Serious injuries helped two of the finest tennis players in Whatcom County history realize fully how much they love the sport.
Former Sehome standouts Ari Adelstein, 25, and Will Topp, 19, will form a potent -- and healthy -- doubles team for the annual three-day Bellingham City Open, beginning Friday, Aug. 10, while playing before numerous friends and family members at the Bellingham Tennis Club.
The Junior Challenger Tournament, for players 16 and under, begins a three-day run on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
Adelstein and Topp just might also treat fans to a singles match against each other, perhaps even in the finals if the draw permits.
Both players had their state tournament chances as seniors spoiled by injuries -- Adelstein in spring 2005 and Topp in spring 2011, following Topp's transfer to Olympia after three outstanding years at Sehome.
"I'm ready and raring to go," said Topp by phone from Olympia, where he spent the past year in rehabilitation following elbow surgery. "This will be my first tournament since the surgery."
No one is more grateful that Topp is healthy than Adelstein, who lettered as a freshman at the University of Oregon before re-injuring his right knee and ending his chances at a four-year NCAA career.
"I love playing doubles with Will. He brings so much energy that it really makes it fun," said Adelstein, who plans to receive his USTA teaching certification in September and enjoys working with younger players.
Before Topp transferred to Olympia because of a family move, Adelstein and Topp twice teamed in doubles, winning a winter tournament after finishing second in a summer event against the same team.
This Bellingham City Open is especially important to Topp, because he isn't about to stop trying to play college tennis.
"I'm planning to walk on in September at the UW (University of Washington)," said Topp, who will major in engineering and anticipates red-shirting if he is welcomed to the Division I program. "I really want to keep trying to play for the UW."
Adelstein knows full well how much skill and dedication that takes.
"I rehabbed at Oregon after having my second knee surgery in a year," he said. "But my knee would swell when I would play. I realized I could not perform at that level, so I came back to get my degree in communications at WWU (Western Washington University)."
While earning a degree, Adelstein simply could not stay away from tennis.
"I played three years for Western's club team and we went to the club nationals all three years," he said. "I went something like 20-3 or 20-4. It wasn't easy at first (playing at the club level after playing for a Division I program), but I wound up having a lot of fun."
Likewise, Topp said his past year out of tennis "has been really tough" while he got in some college credits at South Puget Sound Community College.
"I really wanted to play pretty bad this year. I went unbeaten in the fall (2010) league matches at (Class 4A) Olympia, but I had to default my first district match in the spring," said Topp, who won the Class 2A state title for Sehome following second place as a sophomore and third as a freshman.
Ari is that rare local -- a fourth-generation member of the family business, Louis Auto Glass on State Street in Bellingham, not to mention a fourth-generation tennis player.
"My great-grandfather Louis founded the business (more than 80 years ago) and then my grandfather Mel ran it, followed by my father Rick," said Ari, who noted that oldest sister, former Sehome tennis player Carrie, now coordinates operations. Ari runs Final Touch, the company's auto-detailing business (Rick still oversees everything as owner of Louis Auto Glass).
Ari said the third Adelstein sibling, sister Lindsey, also now dabbles in tennis. Ari treated all his family members to an outstanding career at Sehome, more than three decades after Rick played No. 1 singles at Bellingham following older brother Steve's stint at No. 1 for the Red Raiders.
"I went 84-0 in league and district in four years at No. 1 for Sehome," said Ari, when asked to recall his record. "But I'll never forget my first match at state as a freshman. I played the defending champion and I lost 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in a great match, but it really knocked both of us out. We each lost our next matches."
Ari claimed state medals as a sophomore and junior, but his knee was so bad in the spring of his senior year that he went 0-2 at state with severely limited mobility. He had to play with a large brace in the spring, following a strong fall (Whatcom County boys play fall tennis, then wait until spring for the state tournament).
He underwent surgery, then did so again a year later, after playing his first season at Oregon.
Ari smiles when he also credits tennis as the reason for being born.
"Dad and Mom played at Western and they met when (Dad) was looking for a mixed doubles partner for a tournament," he said, noting with distinct pride in his voice that they are still playing highly competitive tennis in their early 60s.