It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing…

2012 Cherry Blossom Recap

 By Ryan Carey

The 2012 Cherry Blossom Doubles Tournament was held over Easter weekend at Prince’s Court. We welcomed out-of-town entrants from Boston, Philadelphia, Newport, New York, and Aiken and as far away as Hyde (UK). 

There are 12 tones in the musical scale. As it was the ‘12 Cherry Blossom, we gave this year’s tournament a “music” theme. We transformed the court into having 12 tones that players could hit with the ball during play. For example, we placed a giant yard bell into the Door gallery to create the “Door Bell”. We put a smaller bell into the last gallery that players could ring with their racquet before they served with a sign that read “Ring Bell for Service”. Kris Motz’s carpentry skills were put on display as he not only handcrafted a large wooden xylophone, which was hung in the 2nd Gallery but also a grille that featured a large cymbal surrounded by four tambourines. Other on-court tones included: an electronic floor piano placed by the net, which played as the players walked on it whilst changing sides, a marching bass drum that read “The Blossom” in a faux “The Beatles” design and an American themed 1st Gallery featuring a photo of Michelle Obama wearing large American Flag bell earrings (aka The “First Gal”). It was certainly something to see (and hear!). 

The opening ceremony, which was “conducted” on Thursday at 4:12PM, included an explanation of all of the tones that could be played on court. This was followed by a “symphony” of the tones as players were placed at each station and struck the instruments with their racquets creating a special, albeit unique, opus – forever answering the question “What does Prince’s Court sound like?”.

While the Easter weekend kept some of the regulars from playing, the tournament still managed to entice 22 teams to enter. On the entry forms we requested that players list a few of their favorite songs and we converted this information into a customized warm-up mix for each match (one minute of each player’s favorite song) played over the official Cherry Blossom Boom Box. This was well received by the players but not so much by our lawn tennis playing neighbors.

The Friday night cocktail party, held at the court, followed the musical theme to the number by featuring not one but two musical guests. The first was a classical “string” quartet that entertained the crowd with not only classical music but also present day rock and roll and everything in between. The quartet was so loud that our fearless markers Sergio Lopez and Ivan Ronaldson said those matches were the toughest matches they have ever had to mark (even though they were outfitted with a custom vintage rockabilly-marking microphone). Having played a match during that time, I can tell you that the sound waves bouncing off the glass main wall made it sound like we were playing inside a giant subwoofer! The second musical act was a local mariachi band. Their laid back, distinguished playing was a perfect answer to the boldness of the string quartet. The Blossom “12-Bar” pint glasses were full of cheer and so was the crowd after each number by the bands. Elvis and Beatles sunglasses were passed out and made poseurs out of all and there was even a rumor of an Easter egg piñata being whispered about the party. In addition to our musical guests, Madame Vision, a palm reader, was holding court the whole time. She invited the players who were game to receive a “Jeu de Palm” reading. N.B. Bender’s reading seemed to take a while!

The Saturday tournament dinner was held in Georgetown at the City Tavern Club hosted by Dr. Richard Meyer. The usual awards were given to the players with the most winning shots (grille, winning gallery, gongs, dedans) but this year, instead of joke gifts, we gave away copies of Chuck Barris’ (host of The Gong Show) CD “Confessions of a Dangerous Singer”. We also raffled two prizes of 1/2 off entry into next year’s Cherry Blossom. Even though Michael Do and I had a wireless microphone, it was a big room and we felt like we needed a little help with the announcements, so we called up surprise guest #1: Ted Williams. No, not that Ted Williams! This is the Ted Williams who garnered notoriety last year as the homeless man with the golden voice! Ted came up to the podium, and in a voice only he can produce, announced the Finalists with the precision of a pro, tackling challenging names like Yiannis Mostrous and  Zach Cafritz with ease to the delight of the audience. As it was Easter, the Sport & Health club where Prince’s Court is located was closing at 2PM on Sunday so there would not be any time for Plate matches. That didn’t seem fair, so Michael and I took action. Mr. Williams is currently the voice of the Kraft Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese commercials and as such, we made special provisions to get “special provisions” and made sure all the non-finalists won a Plate… a plate of Kraft Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese! Afterward the Plates were handed out; we unveiled our surprise guest #2: Philadelphia music legend Mr. Bunny Sigler. He took the mike and showed the crowd first-hand what kind of special “performance” it was going to take to win a final on Sunday. Bunny hopped to it straight away singing his classic hits. Beforehand Bunny asked me if this crowd was ready to rock and I told him they were even ready to roll, he gave me a look that said “Well OK then!” Our players didn’t disappoint, as when he sang Love everyone immediately formed a conga line/love train and started “training” all around the room…and who was leading the way? None other than Ted Williams! “Loco” motion indeed!

Now for the tennis – there wound up being six divisions (Boom Box, Bass Drum, Gong, Keyboard, Bell and Cymbal) and consequently 12 winners on the Final Sunday. It was announced that the trophies were handcrafted court tennis guitars with strings and tuning pegs! (N.B. they were kindly made at the last minute by my father who knows nothing about guitars but they turned out to be great!)  It was also announced that there would be a small batch of Easter egg dyed two-tone balls available for play, as it was of course Easter Sunday. 

The Cymbal Division final featured Boston’s Tony and Maureen Ashmore facing the upstart Washington team of Zach Cafritz and Matthew Longley. The Ashmores, not fancying their chances in the tournament, had originally booked their flight home for early Sunday morning! However, a $100 change fee later, they were in it to win it. Early in the match, Cafritz and Longley were not bothered by a substantial handicap or the fact that this was their first ever court tennis tournament and jumped out to an early lead. However, the Ashmores quickly found comfort in good play and a good handicap advantage and leveled the match. A horse race ensued as one team would win one game and the other team would win the next. Finally, Cafritz and Longley worked hard to overcome the handicap and went out in front 6-4 to a seemingly insurmountable lead but the Ashmores, remember the $200 they just spent, weren’t about to give up leveling the match at 6-all. Longley, exhibiting the all-out hustle that his side had shown all tournament, dove for a ball in front of Cafritz and almost received a knockout blow by his partner’s racquet. This seemed to change the momentum a bit, as the Ashmores won that game and Cafritz/Longley made a few uncharacteristic unforced errors allowing the Ashmores the match. A solid effort on both sides but there of course can be only one winner. Ashmore/Ashmore def. Cafritz/Longley 9/6.

The Bass Drum Division final was a Prince’s Court “members only” affair as Vu Hoang/Jake McCray squared off against fellow Washingtonians Sara Lacombe and Mark Philpott. These two teams had faced off the day before with Lacombe/Philpott winning 8/4, so Hoang/McCray were ready for some payback. Nerves seemed to dominate the early going but Lacombe/Philpott managed to settle theirs first and raced out to a 5-1 lead. Lacombe/Philpott let up just a little bit after that fantastic start and Hoang/McCray subsequently found some traction winning the next four games and leveling the match at 5-all! The next two games were battled fiercely, both going the distance to game-ball, but it was Lacombe/Philpott who got back to their winning ways by taking both of those games to once again stake their lead to 7-5. While Hoang/McCray fought hard in the next two games, Lacombe/Philpott would not be denied. Lacombe/Philpott def. Hoang/McCray 9/5.

The Bell Division final was a grudge rematch between Cecilia Forbes and Martin Whitmer (both of Washington) against Mary Livingston of Washington and Charlotte Aukamp formerly of Washington. Livingston/Aukamp won their round robin match against Forbes/Whitmer by the slimmest of margins on the final point, so Forbes/Whitmer wanted to “make it a point” to return the favor in the final with interest! The final started out with well-played points all around. Forbes/Whitmer took the first game reminding their opponents that this was a new day, but Livingston/Aukamp quickly countered by winning the next game with tenacious play. That tenacious play continued with Aukamp’s “I will get everything back” retrieving prowess, Livingston’s punishing forehands, and the result was Aukamp/Livingston going up 5-1. Forbes served her side to a foothold in the match in the next game and Whitmer’s heavy groundstrokes won them the next game after that. At 5-3, Aukamp/Livingston decided to take charge with Aukamp hitting winners from the backcourt and Mary putting away volleys at the net and then vice-versa in the following game to go 7-3 up. Forbes/Whitmer threw the proverbial kitchen sink at them to try to close the gap, but it wasn’t to be on this day. Aukamp/Livingston def. Forbes/Whitmer 9/5.

The Boom Box Division final featured the impressively talented team of Rich Moroscak and Brad Allen against birthday boy Kris Motz and a weary-from-the-weekend yours truly. In the previous matchup during round robin play, the match was deadlocked at 7-all as time expired so one point was played. Allen hit an amazing one-bouncer into the winning gallery off the tambour to win the match. Staying true to its Boom Box namesake it was a final full of boom-ing forces and top-of-the-charts hits. Stellar steady play by Motz, taking full advantage of the handicap, led our side to an early 5-3 lead. Moroscak and Allen gave it their best but the court tennis gods were clearly smiling upon Kris and me, as I had many “no business getting that” circus shots that kept us in the lead. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t let Kris lose on his birthday and my wish came true. K. Motz/Carey def. Moroscak/Allen 9/5.

The Gong Division final saw the solid Washington pair of Matt Fraidin and Charlie Katz take on the beloved former ex-pats Ros & Al Clark of the UK. The Clarks got the best of Fraidin/Katz in their round robin match 8/5 but Matt and Charlie came for the crown and jumped out to a 3-1 lead through Fraidin’s great volleying skill and Katz’s measured groundstrokes. The Clarks rallied to win the next game but came up short in the game after, so the match was now at 4-2. Fraidin/Katz regained the serving end in the 7th game and that seemed to be the difference, using crafty serves to set up put away shots. Steady play by Fraidin/Katz pressured the Clarks into too many unforced errors to get back into the match. While the Clarks may not have won the final, they certainly won in having fun on the weekend. An appreciative crowd applauded the efforts of both sides as Fraidin/Katz def. Clark/Clark 9/3.

Finally yet importantly, The Keyboard Division final pitted Arthur Drane of Boston and Yiannis Mostrous of Washington against the newly engaged “team” of Phoebe Livingston and Sergio Lopez both sailing in from Newport. Sergio only started playing the game in January but put on display all of the work he has been putting in every day since. A game Drane/Mostrous weren’t fazed as they showed Sergio a thing or two as well, leveling the match at 1-all. Combined with Phoebe’s calm and determined play, Sergio’s enthusiastic athleticism seemed to make the difference with great retrievals in the corner and winning shots when his opponents would yield a neutral ball. If things started to go bad, an audible “Vamos” from the Mallorcan seemed to be the magic word to get them back on track. Already challenged by giving a large handicap, Sergio’s “20 handicap serve” also proved a difficult foe for Drane/Mostrous as Livingston/Lopez enjoyed an extended multi-game stay on the service side for a 5-2 lead. Drane/Mostrous finally got to the serving side but unfortunately, the result was more of the same. A late charge by Arthur and Yiannis made it interesting but as “The Princess Bride” correctly points out, you cannot beat true love. Livingston/Lopez def. Drane/Mostrous 9/5.

A sincere thank you goes out to Ivan and Sergio for their heroic marking effort, to all of the volunteers who made the weekend something special indeed and of course to Michael Do without whom the Cherry Blossom would never be at the top of the charts!

Videos of matches can be found here: