GODFREY — After a year hiatus, Janelle Wilson is back on top in the women’s division of the Bud Simpson Open.
Wilson captured her third tournament championship in four years after beating Caroline Claywell 6-0, 6-3 in the battle of Godfrey residents in the women’s singles championship match. Wilson also won it all in 2013 and 2014.
“I like playing here because I know so many people here and because I literally live down the street,” Wilson said. “I grew up hitting here like every day. It’s a good opportunity to play in my home town and see a lot of people I know. My grandparents like to come watch me play. They don’t do that very often.”
Wilson was also happy that she got to be reunited with Claywell. Both played tennis together at Marquette Catholic.
“It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Caroline,” said Wilson, who played at Marquette in her first two years before transferring to Alton High in her junior year and played her senior season there after sitting out due to transfer rules. Wilson just completed her freshman campaign at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she led the team with 10 wins in singles.
Also on Sunday, Eddie Grabill of Hinsdale, Ill., won the men’s singles championship by defeating John Wu of West Chester, Pa., 6-2, 6-4 in the championship match. Grabill, who won an Illinois state singles title for Hinsdale Central in 2014, competed in the Bud Simpson Open for the first time.
“I was very fortunate,” said Grabill, who recently completed his freshman year at Dartmouth College. “There are a ton of good players.”
Michael Peters of St. Louis and Dylan Steffens of Creve Coeur, Mo., won the men’s open doubles championship after beating Steve Moehn of St. Louis and Kyler Updike of Worden 6-3, 6-1 in the title match.
Peters, a sophomore at Harvard University, and Steffens, a senior at Illinois State University, won their second tournament this summer. They recently won the Edwardsville Open.
“This tournament is a lot tougher than the last one (Edwardsville Open),” Steffens said.
Grabill and the tandem of Peters and Steffens each won wild card berths into the Lewis and Clark Pro Tennis Classic on July 18-24 at LCCC. The tournament is part of the Illinois swing of the Futures tourneys, followed by the Edwardsville Futures scheduled for July 25-31 at the EHS Tennis Center.
Paul Stuart of Edwardsville won the men’s 35 singles championship after finishing 3-0 in round-robin play.
John Goldacker of Jerseyville won the men’s 45 singles championship by beating Jim Claywell in the title match. Goldacker won 6-4 in the first set and he was leading 2-1 in the second before the match was stopped due to illness from Claywell.
Margaret Junker and Max Shapiro of St. Louis won the mixed doubles title after finishing 3-0 in round-robin play.
The Bud Simpson Open wrapped up its 34th year. The tournament was named after the local tennis player who died in 1982.
“There are so many good tennis players,” tournament director James Humphrey said. “Jim Claywell is one of the legends. Goldacker is one of the legends. There are more in the past. But I want to see it keep going. I want to see tennis be a big part of the court scene here in the Riverbend. What we try to do with this tournament is keep it on the map and get more people involved and get more players involved so we keep that culture and we pass it on because there’s a certain style of play that we have here in the Riverbend area.”
Wilson became the first player since Lindsay Smith (2007-08, 2011) to win three women’s singles tournament titles.
A year ago, Wilson lost to eventual champion Alexis Aranda in round-robin play. In Sunday’s championship match, Wilson made just six unforced errors in the first set. But she started to show some signs of fatigue in the beginning of the second set due to the hot and humid conditions.
“I definitely haven’t prepared enough in the heat so far this year,” Wilson said. “So I’m definitely struggling. But thinking how consistent Caroline is, it kind of bugs me because that’s kind of how I am.”
Wilson came back from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to win the match.
“I think I was kind of starting to slow down a little, so I try to make sure that I made all of my shots to give myself a lot of margin on the court,” Wilson said. “On some points, I was trying to be a little aggressive to get my own rhythm going and to get my feet going.”
Claywell, who is attending graduate school at Murray State University, turned in her highest finish in the Bud Simpson Open. She advanced to the championship match after beating Katarina Rosenberger in three sets in the semifinals on Saturday.
“I haven’t had any free time to play in tournaments,” Claywell said. “The fact that I was open, I definitely wanted to play because it’s a great tournament to play in. It gets a lot of good players.”
Claywell, who returned to the tournament after a two-year hiatus, also played doubles with her father, Jim.
“It was really fun,” Claywell said. “He played with my sister whenever I was younger. I finally got to play with him and he’s still a great player. It’s nice to have fun with it.”
Claywell’s brother, Jon, also participated in the tournament. He played both singles and doubles.
Silas Chapman of Godfrey and Erik Weiler of Edwardsville were the other local players in the tournament.