Coming in as two-time defending champions but unseeded at this year's nationals, the Manitoba tennis duo of Peter Otto and Geoff Kirbyson found the best way to get noticed. Win again.
The doubles team won their third straight title in over-40 men's doubles at the 2011 Senior Western Indoor National Championships last weekend in Edmonton. Otto and Kirbyson, friends who have played together since they were 15, beat No. 1 seed Chris Simnett and Rene Simon of Alberta 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
"It was a great feeling for us a to win a third straight but honestly, after winning it the last two years, we both thought that anything less would have been disappointing," said Kirbyson, whose team beat second-seeded Thomas Budd and Joachim Nierfeld of B.C. in the semifinal.
Kirbyson said he and Otto were unable to find out why they weren't seeded and placed in the bottom of the draw. The top two seeds from Alberta and B.C. received byes to the semifinals. When the Manitoba representative for Tennis Canada contacted the Edmonton event's organizers to inquire why Otto and Kirbyson weren't seeded even though they'd won the past two years, he was told the committee felt there were stronger players in Alberta.
"It was a bit odd but we figured we have to beat everybody to win anyway," Kirbyson said. "We're used to (being treated like underdogs) and so is everyone else coming from Manitoba, so we had some fun with it (not being seeded). Each time we won, that was kind of our rallying cry. After each match we won, we told each other it was another step in the 'Vindictive Tour 2011.'
"We still might get T-shirts made," Kirbyson said with a laugh.
Otto said the championship match was the toughest final in the their three-year reign.
"It was fun to kind of fly in under the radar, no one was really gunning for us, so we got to surprise people again," Otto said.
He said they've used the same strategy for about the past 12 years.
"We kept the same idea about playing in the I-formation which apparently throws a lot of people off. It's a different look, normally you have the server on one side and the partner on the other but we line up more in the middle so the receivers don't know where to return to. It gives us a bit of an edge."
Training at home against younger players who hit harder than their older counterparts also helps the duo, who are both 42.
"We're friends foremost which makes it fun and but beyond that, we're both good strategists and in doubles, that's a big thing," Kirbyson said. "There's guys that have bigger serves or bigger forehands but we communicate well."
In other Manitoba results at the event, former champs Terry Langan and Klaus Wroggerman lost in the final of men's over-65 division.
Next up for Otto and Kirbyson could be an outdoor nationals doubles title, which they are considering pursuing this summer.