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Battle tennis

Editor's note: This week, we debut a new look for the summer sports page, focusing on unique sports and recreation activities our readers are involved in. Whether it's hunting and trapping or your church softball league, watch for us this summer giving your favorite activity some ink. If you have a story suggestion, call Steve at (218) 631-2561.

by Steve Schulz,


Jason Hall and Justin Tucker battled on the tennis court last week between rain showers in hopes of moving small, magnetized nameplates up a few notches over at the Wadena Community Center.

The Wadena Tennis Challenge started as a way to motivate his own tennis team, explained boys tennis coach and event organizer Brian Hillesland.

"[The spring tennis season] is 10 weeks normally -- this year it was about seven weeks," he said. "It is a way to motivate the kids to come out and play."

Tucker's motivation Thursday afternoon was moving up in the rankings, which are tracked with magnetic nameplates on a board at the community center. He had challenged Hall, a higher-ranked player.

Hall didn't need much more motivation than just finding a worthy opponent. He has been playing tennis since he was in the fifth grade.

"I love playing tennis," Hall said. "It's one of my favorite things to do."

The two were well-matched, exchanging ground strokes and firing back-hands up the line. But you don't have to be an expert to take part in the challenge.

Hillesland said tennis players of all skill levels come out Monday and Thursday nights starting around 5 p.m. to find appropriate opponents and get in a match. Players can either arrange challenge matches in advance by calling each other, or just come out and find someone to play. Arranged matches can happen at any time the two players choose, but Mondays and Thursdays are the pre-arranged days to just show up and play, Hillesland said.

Players can challenge up to five spots higher than their own rank, or as many as two spots lower, just to get a match.

The coach said anyone is welcome.

"Men and women, boys and girls ­-- anybody," Hillesland said.

This is officially the third year of the Tennis Challenge, but he said the last two summers saw the action interrupted.

"It started two years ago, and then they ripped up the courts [for reconstruction]," Hillesland said. "Last year, we had just gotten going and they had to be closed down again."

This year, Hillesland is hoping for a full summer and plenty of tennis.


• Add your name to the big board at the Wadena Community Center, or just show up on a Monday or Thursday night to play.

• Matches begin at 5 p.m. both nights.

• Matches are best 2-of-3 sets, unless otherwise agreed to by you and your opponent.

• The tennis courts are located behind Wadena-Deer Creek High School.

• To brush up on the rules of a tennis match, go to


A top tennis player in this area will put on a skills clinic June 18-21 in Wadena.

Jesse Godzala, a tennis instructor and history teacher from Foley, Minn., will be offering his Winning Tennis seminar at the WDC tennis courts.

It is open to boys and girls in grades 7-12. The clinic will run from 5-8 p.m. each day.

There is a cost to join in. For more information, contact Brian Hillesland at (218) 631-4966 or Jesse Godzala at (320) 309-7335.