by Ryan Carey
As many of you know, we usually pick a tournament theme for The Cherry Blossom Doubles that is associated in some way to the current year. Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union, so after much anticipation this year’s ’15 tournament theme was revealed to be “Kentucky”. We dubbed the tournament “15-Y’ALL!” (to play off the tennis score of “’15-All”) and turned The Cherry Blossom into “The Kentucky Blossom”. The court was decorated to look like you were at a horse track: the dedans was converted into a starting gate, the gallery poles led you down the track into the winning gallery, the grille was switched out and replaced with an authentic Maker’s Mark Ambassador barrel head. Some of the chases also changed as The Door became “The Barn Door” guarded by a life size cutout horse and Chase the Line became “Chase the (Ball) Trough”. When the score became “15-all” our (English) markers, Ivan Ronaldson & Neil Mackenzie, struggled but stayed in-theme and exaultedly declared “15 Y’all” instead of using the proper “15-all” and it was done in an unique accent that can only be described as Anglo-Kentuckian. I don’t think that the world has heard an accent as unrecognizable as theirs since Kathleen Turner. Another “twist” in the rules was that instead of spinning a racquet to determine serve, players the two alternative options: “The Long Shot” and a “McCoy”. “The Long Shot” is where players would stand behind the service line, facing the dedans, and each player would toss a ball towards the back wall and the ball closest to the wall would win the choice of serving/receiving (similar to a lag in pool). The “McCoy” was in honor of the feuding Kentucky McCoy family and their “family feud” with the Hatfield family, where players could ask for a question from a deck of Family Feud cards (guarded closely by the marker) and whomever gave the highest scoring answer won the choice of serve. Michael Do and his nephew Vu faced each other in round robin play and (fittingly) choose this option. I am happy to report they kept their family feud “on court”.
We had a Kentucky Derby sized field of 27 teams enter the Kentucky Blossom including “Phillies” (RCOP members Dick Tanfield, Arianae Tsavaris, Loren Kagan and Jeremy Thompson), Maidens (many playing their first tournament ever such as Kim Kilgore from Tuxedo), Juveniles (Noah & Chase Motz, Erik Barker and 10 y.o. wunderkind Erica Maebius) and even a few entries from overseas (Jamie Bebb, Robin Barlow and Keith Beechener)! The “entries” into the Kentucky Blossom were asked to provide one random word when filling out their entry form. We made up a faux horse name for each team by combining the two teammates’ words, unbeknownst to the players. To my surprise, this method produced many great names such as “Sinister Booyah”, “Tuxedo Partytime” and “Bandeau Curious”. We also asked the teams to design their own racing silks as a team logo. You can see all of the names and designs in The Official Kentucky Blossom Program by clicking here. Speaking of racing silks, in a nod to the link between horse racing and court tennis, the centerpiece of this year’s tournament was a lawn jockey painted in the silks of the Whitney family’s Greentree Stables (however we made it our own by adding a cherry blossom to the middle of the chest).
Legend has it that the Hi-5 was invented in Kentucky (click here for the story) therefore we opened up this season’s meet on Thursday with a 5 race “meet” & greet, and of course, with free Terrapin Hi-5 beer. Friday’s Bourbon & BBQ party saw the Olympic Torch-like arrival of Maker’s Mark “Maker’s White” which is only available at the Maker’s Mark distillery in Kentucky. It was procured, hand-dipped in wax and hand delivered to Prince’s Court by member Kris Motz – a remarkable treat and in keeping with the court tennis tradition of “white” attire at the court, no less! Bluegrass(i) musical entertainment was provided by the Honky Tonk Blues band and had the crowd toe tappin’ and finger snappin’ the whole time. In true Derby style, Juleps were a-plenty during Saturday’s “Cherry Pickin” Happy Hour. Tom Pickin was unavailable, so we turned to a young banjo prodigy Victor Furtado to provide a little background music as we brought everyone on court for a “Temple”-Chase (our version of a steeplechase) whereby everyone tried to successfully recreate Temple’s signature shot of a ball “jumping” high over the net and bouncing once into the dedans. I believe Steve Hufford was the last horse standing in the Temple-chase. Temple left his “Court Tennis Prayer” at home this year and invoked his inner-Kentuckian with an equally delightful verse called “In Kentucky“. Saturday also featured “15 rounds” of knockout matches in a nod to Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali. These matches ran late into the night and preempted us from having a traditional tournament dinner. However, we knew that we couldn’t let our players go hungry so we ordered Louisville based Papa John’s Pizza coupled with Kentucky native Duncan Hines’ famous brownies for dessert and bootlegged Kentucky’s unofficial state soft drink “Ale-8-One” (“a late one”) across state lines to wash it all down. Many stayed “L8” into the night to watch because every match went “down to the wire”.
As if the excitement of the Kentucky Blossom finals wasn’t enough, we had one more trick up our sleeve. We billed the A final as the A division winner against a surprise special guest. That guest was world #1, Camden Riviere. Camden couldn’t play in the actual tournament because Court Tennis Charleston had scheduled a fundraising event on the same weekend, but he was gracious enough to fly up very early on Sunday morning to be part of the Kentucky Blossom. Before the final, we decided to introduce a little wagering into the equation. We had our head pro, Ivan Ronaldson square off against Camden in a game of “H-O-R-S-E” whereby like it’s basketball equivalent, each would try a trick shot and if they made it, the other would have to successfully complete it as well or get a letter. We opened the court “betting window” for this contest and the spectators were allowed to “bet” on who would win by writing their name on our glass main wall “betting window” with a dry erase marker. The winners got a limited edition faux-KFC beer bucket. Click here to watch Ivan Ronaldson v. Camden Riviere in a game of court tennis “H-O-R-S-E” After the game of H-O-R-S-E, we revealed that A Division final was to become the Heavyweight “Cam”-pionship where the winners of the A division, Kris & John Motz, were going to face Cam by himself playing with his off-hand. Cam as a righty is around a 15 handicap so it made for a very intriguing matchup on paper. The actual match did not disappoint with many ooooos and ahhhhhs from the crowd. You could see that Cam was struggling to reconcile with what his mind wanted to do and what his body was actually doing, but it was impressive to say the least. You can watch the match by clicking here. A special moment happened on Sunday when Cam asked our 10 y.o. upstart Erica Maebius on court for a hit. Erica is one of the top lawn tennis juniors in the Mid-Atlantic and is not much taller than a racquet but you could see Camden recognizing some of the same on-court brilliance that he himself exhibited quickly when he first started out. Lookout Claire!
I would love to be able to recap each match and each final for you, but the truth is I was too busy to watch! You can see the Finals for yourself on Prince’s Court YouTube channel (sorry for the webcasting quality, we didn’t have time to properly set it up).
THE KENTUCKY BLOSSOM FINAL RESULTS
YELLOW DIVISION: McCray/Elmore def. Beechener/Barker 9/4
TURQUOISE DIVISION: Maebius/Bennett def. Kilgore/Pingpank 9/3
A DIVISION “THE HEAVYWEIGHT CAM-PIONSHIP”- K. Motz/J. Motz def. Righty Riviere 6/4 4/6 6/5
RED DIVISION – N. Motz/K. Motz def. Sternberg/Berry 9/6
BLUE DIVISION – Hoang/Cohen def. Fraidin/Katz 9/5
PURPLE DIVISION – Ughetta/Nazemoff def. Carlson/Horowitz 9/4
A massive thank you to my Blossom partner-in-crime, Michael Do! Please be sure to have a look at Michael Do’s splendid photos from the weekend.
For detailed results and more go to the official Cherry Blossom tournament website at thecherryblossom.org
Thank you to the Prince’s Court community and staff who volunteered their time, effort and homes to make this another successful Cherry Blossom. Also a special thank you to Sean Quinn at Gold Leaf Racquets for the special “Cherry” wood Kentucky Blossom racquets. Thank you to Boast for our fine looking Kentucky Blossom polos and to Harrow for our “jockey silk” replica dri-fit shirts.
See you in 2016 for another awesome Blossom!