The 2008 U.S. Amateur was hosted by the Tennis & Racquet Club in Boston, MA from April 25-27. The singles and doubles fields featured small but quality draws with players from Boston, New York, Newport, Washington, and Aiken all represented. New York players were seeded first in the singles and doubles, followed by Boston players at the number two spots.
The singles started out with a contest between two relatively new players, Alex Spence from the Tennis & Racquet Club (T&R) and Roberto Saralegui, an Argentinean lawn tennis pro from the National Tennis Club (NTC). Alex, a former Foundation player, won the Noll Cup in February and Roberto has great racquet and hand-eye skills. Roberto came out quickly and went up 4/0. Alex regrouped, however, and started playing more consistently and went on to win the next eight games. Alex deployed several effective serves and prevailed 6/4, 6/2. The other side of the draw featured an interesting matchup between Aiken’s Ben Cook, who won the 2008 Greevy Cup, and Ryan Carey, one of the U.S.’s 2008 Bathurst Cup players. Good points were played in a close first set, which Ben won 6/4. Ben got better as the match went on and won 6/4, 6/2.
In the quarterfinals, Shawn Herlihy of the T&R squared off against NTC’s Doug Spear. Shawn got off to a fast start and won the first set handily 6/1. Doug battled back, however, and started hitting his shots and won the second set 6/2. The match turned again in the third with solid play from Shawn as he prevailed 6/3. The T&R’s Jeremy Wintersteen played Bill Barker from Washington and both played a hard fought contest. The first set saw steady play from Bill and a number of errors from Jeremy as Bill took the first easily 6/2. Jeremy cut down on his errors in the second and went on to win the second and third sets 6/3, 6/3. Another quarterfinal contest featured two tennis professionals, Matt Porter from the T&R versus Ben Cook. Ben came out fast and played great tennis in the first set before Matt settled down and prevailed 6/3, 6/0.
The semifinals went as expected with New York’s Alexis Hombrecher and Matt Porter dispatching Shawn Herlihy and Jeremy Wintersteen easily. The final, which featured an anticipated matchup between the number one and two seeds, would be a display of contrasting styles and games. Spectators wondered how Hombrecher’s court tennis experience and classic style of play would match up against Porter’s athleticism and shot-making. The first set started off with both players exchanging games but Matt soon began to dictate play. Alexis made several unforced errors while Matt was able to elevate his game and apply more and more pressure on Alexis. Great points were played throughout the match but Alexis could not seem to counter Matt’s game. Matt played smart and very well throughout. He was steady and error-free when he needed to be and executed his offense at the right times. Alexis, on the other hand, seemed a little off and rusty. Matt got stronger as the match went on and prevailed 6/3, 6/2, 6/1.
A good first round match in the doubles featured the Newport duo of Doug Spear & John Damon versus Alex Spence & Ryan Carey. Doug and John came out strong and won the first set but Alex and Ryan elevated their game in the second to tie it at 5-5. Newport’s team experience paid off in the end as Doug and John took the last game and match to win 6/3, 6/5.
In the semifinals, New York’s Lex Miron & Alexis Hombrecher matched up against Shawn Herlihy & Bill Barker. Shawn and Bill played well with Shawn’s volleying and Bill’s steadiness but Lex and Alexis were too strong and won 6/3, 6/2. The other semifinal featured a Boston – Newport / Patriot Cup contest between Matt Porter & Jeremy Wintersteen and Doug Spear & John Damon. The first set saw many great points as Doug and John forced a number of errors out of the Boston team. Matt and Jeremy improved as the match went on however and prevailed 6/4, 6/1.
The doubles final featured an interesting matchup of players, styles, and teams. Lex and Alexis’s experience, talent, tournament play, and familiarity as a doubles team faced a combination of Porter’s offense and Jeremy’s retrieving on the number two seed’s home court. Lex and Alexis won the first two games but Matt and Jeremy won the next two to tie it at 2-2. It would be a harbinger of things to come for match. Jeremy played back most of the time with Matt at the galleries. Matt volleyed spectacularly and Jeremy was able to do his job in the back court. Great points were played throughout but Matt and Jeremy were able to take the first set 6/3. Matt and Jeremy continued their momentum into the second and it seemed as if they would prevail. Lex and Alexis regrouped, however, and started to dominate. They played steady tennis, made few mistakes, and executed their forcing shots successfully and took the second set 6/4.
The match seesawed back again in the third to Matt and Jeremy as they prevailed 6/2. Matt defended the galleries with great volleying and often played in the middle of the court waiting for a loose ball to poach. Jeremy found a mid-court bobble serve that was effective and seemed to neutralize service return offense or shots to the galleries. Lex and Alexis, however, countered and played fantastic tennis in the fourth set with Lex controlling the floor and Alexis playing way up in front of the tambour. They quickly went up 4/0 before closing the set out at 6/2. In the final set, with bananas, power bars, pretzels, gatorade, and water all used up, Lex and Alexis continued their fourth set momentum and went up 3/0 on the service side. With Jeremy clearly tired, Matt then brought his game to another level. Jeremy and Matt began consistently switching on the hazard side with Matt defending the tambour and grille. Matt made several key forces and successful dedans shots and Jeremy was able to regroup and they took the next five games to go 5/3 on the service side. Just when it seemed that Matt and Jeremy would win the match, Lex and Alexis would not allow it to happen and elevated their game to go 5/5. Both teams got to the service side at 5/5. Matt hit a crucial volley, defending the tambour, into the 2nd gallery to gain the serve side back at 40/15. On the last point, Jeremy hit a deep bobble serve to Alexis that pinned him back and his return of serve ricocheted off the dedans back wall and fell for worse than the second gallery, giving Matt and Jeremy the match.
Congratulations to Matt Porter for winning both the singles and doubles titles. The last Amateur Champion from the T&R was in 1947 (Mauran Beals def. Charlie Stockton) so it was quite a drought! Matt was a former Foundation player and received the USCTA’s Most Improved Player Award several years ago. It will be interesting to see how far he can take his game. Congratulations also to Jeremy and Matt on the doubles. Maybe New England buried an Ortiz jersey under the R&T during one of its many Whitney Cup losses? The last time a T&R doubles team prevailed was in 1910 when George Fearing (nicknamed “the Brute” by his family!) partnered with Joshua Crane to take the only other national doubles championship won by Club members. Fearing also won a title in 1933 with William Wright of Philadelphia when his usual doubles partner, Jay Gould, was unavailable.
Jeremy and Matt both thanked T&R Head Professional Jimmy Burke. Jimmy taught both players and has spent hundreds of court hours with both and he was thrilled to finally have some T&R Amateur titles (and in the same year of his induction into the USCTA Hall of Fame!).
Many thanks go to Jimmy Burke for organizing and running the 2008 U.S. Amateur and to Newport’s Jacques Faulise for his marking assistance. Thanks also go to Club Manager Tom Dobbins and Janice Pearson and members of the T&R Tennis Committee for all their help over the weekend.
By Jeremy Wintersteen, Dick Brickley, and Arthur Drane