The coronavirus pandemic has taken away countless games and competitions from kids in most sports since last spring.
All the juniors participating in the Roseburg Winter Open tennis tournament indoors this weekend at Umpqua Valley Tennis Center are thankful for the the chance to compete in the Universal Tennis Rating event, which began Friday evening and concludes Sunday.
“It’s really nice to be able to play,” 10-year-old Alexander Totoian of Roseburg said. “I came to this tournament just to enjoy it and have fun, and get some time to play because there aren’t that many tournaments anymore due to the pandemic.
“It’s good to stay thin and have something to do, instead of staying home and being cooped up.”
The singles-only round-robin tournament has attracted players from California and Washington. There are two divisions: coed level-based and coed open.
COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines are being enforced.
“This facility is meant for tournaments,” said Erik Belzer, the tennis coordinator at UVTC. “Here in the Northwest, it’s slim pickings for tournaments right now. There are a lot of indoor facilities that were forced to close outright (due to the virus).
“Tennis is one of those sports where you can do it safely. You have plenty of separation, and there’s no reason there can’t be other tournaments elsewhere in the state. We’re trying to maximize (our facility) to its full potential ... when things get back to normal this place will be buzzing.”
Marco Hernandez, 18, and Emerson Sublett, 13, made the trip from Redding, California, to play in the tourney. They represent Team Ascension and practice at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
“We have friends up here who we play with a lot and it’s a good time,” said Hernandez, who’s a freshman at Shasta College and plans to play tennis for the Knights. “I think it’s a great facility and the weather is a mix up from the heat we have in Redding.”
“I would consider myself a competitive tennis player, but I play to improve,” Sublett said. “This is a chance for me to improve my technique and gain more experience. The facility is really nice and the people here are really kind.”
Belzer felt good about the turnout for a small tournament.
“This whole COVID thing hasn’t been very fair to the kids, so I’m glad we’re able to give them an opportunity to play,” he said. “Giving them these outlets and tournaments to play is best for them. We’re just happy we can put it on safely.”