The New York Racquet & Tennis Club hosted the 22nd annual Silver Racquet Invitational and New York Open Handicap on November 5-9, 2014. In conjunction with the court tennis, the weekend included an invitational squash doubles tournament, paired doubles racquets, under-35 handicap racquets singles, and the first annual North American Racquets Invitational.
Tennis began in earnest on Wednesday evening for the three flights of NY Open Handicap draws and on Friday afternoon for the Silver Racquet Invitational. Early rounds included high levels of play across the draws filled with new and seasoned players alike. The fields whittled down to the talented and fortunate semifinalists who navigated best the on-court challenges as well as the luring off-court distractions. In the 27-man NY Open Handicap C division, the hunter and sharp billiards stick Jake Claghorn outlasted the budding Noah Motz in an early Sunday morning semifinal to face fellow New Yorker Schuyler Winter. Claghorn’s timely gets and limber athleticism combined with his unorthodox baseball cap to befuddle Winter, 10-2 in games to Claghorn.
The NY Open Handicap B division featured 25 players with at least one from each club in the USCTA. Each with impressive wins over new and veteran players alike, New York and Tuxedo’s Bob Buettner and New York’s Peter Worth fought through the field and survived tense, early Sunday morning semifinal matches to face off in the finals. Many agreed that the quality of rests were done no justice by the scoreboard; Worth’s lawn tennis inspired volleys and hard hitting eventually won out over Buettner’s steady length, 10-2 in games.
The NY Open Handicap A division was a deeply-talented pool, including former World Racquets Champion John Prenn, R&T Head Tennis Professional Barney Tanfield, R&T Tennis Professional Adrian Kemp, Newport Head Professional Rich Smith, 2013 US Amateur Tennis Doubles Champion Neil Mackenzie, and 2013 Silver Racquet Champion Bill Barker. In his typically entertaining fashion, Boston’s Garret Gates blitzed the field in his first three matches, dropping only six games. Prenn survived a tense 8-7 battle against New York’s Simon Aldrich in his Friday, 8AM first round match fast on the heels of Thursday evening’s stag dinner. Prenn found his stride with each subsequent match however, defeating Barker 8-2 in the semifinals to square off against Gates. Games were nip and tuck the whole way but somehow Prenn defused Gates’ unorthodox style, edging his way to a 9-7 lead in the first to ten game final. In an uncharacteristically methodical manner, Gates played his way back into the match with an enviable mixture of uncanny athleticism and bewildering shot selection. In the decisive 19th game, Gates took full flight, fighting off Prenn’s measured length with sharp-angled boasts and on-target pace. In an excellent display of tennis overall, Gates took the final game and the match, 10-9 in games.
With a field of twelve players all under 20 handicap, the Silver Racquet Invitational was set to be an excellent showcase of some of the best amateurs in the US. Friday’s play on the East court included solid efforts from locals and visitors alike; but, the final four was a familiar set of three-time defending US Amateur Singles Champion Pat Winthrop, 2013 Silver Racquet Champion Barker, all-around country club sport maven Addison West, and USCTA President Jeremey Wintersteen. While packed galleries stirring with anticipation for Saturday’s dinner dance witnessed unceremoniously one-sided semifinal wins for Winthrop and West over Barker and Wintersteen, respectively, many of the revelers were quick to return, hazy-eyed, for the Sunday afternoon heavyweight showdown between the two hard-hitting phenoms. With punishing boasts and effective forcing, New York’s West made quick work of the first set, losing only two games. Winthrop revived his typical superb length and targeting to capture the second set, 6-2 in games. The decisive third set was close from the start. In what was surely the most thrilling match of the weekend, West and Winthrop displayed unnatural skill with their seemingly limitless offense and defensive prowess. The combination of raw power and gravity-defying gets awed the at capacity dedans for over two hours to the climatic 5-5 game in the final set. After saving five match points and squandering two of his own, Winthrop righted the ship to serve at deuce for what felt like the sixth or seventh time in the game. West’s home court advantage was yet to manifest itself until perhaps when Winthrop served a double fault, giving the local favorite his sixth match point. With both players and the gallery in somewhat awkwardly silent disbelief, West gathered himself, capturing the next point and the match for his second Silver Racquet title.
In squash, local upstarts on the professional squash doubles scene, Chris Callis and Alex Dominick, overcame a 0-2 deficit to win against skilled veterans Josh Schwartz and Hamed Anvari. The racquets featured quality play throughout the draws, with a most impressive showing in the North American Invitational from New York’s Head Racquets Professional and current World Champion, James Stout. Against a draw which featured six of the top eight players in the world, Stout did not lose a game in any of the best of five game matches, dropping just 35 points en route to the title. The other two racquets draws included some tense battles and, in the multi-talented Ben Stein’s lopsided wins throughout the under-35 handicap racquets singles draw, perhaps some suspect handicapping. On a Sunday when nearly every final went the distance, current world number three in racquets, Tom Billings and Jay Leonard of Chicago’s epic comeback from 0-2 against the imports Steve Chamandy of Montreal Racquet Club and Paddy Sutton of Queen’s Club was just par for the course. Throughout the busy weekend of sports, Club Manager Bob Gressler and the R&T staff executed brilliantly on the many social events. An always boisterous racquets contingent decorated the 65 strong stag dinner on Thursday night and carried on through with over 500 glittering others to Saturday night’s exceptional dinner dance.