The second annual Spring Invitational and Pro-Am was hosted by the Racquet & Tennis Club May 5th-9th. Eighteen US-based players, eleven pros and seven amateurs, competed for this coveted title.
The Professional field was headed by Newport’s World #10 Nick Howell and also featured Pros from Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Tuxedo and New York. On the Amateur side, there was a strong New York contingent, as well as amateurs from Philadelphia, Washington, and the current US Amateur Champion, Charlie Braham.
Thursday saw play in the group stages of an expanded Pro-Am draw. There were a series of tightly contested matches, featuring plenty of spectacular exchanges. Thad Gray and Adrian Kemp topped their group after a decisive 8/7 win in their final match. They were joined in the Pro-Am final by the highly entertaining pairing of Ted Goneos and Matty Ronaldson.
The final was contested on Friday afternoon in front of a healthy crowd enjoying cocktails and canapés! The match featured some spectacular shot-making and retrievals (as much from the Amateurs as the Pros!), and came down to a decisive game when the scores reached 7-all. Ronaldson and Goneos were in control of the service end, and managed to push home their advantage to take the title.
The Spring Invitational Singles began on Friday morning with Mike Noll and Neil Smith winning through the early rounds. Later in the day, Noll was also able to take down top Frenchman Nicolas Victor, before succumbing in a tightly fought match against Nicky Howell on Saturday morning.
Howell ran into home pro Adrian Kemp, who had downed Philadelphia pair James Asher and Rob Whitehose, in the Semi-Final. Nick’s steady and precise style of play was in contrast to the more energetic, and often unpredictable, style employed by Kemp. The early games were shared, but it was Howell who pushed on with some effortless target hitting to take the first set 6/2. The second set followed a similar pattern, and ended with the same result, Howell advancing to the final 6/2 6/2.
In the bottom half of the draw, Tuxedo’s Josh Dodgson edged out Charlie Braham to set up a Semi-Final showdown with R&TC Head Tennis Pro Barney Tanfield. Barney came out guns blazing and established a 6/2 4/2 lead before Josh fought back to 5/5. The crowd sensed that the momentum of the match had turned, however Tanfield dug out the final game to advance to Sunday’s final.
In the Final it was the Australian, Nicky Howell, who began strongly, looking to move Barney around the court. The tactic worked perfectly, with the home Pro covering the corners tentatively, and gave Howell the opportunities to close out the set 6/0. Tanfield regrouped, and cheered on by a vociferous home support, took an early lead in the second set. Both players were displaying some incredible power hitting, as well as moments of craft and guile. As the game score reached 5-all it was the home Pro who held his nerve and forced the match into a deciding set. The third set began in the same vein with both players matching each other blow for blow. With the scores tied at 3-games all, it was the Australian who took the ‘crucial seventh’, and the two games that followed to clinch the title. Congratulations to both players for an incredible display of Tennis, enjoyed by all in attendance.
Both players used their speeches to thank the generous patronage of the R&TC membership. Particular thanks were given to the Pro-Am participants and lead sponsors, Bardyl Tirana and the USCTA for their support.
Photos by Barney Tanfield