Johane Mui isn’t one to back down from a challenge on the tennis court.
That much was clear on Sunday, as she faced hard-hitting teenager Emily Hooton in the women’s open final of the New Year’s Classic at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre tennis bubble.
At 48, she threw her racquet into the open mix and was promptly ranked No. 1, having won the women’s 45-and-over division in the Classic the previous three years.
After taking the opening set 6-4 then dropping the next 7-5, Mui’s experience and savvy helped her post a hard-fought 6-4 win over Hooton in the deciding set to take her first open division singles crown in this tournament.
“It’s was nice to hit against someone who hits harder than my peers,” Mui said afterward. “This gives me fire to pursue provincial and national (play) and extend my career.”
Mui, who also won mixed doubles with partner Jared Martin, said the Classic has helped improve her game and allowed her to remain competitively active.
Having played the Classic the past nine or 10 years and advanced to various finals in the past five, she sees the tournament as a good local event that helps hone one’s skills.
“It gives you that competitive edge and sometimes it comes down to the mental game,” she said, referring to the final, in which she battled Hooton to gain momentum.
Over the years, this tournament has also given numerous young players their first competitive experiences, not to mention the opportunity to test their mettle against older players.
A case in point was the men’s open division, which saw 14-year-old Aaron Diemer face 17-year-old Austin Hoole in the final. Hoole, ranked No. 2 in the 17-player draw, cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory Sunday.
Both teens are provincial-calibre players who are serious enough about the sport to adjust their schooling to allow for more tournament play.
“(The Classic) is a good preparation for other tournaments and a good development event. Plus it’s fun,” said Hoole, who will play under-18 singles at a B.C. selection series event this weekend in Vancouver. Diemer is in the U-16 division.
The finalists, who are also practice partners, have both played the Classic since they were pre-teens.
“I always love playing in this tournament. They do such a great job,” Diemer said. “This is a tournament that always has lots of great competition.”
The Classic attracted 210 players of all levels this time around, said organizer Ed Bakker, tennis co-ordinator with Recreation Oak Bay.
While the total number of entries was the same as last year, the tournament has seen growth in the junior age categories, he added.
“We’re now a fully sanctioned Tennis B.C. tournament, which allows (juniors) to gain provincial points,” he said.
For results from the New Year’s Classic visit http:/www./bit.ly/1iJbYGB.