Ken Liao from Whitehorse and George from Juneau rally during a Capital Cup tennis match at Mt. McIntyre on July 14. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

Whitehorse tennis players beat Juneau to win Capital Cup for fourth time in five years

“This was a good strong team showing”

Tennis bragging rights have returned to the Yukon after Whitehorse defeated Juneau in this year’s Capital Cup, a three-day tournament held annually between teams from Juneau, Alaska, and Whitehorse.

Juneau won the 2018 iteration of the event, snapping a three-year winning streak by the Yukoners dating back to 2015.

This year though, the 29 Yukoners proved too much for the 16 Alaskans who made the trip to compete at the Mount McIntyre tennis courts from July 12 to 14.

Stacy Lewis, tournament director and a board member with Tennis Yukon, said that the lack of precipitation started everything off on the right foot.

“That is always an unknown each summer,” said Lewis about the possibility of rain. “Everybody got to play a lot, which was great, and we had a big turnout on the Whitehorse side.”

Last year’s tournament was plagued by wet weather, and the sunshine this year was appreciated.

“Being able to play for three days rather than sit and look out the window at the rain on the wet courts — it goes down as a success.”

The 24 men and five women who competed for Whitehorse — including a father-daughter duo from Dawson City — were the largest Canadian contingent in recent memory.

“Typically our team is about 20 people, so this was our biggest turnout,” said Lewis, adding that ongoing adult classes and drill sessions helped introduce some new players to the competition through some gentle coaxing.

“The coaches were able to talk to some people individually and encourage them to sign up and they all did. This was a good strong team showing.”

Not to be left out, the team from Juneau also bolstered its numbers with a woman from Skagway who made the drive north to play.

On the court each match was a “pro set” — a scoring system where the first player to win eight games with an advantage of at least two games — and with each player participating in five matches, the total number of matches was in the hundreds.

Using pro sets keeps the average time for a match at approximately an hour and helps considerably with squeezing in as much tennis as possible, especially with such a large turnout.

“They were very busy because we had the bigger team,” said Lewis. “Often the team that has more players does end up winning just because the team that has fewer players is called upon to play so many more matches and people start to get a little tired.”

Whitehorse also benefited from some new additions — players new to the city — who had some strong results.

“We didn’t know quite how it would go and they turned out to be very strong players and had some good wins for us,” said Lewis. “That was a happy turn of events for us.”

Lewis explained that the matches are determined with creating quality opposition in mind, rather than a focus on age or gender.

“Because it’s open to anyone playing, we have quite a (skill) spread,” said Lewis. “Each team has some newer players all the way up to some quite good players, so we set them up in singles and in doubles.”

The Capital Cup started in the 1980s and stopped happening in the 1990s, but was restarted in 2008 and has been held every year since — something Lewis said organizers aren’t taking for granted.

“It’s just great to see it as an established tradition so players can count on it and plan to come out next year,” said Lewis. “Another year under our belt, which always feels good.”

The tennis community in the Yukon now shifts its attention to the Yukon Championships, a round-robin competition that starts next week and concludes with finals on August 9.

This year’s championship will also include the return of junior draws after a multi-year absence from the tournament schedule.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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Brian Whitfield and Dave Sanyal from Whitehorse eyeball the return from a Juneau team during the 2019 Capital Cup in Whitehorse. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

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