More than 250 people took to the tennis courts last week as the Port Huron Tennis House hosted the 65th Annual Francis J. Robinson tennis tournament.
The 5-day event included hundreds of matches with players of all ages, enticing smells coming from the Big River BBQ grill, and plenty of smiles and celebrations from athletes and spectators alike. And it all started with a special event featuring Murphy Jensen, the 1993 French Open doubles champion.
“Every 5 years when we hit a milestone, we try to have a special event or a special guest. This year we had Murphy Jensen come in, and his brother Luke – they won the French Open together – came 5 years ago,” Steve Pillon, PHTH head pro, said. “We had that connection and Luke was phenomenal, and his brother was the same. Just absolutely incredible, it was a great day.”
Murphy Jensen spent the Sunday before the Robinson began teaching a clinic and playing in exhibitions to kick off the tournament. He also gave a few motivational speeches, which Pillon said gave everyone a fresh perspective heading into tournament play.
“We just had a really good time. He was a super energetic and motivational guy, so it was fun to have him kick off the week,” Pillon said. “I think everyone that was here was touched by him being here…He’s just living in the moment and doing as much to soak up life as possible. I think he really got that point across to our kids and the adults.”
Not only is Murphy celebrating 16 years sober, but he also recently suffered a heart attack while playing in an exhibition to fundraise for placing AEDs at tennis clubs. Pillon said Murphy is now “as fit as he’s ever been” and his passion for life and tennis was contagious.
“For me, that was the biggest part of him being here, just seeing the joy he had being out here playing tennis and enjoying every moment,” Pillon said. “I hope everyone’s enjoying every moment just being out here and being able to have fun and play a sport and be around each other. It was really really cool.”
Blue Water Area locals also celebrated the return of their fellow Canadian players who were unable to compete in last year’s tournament.
Michael Coleman of Sarnia said he’s been playing in the Robinson for 15 years and he was excited to be back this summer.
“I actually started playing junior tennis in Sarnia, and then the former head pro that was over there told me to come over here in the wintertime because we don’t have any indoor tennis courts in Sarnia,” Coleman said. “This was the only place to really come and I’m so happy I did.
“[Being here] is just nostalgic pretty much. After years of playing in it and just being here and the atmosphere, it’s unlike any other tennis tournament around,” he added.
This year he helped out with Kids Day as well, which took place on Saturday as 80 kids 10 years old and younger came out to play “kid-sized” tennis.
“It just blows my mind with the turnout every year. We can’t even get half of that in Sarnia and Sarnia is twice the size of Port Huron,” Coleman said. “Everyone’s so involved, so engaged, so happy. There isn’t any real hate toward anyone, everyone’s just overjoyed to just be out on the tennis court.”
That was especially true for friends and teammates, Faith Walker, 8, and Lupe Vogan, 7, who played together in – and won – the Jabeur Orange Co-Ed Doubles flight.
“My favorite part is just having fun because you get to be with your friends,” Walker said.
“I like how we serve, I love to serve because at practice you get to put them in the hula hoops,” Vogan said. “We’re trained by Coach Tiff, the good tennis player.”
“And Coach Steve,” Walker added.
When asked what makes them so successful on the court – in addition to their matching pink tennis shoes – Vogan had a simple answer:
“Because we’re besties.”
“Yeah, and we always talk about things [on the court],” Walker added.
And for others, the Robinson was the perfect preparation for the upcoming high school seasons, like for Port Huron Northern senior Charley Dunkel and junior Preston Lee.
“I think it’s a good warm-up. Unless you’re playing a lot of USTA matches, you don’t necessarily get the match play that a lot of other kids do, so this public tournament really helps you get going before tryouts,” Dunkel said.
After going 4-1 in the round-robin play of the Alcaraz Boys Singles flight, he fell in the championship 6-4, 6-1, but he said his success in the tournament will help him moving forward as his final varsity season begins this fall.
For Lee, who said his singles play didn’t go as planned, he can find confidence in a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory in the Becker Men’s Doubles flight championship.
“Especially this year, tryouts are about a week earlier, so this really showed me what I need to work on,” Lee said.
Serena: Ashlyn Kinney def. Amara Makim 6-1, 6-2
Venus: Isabella Evenson def. Meya Drob 6-2, 7-5
Barty: Elizabeth Hoff def. Liz Pardy 6-1, 6-3
Osaka: Payton Barnett def. Alleyna Martinez 6-2, 4-6, 12-10
Kenin: Kayla Faust def. Maggie Muehlison 6-2, 6-1
Sabalenka: Khloe Faust def. Jane VanHowe 6-4, 6-2
Svitolina (Green): Ellie Coughlin def. Kari Maher 4-1, 4-0
Halep (Orange): Rowan Georgia def. Lola Kamendat 2-4, 4-2, 7-4
Pliskova (Orange): Piper Kamendat def. Amelia Hill 4-3, 3-4, 7-6
Alcaraz: Ryan Davies def. Charley Dunkel 6-4, 6-1
Fritz: Jackson Siefferly def. Colton Smith 6-4, 6-4
Opelka: Shaan Batra def. Jesse Aragones 6-7, 6-4, 10-7
Berrettini: Austin Pillon def. Matthew Stek 3-6, 6-2, 10-5
Zverev: Macauley Douglas def. Max Vargo 6-3, 7-5
Nadal (Green): Griffin Wetzel def. Andrew Barnett 4-1, 4-1
Federer (Orange): Sawyer Herbert def. Gus Schmidlin 4-3, 4-0
Djokovic (Co-Ed Red): Everett Distelrath def. Callum Gaffney 7-4, 7-4
Swiatek: Sarah Barry def. Lily VanHowe 6-2, 6-0
Sakkari: Annabella Beaudry def. Kellen Elliott 6-4, 6-2
Badosa: Sheri Faust def. Traci Whymer 6-3, 6-1
Sampras: Steve Pillon def. Derek Distelrath 6-2, 6-2
Conners: Carl Preston def. Michael Coleman 3-6, 6-2, 10-7
McEnroe: Josh Forkin def. Patrick Cansfield 7-5, 7-6(2)
Murray: Rich Merrit def. Justin Peltz 6-2, 6-1
Agassi: Dave Bette def. Terry Curley 5-7, 6-1, 10-4
Isner: Giuseppe Turini def. Cristian Balan 6-0, 6-1
Kyrgios: Scott Cummings def. Jeremy Dalrymple 6-1, 6-3
Borg: Larry Fajardo def. John Walton 2-6, 6-4, 11-9
Murphy Jensen: Kevin Marvin def. Dave Fajardo 6-3, 7-5
Dimitrov: Erwin Gampp def. Dave Stek 3-6, 6-3, 10-2
Vandeweghe: Ashlyn Kinney/Ella Beck def. Pheobe Muir/Kate Touma 6-2, 5-7, 10-8
Andreescu: Kate VanHowe/Avery Witter def. Alena Anderson/Liz Pardy 6-1, 7-5
Collins: Isabella Evenson/Greta Heiss def. Payton Barnett/Camryn MacPherson 6-1, 6-2
Schwartzman: Divyesh Bhargava/Ryan Davies def. Hadley Schwarz/Lily VanHowe
Paul (Green): Yianni Kasperian/Conor Heimbach def. Lola Kamendat/Kari Maher 4-1, 4-0
Jabeur (Orange): Faith Walker/Lupe Vogan def. Gus Schmidlin/Sawyer Herbet 4-2, 4-3
Shapovalov: Ryan Ganger/Sinan Lal def. Liam Beck/Cameron Douglas 6-4, 6-2
Mannarino: Macauley Douglas/Aarav Patel def. Austin Pillon/Grayson Coughlin 6-3, 6-1
Kerber: Catherine Leon/Lisa Higgins def. Maggie Burch/Jen Douglas 5-7, 6-2, 10-8
Keys: Sheri Faust/Nancy Pfeifer def. Jenna Click/Amy Stablein 6-2, 6-2
Bencic: Stacie Stein/Trish Defrain def. Karen Walker/Lisa Barnett 6-3, 2-6, 12-10
Tsitsipas: Steve Pillon/Jason Go def. Ian Pinnoo/Derek Distelrath 6-4, 6-1
Querry: Michael Coleman/Dave Bette def. Kyle Wofford/Quinn Schwarz 7-5, 6-1
Laver: Jim Charron/Gary Shamaly def. Les Felter/Dan Johnson 6-3, 4-6, 10-2
Rublev: Stephen Beauchamp/Pete Tseng def. Kevin Marvin/Terry Curley 6-2, 6-3
Becker: Preston Lee/Todd Kinney def. Andrew Touma/Doug Touma 3-6, 6-3, 10-8
Theim: Collin Lilley/Rich Merritt def. Dave Fajardo/Larry Fajardo 6-2, ret.
Berrettini: Tim VanHowe/John Walton def. Christ Barnett/Aaron Faust 6-2, 5-7, 10-6
Dimitrov: Chris Herbert/Jim Neaton def. Kevin Donaldson/Don Murray 6-3, 2-6, 10-8
Medvedev: Erwin Gammp/Dave Sawdon def. Bernardo Texixiera/Dave Stek 6-3, 4-6, 10-2
Junior Mixed Doubles
Penn: Jamy Brooks/Ian Pinnoo def. Lily VanHowe/Ryan Davies 6-4, 7-6(5)
Gamma: Meya Drob/Colton Smith def. Sophie Harris/Shaan Batra 6-4, 5-7, 10-5
Babolat: Morgan Pillon/Austin Pillon def. Natalie Stein/Matthew Stek 6-2, 6-3
Head: Amelia Morgulec/Max Vargo def. Khloe Faust/Wyatt Walker 7-6, 6-0
Wilson (Orange): Faith Walker/Andrew Barnett def. Alayna Dalrymple/Gus Schmidlin 4-0, 4-1
Adult Mixed Doubles
Australian Open: Tiffany Odlum/Steve Pillon def. Kristy Kinney/Jason Go 6-3, 6-4
French Open: Barb Lynch/Brett Lynch def. Isabella Murray/Andrew Cansfield 5-7, 6-0, 15-13
Wimbledon: Lexi Hepting/Jamie Hepting def. Catherine Leon/Chris Flann 6-4, 6-2
US Open: Kate Touma/Doug Touma def. Kate VanHowe/Tim VanHowe 6-4, 6-1
Indian Wells: Annabella Beaudry/Keith Ottenbacher def. Stephanie McNeil/Richie Merrit 6-1, 6-0
Western Southern Open: Sheila Johnson/Giuseppi Turini def. Debbie Papas/Bob MacRae 6-1, 6-1
Miami Open: Kris Houle/John Walton def. Traci Whymer/Tyson Connolly 7-5, 6-4
Porsche Tennis Grand Prix: Lynn Vandenbossche/Mike Ziegler def. Sheri Faust/Lew Evenson 6-2, 4-6, 10-3
Citi Open: Mary Bruce/Dave Czech def. Lezlynne Moore/Bob Olsen 6-2, 6-0
Rolex Paris Master: Mae Marshall/Mike Dodea def. Charlotte Fajardo/Dave Fajardo 2-6, 7-5, 10-7
Delray Beach: Laura Gaffney/Dan Gaffney def. Melanie Murchotow/Jeff Muir 6-0, 6-0