LIMA – Chris England and Jeff Arthur used to play tennis together during their childhood days.
Now years later, England and Arthur are attempting to defend their Lima Area Tennis Association doubles tournament title today, when they take on the duo of recent Shawnee standout Michael Rutter and former University of Northwestern Ohio standout and now instructor at Westwood Tennis Center, Jeff Brown.
Saturday morning, England and Arthur survived the heat and won two matches to advance to today’s title match at the University of Northwestern Ohio. The championship match is scheduled for 10 a.m. The women’s semifinals and consolation matches begin at 8 a.m.
England and Arthur have known each other since their childhood days.
“When we were like 10, 11 or 12 or something like that, we played over at Silver Springs,” Arthur said. “We played in some tournaments for like a year or two and that was about it. He (England) stuck with it and did well; and I didn’t.”
In 1987, England partnered with Jerome Moenter to win a doubles state title for Shawnee.
In first-round action Saturday morning, England and Arthur handled the team of Curtis Hughes and John Doll 6-1, 6-0. In their semifinal match against the duo of Ben Brinkman and Isaac Hanover, England and Arthur squeaked out a hard-fought victory 7-5, 6-3.
“We never played against them,” England said about Brinkman and Hanover. “We were just hoping it wouldn’t go to a third set. If we had to go to a third set, we probably would have been done.”
Arthur said he focuses more on doubles.
“I play mostly doubles. … I played last week (City Singles), but I shouldn’t have,” Arthur said jokingly.
Many years of playing competitive tennis has paid a toll on England’s body.
“I don’t play that much anymore,” England said. “I have bad knees and a bad neck. I just come out and play with Jeff and have fun.
“That (championship match) is going to be a really tough matchup. We’ll go out there and just try to have some fun and see what we can do.”
Brown and Rutter, the No. 1 seed, had an easy path to today’s finals – getting a first-round bye and playing just one match.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Brown and Rutter made quick work of Brandon Amstutz and Justin Haggard, 6-0, 6-1.
Despite knowing each other for a long time, Rutter and Brown have never teamed up for doubles – until now.
“He texted me and asked me. I said, ‘Why not?’” Brown said. “So, it was good to get out with him. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s quick and he’s tough to beat. He’s probably one of our best athletes in the area. He can do it all.”
Rutter just wrapped up his senior year at Shawnee, and now will be heading to New Albany to work at the New Albany Tennis Center as an instructor. He also will attend Columbus State, with the intentions of transferring to Ohio State in pursuit of a degree in industrial design. Rutter competed in the state tournament both his junior and senior seasons, teaming up with Isaac Hanover in doubles.
Rutter said it’s exciting to be able to team up with Brown in the city tournament.
“You only have to worry about yourself when you’re playing with Jeff,” Rutter said. “I think I only saw him miss one shot out there (in Saturday’s semifinal match). He does everything the way you wish you could. So, it’s great playing with Jeff. He’s the best doubles player I’ve ever played with.”
On the women’s side, the matchup for the women’s final will be decided after this morning’s semifinals. The championship match is slated for 10 a.m.
In one semifinal, No. 1 seed Andrea Arrango-Brown and Olivia Kesner will square off against Madison Schroeder and Madison Watt.
In the other semifinal, the sister duo from Wapakoneta, Kaitlin Snider and Lauren Snider, will take on another sister combination, Mackenzie Wills and Miranda Wills. The Wills sisters are from Ada. Mackenzie, a junior at Ohio Northern University, is coming off a championship at the Lima City Singles Tournament a week ago.