Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg duo national doubles tennis champs

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After playing hundreds of tennis matches as a doubles team since they were 15-year-old provincial team players, Geoff Kirbyson and Peter Otto of Winnipeg are national champions for the first time.Kirbyson and Otto, now both 40, won the mens' doubles 40-plus title in the 2009 Western Senior National Championship last Sunday at Calgary's Tennis Academy. The unseeded duo, which reunited after four years to play in this event, defeated Alberta's Don Best and Keith Rissling 6-0, 6-2 in the final.

Kirbyson also won the men's doubles 35-plus title with top-ranked Manitoban Jared Connell defeating No. 1-seed Zachary Zenith and Julio De La Colina of Alberta. Connell also won the men's 35-plus singles title.

Tennis Manitoba executive director Rick Bohinski said the three national titles were the best ever showing for Manitoba at a national championship.

"We've played so many tournaments together, the gravity of the situation (winning their first-ever national win) didn't really hit us until about a half an hour later, we realized, hey, that's a pretty big accomplishment for us," said Otto, the head tennis professional at the Winnipeg Winter Club and the Kildonan Tennis Club.

"It makes you feel pretty good. We've won tournaments here in Manitoba and other events in other provinces when we were juniors but to reunite and win with a good friend, it was great to share that."

In their semifinal match, Kirbyson and Otto beat world champion and the No. 1-seed Claude Servant of Quebec and his partner Gene Kelly (Alberta) 6-2, 6-4. Servant and another partner had won the 2008 ITF men's doubles world championship in Turkey.

"That was the best doubles win of my life and the best match we've ever played in 25 years," said Kirbyson, a news reporter for the Free Press. "Before the match, we didn't even know what (Servant) had done. It was one of those things where you just play the ball, not the guy and it was a good thing. If we'd known how good he was, we might have psyched ourselves out."

Kirbyson said he and Otto have won more than 20 tournaments in Manitoba but neither had ever won a national title.

"We grew up together on the tennis court, we were juniors together and played the Canada Games together (1989) and had a shot at a national title five years ago when we lost in the (35-plus) final," Kirbyson said.

He and Otto play using the "Australian formation" where the server and the net man start on the same side of the court and split once the ball is served. No other team in their division used that formation.

In the men's 80-plus division, Jake Suderman placed second.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2009 C6

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