Wouldn't miss this tourney

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

When he played at the Manitoba Open Tennis Championship last year, Alessandro Gravina was so impressed with the friendly Manitoba welcome that he vowed to make it a regular stop on his itinerary.

It was going to take more than an injured shoulder and elbow to keep the 26 year old from Toronto from defending his Men's Open Singles title at this weekend's 101st $12,500 Arby's Manitoba Open at the Kildonan Tennis Club.

"There was a bit of hesitation simply because I was injured for the most part of the year," said Gravina, yesterday at the Manitoba Open press conference. "I missed quite a few tournaments at the beginning of the year. I was planning on playing the Manitoba Open but I was just going day-to-day with my injury.

"But a couple of weeks ago, I booked my flight and I'm just happy to be here."

Gravina suffered a strained muscle in his right shoulder and strained ligaments in his right elbow. Rather than undergo surgery, he took four months off to rest his injured hitting arm.

"I had a few specialists look at it and they said it was a minor strain," said Gravina, ranked 21st in Canada. "But with excess play and the competition schedule that I had for the year, they thought that I would be prone for worse strain and possible surgery later in the year. I took the hardest road and stopped playing."

Since coming back, Gravina has made up for lost time. He won the Circuit Canada Saskatoon Open in April and reached the final at the Alberta Open in Calgary last month. Last weekend, he won the prestigious Rosedale Open in Toronto.

"Being injured, you appreciate the game," said Gravina, also the defending champion in the Men's Doubles. "You have to plan things a little differently. (You know that) Nothing is set in stone. You have to take it day by day."

Despite being the defending champion, Gravina is the No. 2 seed behind Adam Baranowski, also from Toronto and ranked 18th in Canada in one of the strongest draws in the tournament's long history. Five-time champion Doug DeVriendt of Winnipeg is the third seed with Tony Larson of Alexandria, Minn. -- the top-ranked player in the USTA Northern Section -- is No. 4.

A victory by DeVriendt -- Manitoba's top male player since 1998 -- would tie him with Art Foster as the only six-time men's singles winners.

On the women's side, three-time champion and top seed Kyla McNicol of Winnipeg defends her Women's Open Singles crown with hopes to repeat her clean sweep of the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles. Alexa Zayac is the second seed while Anita Paskavalin is seeded third.

"There's a lot deeper competition this year which is awesome," said McNicol, entering her third year at the University of Central Florida. "It should be a great tournament. I'm very excited to play all three events. I'm just going to take day by day and point by point and see where it takes me."

The Open singles and doubles events begin this morning with the finals set for Sunday. The men's champion will take home $2,500 while the women's winner will earn $1,000.


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