Coach Rick Keene

Coach Rick Keene (Jim Vaiknoras photo)

TEWKSBURY — The last hope for a Tewksbury champion in this year’s 9th annual Tewksbury Open tennis tournament was one of its founders, Rick Keene.

Keene and his doubles partner, Roland Gingras, forced a tiebreaker after winning the second set, but Ben Simpson and and Jim Cranston won in the end, 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.

A Keene-Gingras victory would have been a popular on, seeing as Keene, Tewksbury High’s boys’ tennis coach, is one of the tournament organizers, and who also sits on the board of the Friends of Tewksbury Tennis, which organizes the event.

“We work and play here,” said Keene. “We help set up and everything, and I also work for Pepsi. We donate all the drinks for this — plenty of Gatorade and water — to keep everyone hydrated.”

Keene is a regular participant in the tournament, dating back to the first Tewksbury Tournament when he and his then partner won the men’s doubles.

This year he made it to the finals with Gingras, a new partner, who he competes with on their USTA team.

“It was awesome,” said Keene, of his tournament experience this year. “Me and Roland — it was the first time playing together this year. I’ve played with Roland on my USTA team but we don’t play together on the USTA team.”

Keene and Gingras won their first round match in straight sets before getting extended to three sets in the semifinals before prevailing over Tewksbury’s Mark Heichman and Reading’s Mark Cusolito, 1-6, 6-3, 10-4.

“The second match was very similar to our last match,” said Keene, referring to the final. “We lost the first set, came back and won the second set and we went to a tiebreaker. But in that case we won the tiebreaker.”

Keene was hoping to get an advantage with Simpson also competing and winning the Mixed B Doubles title. That meant Simpson was playing his fourth match on a warm Sunday while he and Gingras were playing only their second match.

“The only thing I can say with Ben is he played a lot more matches than we did,” said Keene. “Ben only had a half hour rest before he came out and played us. I’m glad he did that because he could have taken an hour if he wanted to, and iced us a little bit.”

Simpson brought the momentum with him from his previous match as he and Cranston moved out to one set lead, 6-3.

“The further you go into the draw, the better the players are,” said Keene. “Not to put anyone down but obviously the better players get to the end of the draw. They were really good players.”

The second set started out as a struggle for Keene and Gingras, until they suddenly caught fire, winning the final four games to take the second set, 6-3.

That left it up to a tiebreaker, and the good fortune for Keene and Gingras ran out there. Simpson and Cranston moved out to a 7-2 lead before eventually winning it, 10-4.

“They both played excellent and we had some great points,” said Keene. “We were evenly matched. Mary (MacDonald) did a great job with the draws.”

Being who he is in all this, Keene walked away not only satisfied with how he and Gingras performed, but also with how well the tournament went this year, and the fact the proceeds go to scholarships for Tewksbury High boys’ and girls’ team players.

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