ELSAH — Mother Nature did her best to dampen Julian Childers' day, but it was to no avail.
Childers, who redshirted in 2014-15 at the University Illinois and will be a junior in '15-16, successfully defended his Bud Simpson Open men's open singles title by beating Illini teammate Brian Page 6-3, 6-2 in the finals on Sunday. Childers also teamed with Page to corral the championship in men's open doubles, as the duo defeated Michael Doyle and Steve Moehn 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday.
The men's open singles champion and men's open doubles champs earn wild card bids to the prestigious Godfrey Pro Classic scheduled for July 17-26 at Lewis and Clark Community College. That tournament is a $15,000 USTA Futures event featuring collegiate and professional tennis players.
“I love coming down here,” Childers, a Marian Catholic High School grad, said. “It's a lot of fun, it's a beautiful town and I love playing here and coming back every year. I'm definitely really excited about playing the Futures here..”
First-year tournament director Chris Logan was happy with the way the 33rd edition of the Bud Simpson Open went on Friday through Sunday.
The tournament is in honor of Dr. Raymond R. “Bud” Simpson, an avid tennis aficionado and influential member of the Alton community. Simpson died suddenly while going for a service return in a tournament at Rock Spring Courts on June 12, 1982. The tournament supports the Simpson Memorial Tennis Program, which helps develop and improve the tennis community in the Greater Alton area.
“There were a lot of little things, but I had a lot of help, especially from James (Humphrey) and everyone on the Bud Simpson Committee,” said Logan, also the LCCC men's tennis coach and East Alton Parks and Recreation Director. “There are a lot of people that care about this tournament and make it possible, especially all the sponsors and everyone who donated and the players. I was just happy I figured out how to get all the right people on the court at the right time.”
The tournament started Friday at Alton High School and at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex at LCCC. It continued on Saturday and Sunday at LCCC, but when the men's open singles and doubles finals were ready to begin Mother Nature intervened and sent the finals to the indoor tennis center at Principia College in Elsah.
Logan applauded the relationship with Principia to have the indoor facility as an option.
“It's super nice that Principia cooperates with us because it's their school's courts and also there's a club here that with extra fees maintains the facilities and they rented it to us for the whole weekend, which was great because you never know when it's going to rain,” Logan said.
Childers and Page said it was an adjustment after familiarizing themselves with the Simpson Complex and having to readjust to Principia, but they admitted it was nice to have the indoor option.
“It was really difficult,” Childers said. “Both of us coming out in singles were off. We were mishitting every ball and going from those outdoor courts to these super fast indoor courts was a really tough adjustment. It's not easy, but you have to do what you have to do. It's nice facilities.”
The fast indoor courts and a grueling semifinals match took its toll on Page, who said his legs were failing when he played Childers, his roommate at U of I. Page struggled to get his first serve over against Childers and credited that to his weakening legs, too.
“Once your legs are tired it's tough getting up on the serve,” said Page, the No. 1 seed at the Bud Simpson Open who just completed his junior year at U of I. “They say that's the first thing to go when you get tired, but I definitely could have served smarter with the long match earlier.”
Page advanced to the finals with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over No. 4 seed Bradley Holt. Childers defeated Mandeep Yadav 6-2, 6-4 in his semifinal match.
Vatren Jurin of Chatham won the men's 45 singles over Alan Lesko of Columbia 7-6, 6-4. In the men's 35 singles, Edwardsville's Paul Stuart went 2-0 in round robin action. Florida's Alexis Aranda went 2-0 to win the women's open singles. Alton grad Janelle Wilson and Marquette Catholic product Claire Morrissey both compiled 1-1 marks in the women's open singles division.
Marquette grad Anna Morrissey and Edwardsville grad Morgan McGinnis won the women's open doubles, defeating current Marquette players Elena Gable and Laura Moore 6-0, 6-0. In mixed open doubles it was McGinnis and Adam King of Wildwood, Mo. winning the round robin bracket.
Logan said it's nice for locals to get a taste of facing players the caliber of Childers and Page in the tournament. He thinks it's what makes it fun.
“For these younger guys to be able to play a Childers or a Page — chances are you're going to get beat — but you can always say I got to play a kid that play at the University of Illinois,” Logan said. “It's super fun and that's what I try to tell the kids. If you play a good player take positives away from it and have fun. It's not every day you get to see a player that good on the other side of the net.”
Learn more about the Simpson Memorial Tennis Program at www.simpsontennis.org.