MERRILLVILLE | Long before Mother Nature became the ultimate winner, early morning risers were fortunate enough to catch a marquee matchup at the Merrillville tennis courts.
The first round of the Merrillville Invitational showcased Valparaiso's Marc Shideler against Merrillville's Leonard Mathews, arguably two of the top five tennis players in northern Indiana.
Shideler stopped a two-match losing streak to Mathews with a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) win in the opening round.
It would turn out to be the only round completed, as rain and lightning forced the cancellation of the rest of the Invite.
Mathews started strong, taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the opening set. Shideler tied it at 3-3 before going on a run to win the first set 6-3.
"I didn't give it to him, he took it," Mathews said afterward. "Marc played really strong today."
The second set was a see-saw battle that saw the lead change hands five times before Shideler finally won the tiebreaker.
"I was sick earlier in the week and didn't play well in my two matches," Shideler said. "During warmups this morning I felt the best I felt all week. Turned out to be good timing."
Mathews defeated Shideler in straight sets two weeks ago in conference play and won last year at the invite in three sets.
"All of our matches are very close and can go either way," Mathews said. "Today was the same thing. We always give each other a tough game, which makes it a lot of fun for both of us."
Local teams participating included Lowell and Times No. 4 Highland as well as the No. 2 Vikings and the Pirates.
Everyone was in the midst of the second round when the skies opened up.
"The competition was great in the first round," Merrillville coach James Simon said. "We were set up to have a great tournament. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas for us this afternoon."