ANDERSON — Blake Allen and John Rhodes III have both played in the Anderson Tennis Classic since before Community Hospital became the event's title sponsor and Anderson University the host.
After nearly 20 summers, Allen and Rhodes finally became doubles teammates Wednesday.
Their partnership got off to a very fine start, 6-2, 7-5 over Ben Brandt and Samuel Hollingsworth in the first round of the Men's A Doubles division.
"We played well," Rhodes said. "We played some awesome competitors coming out of Blue River (Valley), and we're really glad to have them in the tournament, and I'm glad that we won tonight."
Allen and Rhodes came from down 3-0 in the second set and took the next four games. The Blue River team went ahead 5-4, but the pair of assistant coaches (Allen at Lapel and Rhodes at Shenandoah) rallied for the win.
"Luckily, they made some mistakes, and it wasn't that we were better than them necessarily," Allen said. "That team was really tough, and I really had a tough time with Ben's serve in particular. But I thought we played pretty solid."
Rhodes' father, also named John, is the classic's director and coach of Shenandoah's teams. Rhodes played for his dad up to his 2004 graduation, before going on to Indiana State.
Allen's daughter Lexi, a 2015 Lapel graduate, was at No. 1 singles, and son Dawson will be a sophomore this fall (Blake and Dawson played in a Father-Son semifinal Wednesday night and fell 6-1, 6-1 to Ben and Jesse McCurdy).
"We have just played in one of those leagues (in Muncie) that my father and I have played in every Thursday night," Rhodes said. "And I called (Allen) up and said, 'hey, you want to play (doubles)?,' and he said, 'sure.'"
Both had large cheering sections, including many of Allen's family as well as Rhodes' wife and their 6-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
Rhodes and Allen have a formidable challenge in Friday's semifinal, and for Allen a very familiar pair in Joseph Conrad and Jesse McCurdy. Conrad was No. 1 singles for Lapel in his just-concluded senior year, and McCurdy (a rising junior) will take over No. 1 in the fall.
"We're going to have to play a lot better than we did today," Allen said. "I love the challenge, and I love going out and playing against the younger kids."
Chase Kimmerling and Armand Gallanosa await the winner in the final Saturday.
Next door to Rhodes and Allen, Carole Clohessy and Susan Tomizawa beat Diane Silberberg and Abby Ervin in a tiebreaker (6-3, 2-6 in the first two sets) in a Women's A Doubles semi. The winners meet Bella Roark and Morgan Nation in the final Saturday.
It will be an all-Shenandoah final in Varsity Boys Singles Saturday. Seth Nation defeated Andrew Mote of Anderson 6-1, 6-4 Wednesday and Cory Evans was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Mississinewa's Conner Murphy.
In a Girls Varsity Singles semi, Rylee Fuller of Connersville defeated Anderson's Anna Carl 7-5, 6-4 and will play in the final Friday against the winner of Thursday's match between Lindsie Chaplin of Frankton and Shenandoah's Morgan Nation.
Morgan Nation and Sophia Wilkinson won 7-5, 6-2 over Gabby and Susie Kramer in a Varsity Girls Doubles semi.
Evans teamed with Jaigen Glaze to beat Cole Metzger and Seth Moore 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the Varsity Boys Doubles final Saturday.
The first Men's A Singles semi was played late Wednesday night, between Conrad and Kimmerling. Jesse McCurdy faces Evans Thursday in the other semi.