The T&R professional tennis drought has finally ended. Last night, Boston’s Tennis & Racquet Club hosted its first National League match in several years. And what a match it was. This year, Boston is teaming up with Newport and Aiken with a combined team of Tony Hollins, Rich Smith and Camden Riviere. If last night is any indication, Boston is fully prepared to host our game’s best players once again. Dedans seats were sold out and the galleries and Hamlen Room were stacked with 70 spectators watching these near super-humans compete.
The rain broke just in time for the matches. Happily, our obsession with the weather as it relates to our ostensibly indoor sport will come to an end soon; we are finally fixing our roof in the Spring. During the practice, your correspondent was in the dedans watching the R&T team of James Stout and Barney Tanfield practice for the night’s matches. They were remarking to each other how hard it is to get the ball down on the bouncy Boston court. As you will see, ultimately it made no difference.
First up were Tony Hollins and Barney Tanfield. Tony took the first two games with relative ease; Barney didn’t seem to have his footing. Though he soon found it, reeling off four games in a row to go up 4-2. The seventh game saw more than a half dozen deuces. That battle went to New York. One more for Barney and the first set was over at 6-2.
Barney began the second set with another game, exuding confidence. Then, Barney double faulted. Tony used the opportunity to terminate his opponent’s 8-game streak and get back in the match with a win in game 3 of the second set, beating chase 6 at 1 yard. After a marathon reste, Barney went up. Tony won the next game with an around the back volley on the service side that had to be seen to be believed! 2-3. It was then 5-2 in a blink of an eye. Tony clawed back with one more game but ultimately fell to Barney 6-3.
Next up, Camden Riviere and James Stout. This match was tense from start to finish, with extended points galore. Some restes must have been 30 shots or more. It was neck and neck up to 4-3 in the first set. After some unlucky balls for Camden, Stout closed it out at 6-4. At this point, as though it were possible, both players appeared to turn it up a notch. Tony Hollins’s analysis: “Camden had to rethink the game plan for the second set. His usual line & length style wasn’t going to be enough with the mixture of the bouncy Boston court and Stout’s movement/retrieval skills. Who would be able to hit more targets?”
The second set began with Cam winning the first two games in about two minutes. Stout finally plucked a game from Cam to make it 1-3. Their athleticism was astounding; they were just everywhere. It was all Camden for the rest of the set—no fooling around. 6-1 Baikenport.
The third set began with a game winner from Camden. Stout ripped one into the wall above the dedans, and Cam, standing at 6 yards, took the ball out of the air and placed it in the center of the grille. The spectators looked at each other astonished. The remainder of the set was spent trading hard fought games, with Cam finding himself 5-4 up but game point down. With a couple of timely tight railroads and solid main wall defenses he closed out the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. We could hardly believe what we had seen—it was that entertaining.
So it all came down to the 8-game pro set doubles. After 8 drawn out deuce/ad games, the home team was in a 7-1 hole. Pulling back from the precipice, Cam and Tony got more aggressive, driving the ball for the nick and looking to attack from the first strike. The strategy paid off to the tune of 6-7! New York battled back and closed it out 8-6.
Thanks go out to Jimmy Burke, Tom Dobbins, Janice Pearson, Shawn Herlihy, Jeremy Wintersteen, the T&R staff, and Arthur Drane and the rest of the Tennis Committee for a wonderful evening. Thanks to Tony Hollins for his contributions to this report.