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Walker struts to GO Fest crown

SFU captain sweeps competition



Even with a new grip in hand, Patrick Walker was still able to grasp at victory in the GO Fest Tennis Tournament at the Whistler Racquet Club.

The New Westminster resident cruised to the title — and the $300 grand prize — with a 6-3 and 6-2 win over Whistler's Byron Sniffen in the men's open final on May 23.

In group play, Walker defeated Ali Alfaraj and John Chan to make the final while Sniffen lost just a single set in dispatching Emilio Rosas Almada and Michael Brzezinski.

In the final, Walker was pleased with how he started play, but his responses and reactions left a bit to be desired early on.

"My serve was really on point today. I felt really good for some reason," Walker said. "I served really well throughout the entire match. I struggled a little bit with my return of serve at first, but then after a while, through the match, I started to get them in. I guess I got comfortable and then I started to hit a little bit bigger. My shots just went in."

Midway through the match, Walker changed his tack, shifting from more of a power game once he figured out Sniffen's approach.

"I consciously decided to put a little less on the ball and then I did start returning better at that point. (It was) a little bit just getting used to the timing of the match," he said.

One major confidence boost for Walker was his success with his new forehand grip, the semi-western, after he switched over from the eastern hold. There has been blood, sweat and tears shed getting accustomed to it, and while he's not 100 per cent where he wants to be, Walker was thrilled to measure progress.

"It started working today, especially in this match, so hopefully I can get used to that before all the opens and futures come along," he said. "At first, it's almost impossible to play a match because it takes too long to grab your grip. It's been three weeks now I've been practicing that and this is my best match I've played so far.

"My forehand felt really good. I blasted a lot of really good shots, so hopefully I can continue like this."

Sniffen, for his part, knew he was in tough against the captain of Simon Fraser University's men's team, even calling him "Inspector Gadget" on the court after Walker used his long reach to make a couple of strong plays. The local club member also had plenty with which to contend when returning.

"This guy's serve (was tough)," he said. "He's a tall dude."

The Perth product, who has coached with the club for the past two years and instructed some of the entrants in the recreational divisions, was thrilled with how the weekend went.

"We're just trying to grow tennis in Whistler," he said.

Ana Maria Andreea Ileana won a three-set thriller over Alli Valk to win the $200 women's open prize.

Other winners were: Hannah Ryskova (women's singles 4.0), Jacqueline Luft (women's singles 3.0), Pawandeep Varaich (men's singles 4.0), Alexis Lum (men's singles 3.0), Ryskova and Taryn Luttel (women's doubles 4.0), Karen Bertini and Betty Brauer (women's doubles 3.0), Shaun Lim and Masato Ozawa (men's doubles 3.0) and Tony Leyland and Mooshon Mizrachi (men's doubles 4.0).

In addition to events at the club, programming for kids was also offered in Whistler Village. Club manager Kirk Paterson estimated roughly 200 kids came out to try the sport.