INDEPENDENCE — Robert Sanchez, of Woodburn, loves tennis.
The 2017 Woodburn High graduate played throughout high school and has competed in United States Tennis Association tournaments.
The Monmouth-Independence Fourth of July tennis tournament is one he makes sure never to miss each year.
“I’ve been doing this tournament for a while,” he said. “It’s real cool. It helps build a community. On Saturday, I play singles and doubles. I show up at 8 a.m. and can play all day long. I like that. I’ve done other tournaments where you play one match a day and then go home.”
Sanchez’s doubles partner, Venedict Matveev, has been playing in the tournament for two years and has fallen in love with how it is run.
“One of the bigger aspects is the community,” Matveev said. “There are so many people here, and we’re all here to play tennis. We share the same fun sport.”
The chance to share stories with each other proved just as entertaining and valuable as competing for a trophy.
“You can talk to an old player about how they played back in the day,” Matveev said. “I think that’s really awesome and just a great experience.”
The two-day tournament featured singles and doubles brackets for men and women. There were also mixed doubles and father/daughter and mother/son brackets.
Patty Youngren, one of the organizers of the tournament, said the tournament had 58 entrants — including one player from the opposite side of the country, who was in need of playing partner.
As fate would have it, Youngren had a solution.
“I thought Silverton would be our long-distance player, but Ken Rickson, visiting Corvallis from Florida, played with Joseph Santiago from Corvallis,” Youngren said. “Joseph’s original playing partner had to bow out. The timing was right. As soon as I hung up with Joseph, Ken called to find out about play. This is what I love about the game of tennis, people can make new friends instantly.”
The tournament also gives players like Sanchez and Matveev chances to showcase their talents and improve their weaknesses as tennis players.
“In Woodburn, we don’t get as many chances to play unless we join a club somewhere,” Sanchez said. “This gives us more chances to play, and we ended up having a lot of fun.”
Sanchez said many city tournaments are disappearing, and without easy access to tennis clubs and USTA-sponsored events, finding chances to play tennis can be hard.
“Some of us, we’ve never had a club nearby, and with the USTA, that costs money, and sometimes it’s far away. These city tournaments are great for us.”
The Monmouth-Independence tournament saw players with a range of skill levels competing on Saturday and Sunday.
With different brackets for different skill levels, no one felt overwhelmed or out of place on the courts, Youngren said.
As the tennis tournament came to a close, Sanchez and Matveev took a moment to relax. It had been a long two days of tennis — but both are already making plans to return next summer.
“We want to have a good experience, and that’s what we’re here to do, to have a good time and try and better ourselves,” Sanchez said.