Three people left the Manker Patten Tennis Club on Sunday with singles and doubles titles in the Tennessee Valley Open Championships, all three living up to No. 1 seedings: Isaiah Strode in men's open, Hayley Carter in women's open and Ken Koelling in men's 55s.
Only Koelling was a repeat champion in the TVOC. His participation dates back to the early 1980s, after he finished his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga tennis career with four Southern Conference team championships and an individual title.
Koelling came to UTC from Starkville, Mississippi, where his father was a Mississippi State professor, and when he won his 55s TVOC title in 2017 he was in his 20th year in Meridian as a hospital perfusionist, working the heart-lung machine during surgeries.
Since then, he has retired and moved to the Charlotte area for the big-city experience and to play more tennis at a serious level.
"There's a club there called Old Providence. I've never seen so many good players in one club," Koelling said Sunday. "It has 80 to 100 players that will be good practice partners for me."
He loves Manker Patten and the TVOC also.
"I have a lot of friends here, so it's fun for me to come back and see them," he said, "and this tournament is run so well. It's one of the top-quality tournaments in the South, and this venue on the river — I've got to play it."
He won a TVOC open round this year — surviving a three-hour match with "a college kid" — and earned his 55s singles title with a 7-6 (4), 6-1 win over Stephen Crofford of Franklin. Koelling was supposed to play doubles with his usual partner, Scott Shepherd of nearby Stevenson, Alabama, but Shepherd hurt his back last weekend and was unable to play.
So Koelling on Wednesday got a substitute partner — Manker Patten pro Wesley Cash, who happens to own 19 USTA gold balls for national doubles championships. Koelling was a finalist against Cash for one of those — in Boise, Idaho, in 2013 — and they had teamed up previously in the TVOC, having won 45s doubles in 2014.
Going way back, they faced each other in college (Cash playing for Georgia) and Koelling rented a room from Cash in 1987 while playing tennis satellite tours between his engineering and medical careers.
They won 6-2, 6-1 over Crofford and Nashville's Bill Davis in Sunday's final.
Strode, a 20-year-old pro from El Cajon, California, beat his doubles partner, Julian Bradley from Ireland, 6-4, 6-3 in the men's open final. Then they reunited and won 6-1, 6-4 against Vikram Hundal and Daniel Yun from the Atlanta area.
Bradley, who played collegiately at North Florida, was in his fourth TVOC and recruited Strode to join him this week.
"But maybe I shouldn't have, since he played singles, too," Bradley joked.
They met a couple of years ago in a Palm Coast, Florida, tournament and quickly hit it off.
"We enjoyed each other's banter," said Strode, who admitted their singles clash "was fun but it was tough. It was a challenging match."
Carter topped Alory Regina Elorriaga Pereira 6-4, 6-0 in a women's final pitting 2017 and 2018 college graduates who have become local residents. And Carter and Ansley Speaks won 6-1, 6-2 over second-seeded Davina Meza and Carly Briggs in doubles.
Carter could not try for a third title because her mixed doubles partner headed home to Michigan after losing to Bradley in singles Saturday. Somer Henry of Franklin and Andrew Rogers of Brentwood won the mixed open title over locals Landie McBrayer and Lucas Plesky, 6-2, 6-2.
Paul Wilson of Brasstown, North Carolina, edged John Sorrow of Chattanooga 6-4, 7-5 in the men's 35s final, and Sewanee Hall of Famer Pat Guerry won 6-2, 6-1 over Christopher Shearburn of Huntsville in 45s. In 65s, Dean Dunlavy of Alabama outlasted Bristol's Jim Flannagan, 1-6, 7-5, 10-5.
John Hangstefer and Gordon Williams won the 35s doubles round robin, Ken Defoor and Mike Parker won 7-6, 6-1 over Daryl Massengill and Tim Scholl in the 65s final and William Brown and Morrow Chamberlain won 6-4, 6-3 over Clive Kileff and Darrell McDonald in 75s.