The 2013 Whitney Cup: Further Proof That Nothing Is Certain

By Ben Cook

Most of the top amateur court tennis players in the United States arrived in New York this past weekend for the 2013 Whitney Cup.  Defending champion New York, led by captain Lex Miron, was top-seeded and ready to make a run at a third straight title.  Second-seeded Greentree-Aiken, captained by Peter Pell, was looking to return to the finals and claim its first title since 2010.  New England and Washington also arrived with high expectations. Completing the six-team field were veteran teams from Philadelphia and Tuxedo-Chicago.

Play in Group I (New England, New York, Tuxedo-Chicago) started off Friday morning on the East Court with New England taking on Tuxedo-Chicago.  New England loudly announced their return in taking the first four matches in convincing fashion, not losing more than two games per set.  Tuxedo-Chicago’s senior team of Archie Gwathmey/Al Gordon prevented a New England sweep with a straight set win.  In Group II (Greentree-Aiken, Philadelphia, Washington) on the West Court, Greentree-Aiken dropped only one set in a 5-0 win over Philadelphia.

Round II started late Friday afternoon and continued on Saturday morning, with New York taking on Tuxedo-Chicago and Philadelphia battling Washington.  At #1 doubles, Spike Willcocks/Chris Arriz stormed to a 6/1 first set win, but Tuxedo’s Nick Sonne/Joe Capella recovered to take the second set 6/5. The third set went the distance, 6/5 for Willcocks/Arriz.  The defending champs then swept every set in the ensuing four matches for a 5-0 win.  Meanwhile, Washington dropped only one set in defeating Philadelphia 5-0.

As a Saturday afternoon snowstorm arrived, Park Avenue was excited about the New England v New York and Greentree-Aiken v Washington matchups.  On the West Court, New York jumped out to a lead when Willcocks/Arriz defeated Pat Winthrop/Jeff Horine 6/3 6/5. The lead was pushed to 2-0 when #2 Nicolas Victoir/Tom McGinnis beat Jeremy Wintersteen/Sean Herlihy 6/3 6/3.  Facing elimination and down a set at #3, New England’s Alex Spence/Garret Gates rallied for a 3/6 6/4 6/5 upset over Lex Miron/Jim Ardrey.  The New England momentum continued in the #4 match when George Bell/Dave Tedeschi opened with a 6/2 first set.  Excitement was now building on the West Court, of a New England comeback reminiscent of the 2004 Red Sox!  But the NY tandem of Anthony Smithie/Will Thompson ended the buzz with stellar play in the last two sets 6/2 6/2.  With the match clinched, the New York senior pairing of Bruce Manson/Chris Moore won a “dead rubber” over Alex Walsh/Jonathan Pardee 6/3 6/3. For the third straight year, New York was headed to the finals.

Meanwhile on the East Court, a much-anticipated battle between Greentree-Aiken and Washington began.  At #1, Greentree-Aiken’s Ben Cook/Addison West played flawless tennis in taking the first set 6/1 over Rich Moroscak/Danny McBride.  With an emotional Temple Grassi cheering on the Washington duo, the teams went neck and neck in the second set, to 5-all.  With tension high, Washington took the set 6/5, with a barrage of dedans shots to even the match.  However, Cook/West once again found the “zone” and won the third set 6/3 to give Greentree-Aiken a 1-0 lead.  Peter Pell/Clayton Vaughters then started slowly at #2, but rebounded impressively with a 2/6 6/2 6/3 win over Bill Barker/John Motz.  Some of the hardest hitting of the weekend followed in the #3 match between Greentree-Aiken’s Noah Wimmer/Brook Hazelton against Bradley Allen/Vu Hoang.  The three set theme continued, with Wimmer/Hazelton winning 6/4 5/6 6/2 to clinch a spot in the finals for Greentree-Aiken and leave Washington thinking about “what could have been”.  The ensuing two matches were also won by Greentree-Aiken: #4 Rakesh Jasani/Jason Mengel over Ryan Carey/Kris Motz 6/2 6/2; and the seniors’ Simon Aldrich/Bob Hay over Steve Hufford/Haven Pell 6/5 6/0.  For the second straight year, New York and Greentree-Aiken would face off in the finals.

Sunday’s final started with seniors on the East Court (Aldrich/Hay vs Manson/Moore) and #4 teams on the West Court (Jasani/Mengel vs Smithie/Thompson).  Within an hour, Greentree-Aiken was on the scoreboard behind Aldrich/Hay’s 6/1 6/2 win.  At #4, Jasani’s scrambling and Whitney Cup rookie Mengel’s volleys were stellar in giving Greentree-Aiken a 6/3 6/3 win.  As play moved back to the East Court, New York found itself facing a 0-2 deficit for the second straight year.  With its three “big guns” due to play in the final three matches, could New York duplicate last year and win all three to take the title???

Cook and West were determined for this to not happen again. Behind a unique serving game plan and amidst numerous high-energy points, they clinched the Cup for Greentree-Aiken with a phenomenal 6/2 6/4 upset win over Willcocks/Arriz.  After a celebration and awards presentation, there was still tennis to be played.  New York’s Victoir/McGinnis won at #2, 6/1 6/3; and Wimmer/Hazelton won 6/5 6/2 at #3, for a 4-1 victory for Greentree.

Congratulations to Captain Peter Pell and his Greentree-Aiken teammates on their win, as they took 14 of 15 matches in regaining the Whitney Cup.