The Racquet & Tennis Club hosted the 82nd annual Payne Whitney Intercity Doubles competition this weekend. The tournament included six teams of ten players each with 54 of the top 60 US amateurs. Seven young rookies (Dillon Aldrich, Vu Hoang, Marty Kinsella, Steve Rozek, David Tedeschi, Clayton Vaughters, and Zach Sacks) took to the courts in tow of their wizened teammates. Despite strong efforts in group play, especially from the New England and Washington teams, the odds-maker’s favorites, New York and Greentree-Aiken advanced to Sunday’s final.
By way of a 2/1 match lead early Friday afternoon and with Simon Aldrich and Bob Hay as surefire winners for Greentree-Aiken in the senior match, the Greentree-Aiken vs. New England number 4 match proved to be pivotal in Group 2’s early goings. Newly Geneva-based Brook Hazelton and Whitney Cup greenie Vaughters battled a formidable New England team of lawn tennis hero Jeff Horine and squash star Tedeschi to a decisive third set. With a 4/3 game (3/3 third set format), 40-15 points, playing for chase better than two lead in the third, the serving New England squad double-faulted and, understandably shell-shocked, proceeded to lose the next three games and the match. With a 6/1, 6/1 win from the senior team, Greentree-Aiken prevailed in its West court tussle with New England 3 matches to 2. Philadelphia had its fair share of three set matches; but, the other two teams in Group 2 were too much to handle, resulting in Greentree-Aiken’s winning Group 2.
Despite otherwise good quality rests in early Group 1 play, Washington found the best way to the scoreboard against Tuxedo-Kinsella (Chicago). Tuxedo-Chicago won a total of 12 games in the 1, 2, 3, and senior matches. In the 4 match, Chicago’s club champion in racquets, Kinsella, and Tuxedo’s golf master though not yet unanchored long putter, Dan Laukitis, fought hard against the (perennially) well-dressed, hard-hitting Washington team of Ryan Carey and Vu Hoang but lost the dreaded 5/5, 40/40 double match ball. An epic point ensued and Carey, on the service side, went for victory but missed the winning gallery by inches. Switching sides, Carey took immediately the bobble serve and smacked a stinging main-wall, dedans force to end the match.
New York began its quest for the cup against Tuxedo-Chicago on Friday afternoon. The defending champions showed no signs of fatigue and breezed through the first three matches to clinch the early victory over Tuxedo-Chicago. The New York vs. Washington match began with the heavily-favored New York 1 pair of Spike Willcocks and Jonathan Larken against Washington’s Rich Moroscak and Kris Motz. Moroscak and Motz’s inspired play caught the New York players on their heels. Larken and Willcocks only just out touched Washington’s great effort in the 6/5 first set. The New York 1 team regained its composure in the second set en route to a more comfortable 6/2 win. The New York 2 set of Nicolas Victoir and Chris Arriz took the first set against a stout Washington pair comprised of 2012’s Silver Racquet champion Bill Barker and the quick feet of Danny McBride. Barker and McBride battled back to even the match at 1/1 in sets. Firm volleys from Arriz helped New York take the opening game of the third set. Washington snuffed out New York’s early momentum with targeted forces and timely gets, capturing the set and the match and leveling the team match at 1/1. The Washingtonians’ era of good feelings was only fleeting, however. New York captain Lex Miron and former little league baseball teammate Jim Ardrey neutralized Bradley Allen and John Motz’s blazing pace in straight sets and gave New York a 2/1 lead in matches. The New York 4 team of MIP (Most Improved Player) Sacks and racquets maven Antony Smithie then extinguished Washington’s hopes with a comfortable victory in two sets over the still impeccably-dressed Washington 4 pair of Carey and Hoang.
Commensurate with consensus’ forecasts, Greentree-Aiken and New York earned berths in the finals. The order of play (senior, 4th pair, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) allowed for tense drama. The competition’s finest haberdashery was on display in the senior match. World Masters-vest-wearing New York senior team of Sam Abernathy and Bruce Manson faced Greentree-Aiken’s agile and unbeaten team of Aldrich (clad in his 2011 Bathurst Cup warm-up) and Hay. Greentree-Aiken defused a surprising 2/0 start from the New York veterans with a 6/0 run of games. The second set included great play from both sides, but the spry Greentree-Aiken team finished strong to take the set 6/5 and the match. Despite a fast 5/1 start and a 6/5 win in the first set from the New York 4 pair, lawn tennis stars Hazelton and Vaughters warmed up and went on an impressive 16/1 run in games. New York faced a daunting 0/2 match deficit. The top New York pair of Willcocks and Larken was steady as ever, dispatching Ben Cook and Rakesh (“Rocket”) Jasani with a bevy of demoralizing winning galleries and dedans forces. Greentree-Aiken’s advantage was shaved to one match. Greentree-Aiken’s venerable 2 pair of Noah Wimmer and Addison West took the court against New York’s veterans Victoir and Arriz. In group play, the Greentree-Aiken team won both of its matches in straight sets and dropped only 10 games. With a 1/1 record and a cutting three set defeat on Saturday afternoon against Washington 2, the New York team had a less auspicious route to the finals than did their rivals. New York’s game plan was to overwhelm its hard-hitting foes with a distinct lack of pace and a healthy dose of precision. The team executed brilliantly, countering Greentree-Aiken’s menacing forces, waiting patiently for openings, and seizing opportunities with deft length. With Victoir and Arriz’s 6/2, 6/3 victory, New York evened the team match and forced an all or nothing showdown in the Intercity’s final bout.
Tension ran high and the Greentree-Aiken supporters were in full flight. To the court came the stalwart pair of Ardrey and Miron for New York and the fresh team of Peter Pell and Aldrich the younger for Greentree-Aiken. With two straight-set victories, group play treated the New York team well. Despite good efforts, Greentree-Aiken 3 entered Sunday with the pangs of a winless group round record. Early games evidenced the dedans’ thunderous support of the Greentree-Aiken squad; but, the resolute hands of New York 3 fashioned an efficient 6/1 first set. While New York certainly carried momentum into the second set, the crowd was evermore backing its challengers. With every point to Greentree-Aiken, rebel yells burst from the crowd. The hardscrabble Greentree-Aiken team pushed forward from 3/1 games, 40-30 points down to level the set at 3/3, answering Miron’s well-placed volleys and Ardrey’s cunning abuse of the tambour with fizzing forces and troubling boasts. Cracks appeared in New York’s ramparts, albeit only briefly. New York 3 captured the next two games and had a 40-40 championship point at 5/3. Miron’s hard main-wall-kissing drive clipped the tape and fell short, eliciting perhaps the loudest cheer of the tournament, 5/4 to New York. Greentree-Aiken’s boisterous supporters from the dedans only got the team so far; Pell and Aldrich had their chances, but the final game developed quickly in New York’s favor. Miron and Ardrey took the second set 6/4, the match in straight sets, and the Whitney Cup final 3 matches to Greentree-Aiken’s 2.
Many thanks are due to the competitors, supporters, organizers, pros, and staff for an excellent tournament.