JULY 10-11, 2009

The 2009 incarnation of Australia versus United States junior team championship – known as The Clothier Cup – was contested over two days at the National Tennis Club in Newport last Friday and Saturday. When it was over, the young men from the Australian side had come away with a solid victory, splitting the singles matches but dominating the doubles.

The American team consisted of four talented young players from the Racquet and Tennis Club of New York -William Broadbent, Patrick Haynes, Gordon McMorris and alternate Trevor Rees – and one from Newport – Pat Winthrop. The Aussies hailed from the three active clubs in Australia and were Simon Carr, Daniel Williams, Patrick Dunne, Hilton Booth, and their alternate Paul Rosedale.

The Clothier Cup tie started on Friday, after the Australian Team had arrived from the T&R in Boston (as well as the ‘friendly confines of Fenway Park’ to steal a Chicago expression). They were ‘match tough’ as they say, after having played the inaugural Limb Cup against the British Junior team in the UK, named for the great international ambassadors for our game, the great George Limb of Australia They didn’t need much practice time to be up to speed on the smooth walls and speedy floor of the Newport Court.

Outside, on the grass courts of the Newport Casino The Cambell’s Tennis Hall of Fame Championship was taking place. It made the atmosphere surrounding the Clothier Cup event all the more exciting – if not a little hectic what with all the rain earlier in the week which forced so many matches to be delayed and on to the courts near the famed court tennis facility. The place was buzzing with activity.

The singles matches all took place on the Friday and while the tie was indeed tied at the end of the day, the set scores, the sets won, and the style of play during the singles forebode a challenging day ahead for the US in the doubles.

The Aussies controlled the first two singles matches contested between the respective number three and four team members. Simon Carr defeated Gordon McMorris 6/2, 6/0 and Dan Williams took out Patrick Haynes 6/3, 6/0. Gordon (son of long time Van Alen Cup and Clothier Cup organizer Howard McMorris), and Patrick Haynes – both converts from mostly squash were game, but both were relatively inexperienced compared to the royal tennis reared Aussies. In each of the 6/0 sets it was clear the boys from down under knew how to cut a ball, move it around, and put it away off the penthouse when an American force or mis-hit went on to the roof.

The one and two fared better with Will Broadbent – winner of the 2007 USCTA Most Improved Player award, and Pat Winthrop – four-time US Junior Singles Champion, using timely forcing and excellent offensive play to even up the tie. Will took out Patrick Dunne 6/2, 6/5, and Pat defeated Hilton Booth 6/5, 6/1.

The match was even, but there were signs to the trained eye that US boys would have their hands full come Saturday. The first two matches were runaways for the Aussies. The Americans were squash based players – the retrieving, boasting, and forcing were all present, but the experienced understanding of the nature of a real tennis court was not on a par with the boys from down under. In the two rubbers that the US won, our side had a touch more court tennis experience. Pat Winthrop is a product of the National Tennis Club’s junior development program and has played from his early teen-age years; and Will Broadbent is a very talented racquet sports young man having played squash at Harvard and honed his court tennis while studying at Christ Church Oxford, and later under the watchful eye of Mike Gooding in New York.

Nevertheless, the two 6/5 sets each American endured in the last two rubbers indicated the Australians now and again could handle a little pace, and could wait out the inevitable occasional ‘force for the penthouse’ which they invariably would put away for a winner.

Saturday is always the day of the center court induction ceremony at the Tennis Hall of Fame, and the grounds really come alive with activity. Inside the Court Tennis facility, the Aussies were slowly asserting their court tennis experience, as a small group of American supporters urged on their children, club mates, and junior representatives.

In the first doubles match McMorris and Haynes together fared no better than they did apart and took a thumping 6/1,6/1 from Carr and Williams. Carr’s railroad stymied the lefty Haynes, and the crafty Williams cut balls from both ends to excellent results.

In the second doubles Broadbent and Winthrop cleaned up the errant forces from their earlier singles performances, played the contemporary power doubles game seen at the upper levels of the sport world-wide, made few errors and came away with a convincing 6/3, 6/2 victory over Booth and Dunne. The tie was even at 3 rubbers each and the seventh match would be key.

The third doubles was a seesaw. Patrick Dunne and Simon Carr up against Will and Gordon. The Aussies started quickly and led 5-2 before Broadbent played two great games to bring the Americans back to 5-4, only to see the set slip away 6/4. But Broadbent was hot, and his inspired play managed to pull up McMorris’s play as well. The American team pulled away to a runaway 5/0 lead in the set. A few unforced errors by the Americans allowed the Aussies to hope for the set, but Broadbent closed out the set with a game that included a wicked force that hit the net cord and rocketed and dipped into the top of the dedans with topspin that rivaled any hit by RF. The Aussie rally in the second proved to be confidence boost they needed to run away with the last. To be fair, both Gordon and Will had moments of great retrieving and sound volleys in the last set, but a few too many errors at net and a few to many errant shots on to the roof allowed the Australian team to come away with a convincing 6/2 final set and the lead in the tie 4-3.

The final match had the 2 and 4 Aussies, Booth and Williams smelling blood and they jumped out to a quick lead taking the first four games in a flash and the entire set 6/1 less than 15 minutes, over Haynes and Winthrop. In the second set Winthrop stepped up his game, and Haynes seemed to get better with every rally. The US had chances at 3/4 and again at 4/5, but the court savvy, and more experienced Australians took the last game, the set, and the match 6/4, and the tie 5-3.

It was a great weekend of tennis. All the members of the USCTA as well as ARTA should be thankful and appreciative for all of the support and guidance given to the young men on both sides of the ledger. This support came from a number of sources:

Full marks go to Howard McMorris who has organized and managed not only all the Clothier Cup teams of the past few years but all of the Van Alen Cup squads as well. He is unfailingly courteous and efficient in his manor and disposition – the perfect example for all of these young men to emulate in terms of sportsmanship. I am sure he will be missed as international junior team director. But his son Gordon seems to possess all of his father’s qualities, and was a great host and guide for the Australians on this trip, and so we hope he will stay active in the program.

Also, Alexis Hombrecher who was asked by Howard to act as match director for this year’s Clothier Cup in a way to prime him for his new role as the new international junior team director. He was a very positive force for the boys, lending his long time match experience in both lawn tennis and Court Tennis, as he coached from the sidelines and generally managed the tie for the US.

The marking and all of the professional duties were graciously handled by Rich Smith and Tony Hollins. The professionals were also un-official hosts, taking some of the boys out to golf, giving guidance for other local activities, as well as guidance on the tennis court. Rich was so supportive of the US side that when someone inquired about coaching during matches, in jest, he asked if he might coach from the markers box as well. Regrettably, the offer had to be declined in the interests of impartiality. 

Mark Stenning, the managing director of the Hall of Fame, and one of the nicest gentleman in the entire world of lawn tennis very graciously supported the idea of having the Clothier Cup during his most busy week of the year. Colleen Hopkins helped with the logistical end of things for the Hall of Fame, and commentator and Hall of Fame inductee Bud Collins mentioned the Australia / US court tennis event during his closing statements of the TV coverage of the lawn tennis tournament. Bud suggested that all visitors to the Hall of Fame should make their way down to the Court Tennis Court to witness the original game in action. It was great public relations for the game.

The National Tennis Club did a wonderful job hosting the boys. Tom Rowe was the official organizer and tournament director for the NTC, and hosted the entire American side at his home. NTC President John Murphy, who attended most of the matches as well as the final dinner, acted as the host for the club in Tom’s absence. In addition there was support from any number of club members such as Beth Winthrop, Andy Kinzler, Joe Tomaino and others with housing, feeding the boys, and supporting the matches.

Jim Wharton, the immediate past President of the USCTA, was instrumental in the conduct of the event from start to finish. It was his suggestion to bring the Clothier Cup to Newport in the first place. It marked the first international junior event there since Jim was President of the NTC when it hosted the Van Alen Cup over the same Hall of Fame weekend back in the 1990’s. That was a great success at the time, and Jim used his experience to help make sure this event was one as well. Among other things, he liaised with Mark Stenning and Colleen Hopkins at the ITHF to make sure the event fit well into the ITHF schedule; he helped Tom Rowe with the schedule of events; he arranged for tickets for the teams to attend the lawn tennis matches; he helped to organize the Clothier Cup Dinner and served as the master of ceremonies; he even donated USCTA ties to the US team. He was a major part of why the event was such a success.

Congratulations to the Australian team for their well deserved victory. Congratulations to the American side for their game effort. It was a treat to witness tennis at such a high level by so talented and sportsmanlike a group of young men. The Australians made the commitment to a six-week tour including the Limb Cup in the UK and The Clothier Cup here, as well as tours to a number of additional courts. And the American side went through a try-out process, and players made the commitment to practice as well as the entire weekend match.

In this writer’s opinion, moving forward the USCTA can learn from the experience. We need to get young players into the pipeline earlier than we usually have done. In the past most of our young men come to the game after they have graduated from college and join our major clubs.

There have been exceptions, and the exceptions tell the amazing story, and lead to the inescapable conclusions: Jay Gould took up the game at 11 – World Champion; Norty Knox took up the game at 12 – World Champion; Jimmy Bostwick took up the game at 13 – World Champion; Pete Bostwick took up the game at 13 – World Champion; and Camden Riviere took up the game before his teens and recently challenged for the World Championship. The conclusions: better earlier than later, better now than ever.

The USCTA has a very good development program upon which it can build; we have a number of young players from Aiken to Newport. Those youngsters in their teens should be encouraged to try out for these international teams. If you don’t make it this round – aim for the next. There will be a Van Alen Cup in 2010, and after that, a Bathurst Cup for those aging out of the junior programs, then back to Australia in 2011.  The USCTA needs to start to identify players now, train them, coach them, hold tryouts, clinics, anything that will help to coalesce them into moving forward and towards a cohesive team. Instill in these younger players the strong desire to represent their country, and show them that if they perform they will be given the opportunity to do so. Instill in them as well the traditions of the game. The Australian young men are more than just talented players, they are students of the game. They know and care about it’s history; the important matches; the various clubs; the significant players. We can do this as well.

The rewards will come not just to those who compete, but to those who help in the effort as well. It is the best thing we can do for the game to insure its future. As Aristotle said ‘the Olympic reward is not just for those who win the prize, but for those who enter the lists’.

Respectfully submitted

Edward Hughes

Founder: The Clothier Cup   

Results are as follows.

Friday – July 10 – Singles

US                  vs.                   Australia

McMorris        vs.                   Carr               2/6, 06

Haynes          vs.                   Williams         3/6, 0/6

Broadbent     vs.                   Dunne            6/2,6/5

Winthrop        vs.                   Booth             6/5,6/1

Day 1 Results – US 2, Australia 2

Saturday – July 11 – Doubles

Winthrop/Broadbent vs.      Hilton/Dunne             6/3,6/2

Haynes/McMorris      vs.      Carr/Williams           2/6,2/6

Broadbent/McMorris  vs.     Dunne/Carr              1/6,6/4,3/6

Winthrop/Haynes       vs.     Hilton/Williams          2/6,5/6

Final Result – Australia 5, US 3