Big Al's set to take over Ashland

The Phoenix phenom who has won the last two men's open singles titles will not go for a three-peat, but there will still be plenty of talent at the 38th annual Big Al's Tennis Tournament this weekend.

The tourney begins with first-round matches Friday and wraps up with the championship matches Sunday, with the men's open singles final set for 10:30 a.m. at Hunter Park.

Phoenix High alum and current Portland State sophomore-to-be Wil Cochrane held off Ashland's John Dix in three sets to claim his second straight Big Al's singles title last year but did not sign up this year. Dix is back, but is not seeded. Only two of the seven players entered are: No. 1 Cesar Uauy, a former Lewis-Clark State College singles player who now lives in Ashland, and No. 2 Leo Young, another Ashlander, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the national men's 50 indoor championships in June.

Young is on the same side of the bracket as Dix and the two could meet in the semifinals Saturday, while Uauy, who completed his three-year run at LCSC in 2012, has a first-round bye and will face either Kirk Evans of Medford or Douglass Neuman of Ashland in the semis.

Dix will face Robert Belhumeur, also of Ashland, in another first-round match.

As has been the case in recent years there were not enough entrants to field women's open singles or doubles brackets. In men's open doubles, three teams will square off in a round robin format.

About 170 players will compete, mostly in doubles, according to Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club assistant manager Valerie Stein-Retiz (ATFC organizes the tourney). Fifty players will compete in the various singles brackets — 30 men, 20 women — which start at the 3.0 USTA ranking.

Participation is up slightly from a year ago, which saw a steep drop from 2011 — 20 percent, according to Stein-Retiz. Why is anyone's guess.

"Normally, we have a large group of people from Redding," Stein-Retiz said, "but we've seen quite a drop (from that area)."

In men's open doubles, Dix will team up with Paul LaMont for a tough first-round match against Young and Uauy, slated to start at 9 a.m. Friday. Dix and LaMont will then face Kirk Evans and Guy Tauer in the second round, and finally Evans and Tauer will meet Young and Uauy.

In the highest rated women's singles bracket, Ashland High girls tennis coach Gail Patton will face Lauren Gruber for the 4.5 singles title. Patton will also compete in the 4.5 doubles bracket with partner Kelly Sacks. The duo is seeded No. 1 in a field of six teams.

Four teams will compete for the mixed open doubles title.

Ten players make up the men's 4.5 singles bracket, making it one of the largest brackets in the tournament. The top seed is Skyler Boles of Chico, Calif, and the No. 2 seed is Mark Paisley of Mount Shasta, Calif.

Big Al's matches will be played at Hunter Park, the Southern Oregon University courts, the Ashland Tennis and Fitness Club indoor courts and at Lithia Park, if necessary.

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