches, a tiebreaker was used to decide the winner instead of a third set.)
Then Killen and John Gray Pou faced off against McGregor and Kirk Fisher in the doubles finals. That match was also a long one with McGregor and Fisher prevailing 6-4, 7-6.
Meanwhile, McMaster, the No. 2 seed, defeated Pou 6-2, 6-1 in his morning semifinal match.
The singles finals started about an hour after the doubles title match.
McMaster broke Killen’s serve once en route to a 6-3 victory in the first set. Killen had three break points against McMaster early in the second set, but the former Centenary College standout rallied behind his big serve and won the game. McMaster went on to easily win the second set 6-1.
A junior tennis standout at an early age, McMaster focused on football as Loyola College Prep’s quarterback during the high school years.
He eventually found his way back to the sport and Centenary — where Killen coached him. Killen had also worked with McMaster when he was a junior player.
McMaster lost only 10 games in four tournament matches.
“Anthony is the most explosive tennis player I’ve ever seen,” Killen said. “He can hit powerful serves. He can hit powerful returns off of powerful serves, and he can run.
“He’s just a really good guy. I’m glad we got to play in the finals. It kind of brought back some things whenever I was coaching him as a kid and at Centenary. He’s a helluva player.”
McMaster took home the $1,000 first prize. Killen didn’t have a bad payday either, receiving $400 for singles and splitting the same amount for finishing runner-up in doubles.
McGregor, Killen’s semifinal opponent, was a former top junior player in South Africa who is now the tennis director at the Monroe Athletic Club.
“Joel’s a great player,” Killen said. “He’s had a really good tournament. He had me in the first set and I had to adjust my tactics a little bit. We were both really tired when we got in the second set and he was sort of saving it for the tie-breaker.”
Despite the close loss, Killen especially enjoyed the doubles title match.
“It was really good doubles,” he said. “Every game had meaning. Every shot had quality. You couldn’t let up for a moment because if you did two points would go by and you’re down. If I could play doubles all the time like that I would. I would play every day if that was the case.”
The best thing, though, was the overall high quality of tennis over the four days. There was a good crowd at the singles finals despite the fact that the match was played two hours after its scheduled time because of the long matches before it.
“It was a good, high level of tennis that we haven’t had for this long,” Killen said. “And I mean long in that we’ve had this tournament over four days and it’s been great tennis for four days. Usually we’ll have this tournament and Sunday’s good tennis where people will come out and watch. But all four days have been high quality tennis for everybody to watch.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org