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Big Al’s Tennis Tournament returns this weekend

ASHLAND — After a year away due to the pandemic, one of Ashland’s summer sports staples is back this weekend.

The 45th Big Al’s Tennis Tournament is set to begin today, with action at three different locations — Hunter Park, Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club and Ashland Hills Hotel — running until Sunday.

The tournament will feature close to 150 participants, with a new twist coming to this year’s action as a result of a smaller field than in previous years.

There will be the usual USTA adult competition, but also a UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) division for junior players. The junior division, with player ages ranging from 7-17, has 57 participants entered, according to tournament coordinator Ronda Spencer.

UTR is used to rate players across all ages, with a goal of producing an objective and accurate index of a players’ skill level.

Due to the pandemic and concerns about potential smoke from wildfires, numbers are down compared to prior years and, as a result, some brackets are bigger than others.

“It is smaller, but we kind of expected that,” Spencer said.

There will be just one bracket for women’s singles. There will also be men’s and women’s doubles as well as mixed doubles.

“It’s still a good number (of participants),” Spencer said. “It should still be really fun and the weather is looking pretty good for this weekend.”

One of the most notable returners is former Ashland High standout Rox Rogers, who will be competing in the men’s singles bracket along with participating in the men’s doubles competition with his father.

Rogers, who moved on to play at George Fox University after his time at Ashland, claimed three tournament titles in the 2018 edition of Big Al’s, while he won the doubles title in 2019.

Rogers, originally from Talent, won the men’s open singles title in 2017 and 2018.

Rogers and his father, Kory, are two-time defending men’s doubles champions after finishing as runner-up in 2018.

During his time at Ashland High, Rogers teamed with Kai Weston in 2016 to claim the Grizzlies’ first boys doubles state championship since 1978, finishing the season with a perfect 21-0 record.

Moving exclusively to singles matches during his final two prep seasons, Rogers took undefeated records into the Class 5A state final each year before coming up short and having to settle for state runner-up showings in 2017 and 2018.

Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Former Ashland High standout Rox Rogers, seen here in a file photo, will be one of the notable returners at this weekend's Big Al's Tennis Tournament in Ashland. [LARRY STAUTH JR./FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE]