Evan Schleining sends a lob into the far right corner of the court, forcing Ari Zaslow to hustle back to retrieve it.
Evan Schleining sends a lob into the far right corner of the court, forcing Ari Zaslow to hustle back to retrieve it. Zaslow measures, turns then whips his racket between his legs for the always risky, usually desperate, seldom successful passing shot attempt.
For the two former Ashland High teammates, Wednesday night at Hunter Park was just like old times.
Zaslow's trick shot, which served him well back in the day, didn't make it back to the net, let alone Schleining's side of the court. Of course, Zaslow hopes he won't have to resort to such measures this weekend, when both he and Schleining will compete in the men's open singles division of the Big Al's Tennis Tournament, and team up to go for a repeat men's open doubles championship.
"I think we have good chances," Zaslow said of the doubles tourney. "We just know each other so well. (Schleining's) one of my close friends so there's no tension on the court. It's just free-flowing. And in doubles, you have to really know your partner well to know what he's going to do so you can cover the court and cut off the angles."
The Big Al's Tennis Tournament begins with first round matches Friday morning at Hunter Park and the Southern Oregon University tennis courts, and wraps up with the championship matches Sunday at Hunter Park. Schleining, the defending champ, is seeded No. 1 in the singles tourney, and the Schleining-Zaslow combination is the top seed in the men's open doubles bracket.
Rick Kovacevich, who lost to Schleining in last year's championship match, returns as the No. 2 seed and is, along with Schleining and Will Cochrane, one of three players in the 13-man field to receive a first-round bye. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Saturday and the championship match is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday.
Kovacevich and partner Steven Walters are seeded No. 2 in the men's open doubles tourney after losing to Schleining and Zaslow in straight sets a year ago.
The women's open singles bracket is made up of only four players, including three from southern Oregon — Laurel Sager, Dana Yearsley and McKenzie Hilmer.
Schleining and Zaslow entered last year's doubles championship match as the underdogs against the then top-seeded Kovacevich-Walters tandem, but pulled off a minor upset in the final, winning 7-6, 6-1. The win was like a stroll down memory lane for the former Grizzlies, who teamed up to make a deep run in the OSAA Class 4A state doubles tournament back in 2003.
Since then, both have taken their game to the next level — Zaslow played for Lewis-Clark State and Schleining for Portland State — and both have earned college degrees. The passage of time didn't seem to hurt their on-court chemistry last year, however, and Schleining expects more of the same this time around.
"We'll be well-grooved by the end of the first match," he said.
In the singles bracket, Schleining will play either Douglass Neuman or Zahlen Zbinden in the quarterfinals Saturday morning, while Zaslow, who is unseeded, will face Eric Finkle in a first-round match Friday morning. Zaslow is in the bottom half of the bracket along with Kovacevich, who will face either David Hutton or Max Littlejohn in the quarterfinals.
The tournament, celebrating its 35th year, will include 212 players.
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-482-3456 x224, or at firstname.lastname@example.org