Stanley slips past Allen in men's open final

By Matt Hill

   KINGSPORT -- If a movie is ever made about the careers of local tennis stars Matt Stanley and Kyle Allen, it should be called "Any Given Day."
   That's because you never know who is going to come out on top when these two get together.
   On Thursday night at Borden Park, both players proved why it's always anybody's game.
   Stanley got the upper hand Thursday with a very close 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 win over Allen in the finals of the men's open division at the Kingsport Open Tennis Tournament.
   "It feels great," Stanley said, who plays for Dobyns-Bennett. "Whenever we play, we always bring the best out of each other."
   It was a hard fought match by Allen, who saved three match points in the third set before losing on the fourth.
   The match was on serve with Stanley ahead 5-4 when Stanley went up 0-40 to give himself three match points. But Allen went on to hold his serve to tie the set at 5-5.
   Stanley held on his next service game to go ahead 6-5, then broke Allen to win the match.
   Stanley made sure to keep his composure after losing three match points.
   "I knew I had to just get that out of my mind," Stanley said. "I had a chance in all of them. I just knew if I thought about it too much, it could be 7-5 him. I had to keep my concentration, and just shake it off."
   Everything went Stanley's way in the end, but it didn't start out that way.
   Allen, a standout athlete at Abingdon (Va.) High School, played brilliantly in the first set. Allen took the last three games of the set to win it 6-4.
   "I usually do start out a little slow," Stanley said. "I couldn't find a rhythm, and I once I find a rhythm, I start playing a lot better."
   Stanley found his rhythm in the second set, and had no trouble winning all six games in that frame.
   Stanley used a strong return game to break Allen three times in the second set.
   "I returned really well," Stanley said. "Better than I ever have against him. When I return well, I usually do a lot better against him. That's really the key thing.
   Stanley didn't want to get discouraged after the first set, and just believed that he could play a lot better.
   "I knew that I had chances," Stanley said. "I had shots and just missed them. I knew if I came out there, I could definitely be a lot better."
   Stanley hurt Allen in the second and third sets with his backhand. Both players have great backhands, but on this night it was Stanley that seemed to have the shot mastered.
   "It started out a little slow," Stanley said. "But once I found it, I just had confidence going down the line. Every match it's either there or not there. And when it's there it just opens up so many more doors, so I can go down the line. And it was on today."
   Stanley and Allen are definitely two of the best players in the area.
   The two players do live in different states, meaning they don't see each other during the high school tennis season.
   Stanley wishes that he could go up against Allen a lot more.
   "Definitely," Stanley said when asked if he would like to play Allen more. "Around here, there's not too many people that you can play with. We make each other a lot better."
   Tournament director Al Wilkes was proud of these two players for the great match they put on, and also for their sportsmanship.
   Wilkes thinks Allen and Stanley set a good example on Thursday night.
   "A lot of times young people can get a bad rap today," Wilkes said. "I just thought the sportsmanship was great. If it had been older people and they had that kind of sportsmanship, it would have been great, too. I thought they really held their composure. They complimented each other, and everything.
   The 3.5 men's singles finals also went three sets, but it was Rick Stansbury defeating Michael Manis 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.
   It was a another successful Kingsport Open. The turnout was down, but there still happened to be some great matches.
   Wilkes was pleased despite the lower turnout.
   "We had some of the same people, we just didn't have numbers," Wilkes said. "A lot of people tend when they don't get M.E.T.A. points to skip those tournaments. That's all right too, but I just kind of like people to play for the fun of it. I thought it was a great tournament, even though we didn't have that many."