Tom Pickin hit the grille on match point to win the 2011 Etchebaster Tournament in Newport this past weekend. The men’s amateur singles event is open to players who:

  • Have less than one year of experience, or
  • Have more than one year, but less than 2 years and have a handicap of 25 and over, or
  • Have a handicap of over 30, regardless of experience.

The tournament attracted only entries from Boston and Newport. Sixteen players, evenly divided between the clubs, made up the draw. The fact that only Boston and Newport were represented set the stage for a bigger drama – namely bragging rights, between the two clubs. The drama was further heightened by the fact that Boston had produced a remarkable nine Etchebaster winners in as many years. Also at stake was the bonus the winning head professional receives from the USCTA.

Play began on Friday with some tight opening matches. At the end of the day, eight players were left in the main draw, four from Boston, and four from Newport. Tensions were running high on Saturday, as a contingent of Boston fans led by Boston pro’s Jimmy Burke and Camden Riviere descended upon Newport to cheer on their teammates. Balancing out the Boston fans were a strong Newport fan base.

By the semifinals, though, only one Boston player remained. Andy Roberts put up a fantastic fight against #1 Seed Aitor Aldazabal of Newport, winning the first set only to lose in three sets. On the other side of the draw, two Newporters played off against each other for the final spot, with Pickin beating Ross Cann in straight sets.

The final was played on Sunday. The first four games were extremely competitive leading the crowd to believe that it would go the full count in the match. However, at two-all, Pickin pulled out ahead and never looked back. Serving a spinny short railroad, that Aldazabal could not volley, but instead was forced to hit up thus playing to Pickin’s strength – his volley!

Pickin stuck to his game plan. Playing a smart game, he played the ball short on the floor. His pace was firm, but measured with very few over hit balls. Aldazabal, a former professional jai alai player, is used to playing off the back wall and retrieving balls. Pickin, however, never game him the lose ball and as a result, Aldazabal was stuck on the hazard end, unable to get a chase. Pickin kept chipping away, closing out the match 6/2, 6/1 with a winner in the grille!

In the back draw, Boston’s John Edwards defeated Peter Bender, also of Boston, 8/6.

Overall, it was a great weekend of tennis and friendly competition. While Newport took top honors, all of the players demonstrated the fine coaching skills of professionals – Rich Smith, Jake Worseldine, Jimmy Burke and Camden Riviere.

On a separate front, the weekend was also a success for the John Lieb Junior Development Program. Pickin, a former collegiate tennis player, is a graduate of the Lieb program. Newport was also pleased to report that fellow Newporter, and Lieb graduate, Patrick Winthrop, had attained the #1 Amateur ranking in the country. Winthrop shares the #1 spot with Alexis Hombrecher of New York.

Thanks to Newport for hosting the 2011 Etchebaster. By tournament rules, it will be played in New York next year. Thanks also to the Newport pros – Smith and Worseldine for running a successful weekend. Having hosted the Burke Cup the prior weekend, they deserve a break! Thanks also to Richard Gilder as the weekend’s tournament director.