Wind plays major role at Taco Bell Open tennis
Despite the clouds circling Elliott Tennis Center, raindrops weren’t falling.
The wind was, however, raining insulation from construction at Brownson Arena on to the southernmost courts midday Wednesday.
That caused up to 45-minute delays for some matches and held up the boys 10-year-old singles final between Rhon Ritchie and Christian Kelly at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open.
The pair had surrendered a combined four points in quarterfinal and semifinal matches before meeting in the championship, but Aspen’s Kelly cruised to a 10-2 victory in a match where both players struggled to find rhythm early.
The south-to-north wind also made serving a challenge for both players.
Kelly played multiple balls short with the wind in his face early in the match, but as the match went on, he began to adjust and forced longer rallies.
“Having the wind in my face (was tough),” Kelly said. “I needed to hit it harder.”
Ritchie, conversely, played balls long. Even with the wind blowing at him, Ritchie occasionally played balls long early in the match before settling into a rhythm.
“It was a lot harder serving with the wind at my back,” Ritchie said. “(The ball) kept going out. It was hard, especially when I would hit it soft, I felt like it was coming back at me.
“(The delay) affected me a little, too.”
Kelly had fewer unforced errors and won the match despite many close games. It was Kelly’s first appearance at Taco Bell.
It was Ritchie’s second appearance at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open. A Chicago native, Ritchie and his family travel to visit his uncles, Joe and Greg Coleman, during the summer.
Ritchie picked up tennis two years ago, and with the help of Central High School tennis coach Kathy Elliott — “Coach Kathy” as Ritchie called her — entered Taco Bell last year.
“Rhon and his family come down to do our lessons at Canyon View Park through Parks and Rec and the Elliott Tennis Program,” Elliott said. “We know his family, and they come down from Meeker to be a part of our lessons. He’s a wonderful little athlete and could play any sport he wants.”
After finishing third in the same age division in 2012, Ritchie said the improved finish grew his passion for tennis.
“It was really fun,” he said.
Play continues today with a handful of championship matches beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing throughout the day.