For Rick Lund and Tom Raphael, the championship victory last Sunday afternoon at Bakersfield Racquet Club was a reunion, of sorts.
The two Tehachapi residents reigned supreme among Kern County's best players, putting the finishing touches on another title together by winning the 45-over Senior Kern County Championships at Bakersfield Racquet Club in a thrilling final, 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.
Lund and Raphael last played together to win the Kern County Senior Division championship in 2005 and 4.5 Division Bakersfield Finals in 2004. After a near-decade long hiatus laced with injuries and schedule conflicts, the dynamic duo were able to team up again for victory.
"Honestly, it was an almost last minute decision to play in this event," said Lund. "We came in with the attitude of let's not get hurt and not so much of winning or losing. We just wanted to have fun."
Soon after Lund and Raphael won their title in 2005, Raphael suffered an ACL tear in his knee that sidelined him for a considerable amount of time. When Raphael was fully healed, Lund took his turn on the injured reserve, going through physical therapy for a shoulder injury and undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his neck.
With both players finally healthy, the Kern County Championships at BRC served as the perfect venue for their reunion.
"It was good to get out there and play, especially with Rick," said Raphael. "He keeps me grounded. If I get frustrated I can depend on him to be that quiet, calming influence."
After winning their preliminary round matches by dropping only one set, the Tehachapi team got off to a quick start in the final, with Lund belting two aces in the opening game for a quick 1-0 lead.
Despite recording 19 winners, key unforced errors gave Lund and Raphael's opponents the early edge in a 6-4 opening set win.
Both players came back firing on all cylinders in the second set, with Lund providing pin-point volleys at the net to build a 3-1 lead. Raphael then registered a pair of strong service games, winning both at love to coast to a 6-3 second set win, sending the match into a super-tiebreaker.
In the deciding set, the Tehachapi locals got a mini-break to go up 3-1, with Raphael punching a half volley on the fly for the early lead. Lund and Raphael then won five of the last six tiebreaker points to a cruise to a decisive 10-5 win.
"My family really urged me to get out and play and I'm glad they did," added Raphael. "It was a blast."
Both Lund and Raphael are 53 years old and have been friends for virtually their entire lives, graduating from neighboring Bakersfield high schools in 1979.
Lund, a high school All-American, was a top singles and doubles player at North, while Raphael was West's top player. Both went on to play together at Bakersfield College in the early 80s,with Raphael going on to play at Fresno State and Lund enjoying short stint on the pro tour, competing in satellite tournaments on the west coast.
"It was great playing with Tommy," added Lund. "We reached our goal by staying reasonably healthy and we had fun. It felt good to get out there and play again."