Thursday 13th December saw the Racquet Club of Chicago host its first ever National League Tennis match. The visiting team was James Stout and Mike Gooding from the Racquet and Tennis Club in New York. They faced up against world number two Steve Virgona and a relative newcomer to tennis: RCC’s own rackets professional Will Hopton. The evening provided a first opportunity for many of the members to see top class competitive tennis. The dedans, side galleries and the new bar were all crowded throughout the night as many Chicagoans enjoyed the spectacle that was played out before them.
The first match saw James Stout stride out to an early lead against Steve Virgona as he secured the first set 6/3. Stout had little difficulty in adjusting to the true Chicago court and seemed able to retrieve anything that Virgona fired at him. The second set saw Steve assert more control as he began to hit his targets with more regularity. James, though, recovered from a 4/2 deficit to force the set into a deciding 11th game. Virgona’s persistence paid off at this point and after drawing level at a set each, he proceeded to race through the decider without dropping a game to ensure Chicago were on the board first.
Next up was the experienced Mike Gooding against young Will Hopton. Will is a top level rackets player but this was his first competitive tennis match as a professional. He didn’t seem perturbed by the pedigree of his illustrious opponent as he reeled off 3 straight games to win the opening set 6/4. The beginning of the second set was again very even as Hopton clawed back numerous viciously cut shots from Gooding. Mike finally began to break through his opponent as he won 4 games without reply to level the contest. His momentum continued into the final set and it looked like the match was all over as he charged ahead with a 4/0 lead. Hopton then rallied and came back into contention at 4/5 down but Gooding had all the answers in the final game of the match to run out a 4/6, 6/3, 6/4 winner.
While both singles matches took t bette part of 2 hours, the doubles proved to be a rather, quick and one-sided affair. Stout and Gooding showed excellent team work and strategy as they cruised to an 8/1 victory. This wrapped up another National League win for New York although the evening also suggested that the Chicago team could be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.