The T&R hosted the Jimmy Knott Memorial Singles; an event formerly known as the Boston A Invitational that was renamed in 1996 the year after Jimmy Knott won the event and passed away.
This year’s event saw a slightly different format, with the tournament adopting a round robin style event. This meant that the players were guaranteed at least 3 competitive matches to help build match toughness as we move into the season.
We were treated to some incredibly close matches with notable breakout performances from young up and comers, Ben Hudson and Pete Dickinson. On paper, Ben was the highest handicap player in his group of 4 but that did not stop him ending with a 2 – 1 record, only narrowly being edged out by top seed Jeremy Wintersteen in a close three-set match. Both players are products of the USCTA / USCTPF player development initiatives and it is great to see these efforts coming to fruition.
Philip Stockton also held himself extremely well with a barn burner of a victory of Matt Breuer, 6/5 5/6 6/5, before giving the #2 seed, Alex Spence, a good scare by securing the first set in their showdown, 6/1; Alex managed to come through the battle in three sets but not without heavy resistance from Phil.
After the group stages, four players emerged from their boxes with the first semi-final featuring #2 seed, Alex Spence taking on group 3 winner, David Tedeschi. These players have had several tight matches in the past and Alex, very aware of this, came out swinging, hitting every and any target presented to him. On this day, the onslaught was too much for David as Alex came through in straight sets.
The second semi-final saw #1 seed, Jeremy Wintersteen, play Shepard Skiff; a first-time visitor to Boston from the NY R&T and the top performing 2nd place finisher from the group stages. Shep started extremely well as he was extremely stingy with unforced errors, offering no free points for Jeremy. Shep took the first set 6/3. In the second, Jeremy started to steady the ship, using his greater experience and heavy cut volley return of serve to turn things around and level things up with a 6/2 second set. This left us with a shortened final set format; a tiebreaker. At this stage, Shep showed his mettle, again offering no errors in the final stages and squeaking out an upset victory to book his place in the finals against Alex.
The final match of the event came down to Alex Spence and Shepard Skiff. In the early stages, Alex’s firepower looked to be enough to help him lift the trophy and at 6/3 5/2, 40/0 the match looked to be over. Little did we know, Shep wasn’t finished. He dug in his heels and, again, offering nothing in the way of free points, started to mount his come back, adding pressure with some very tight floor play and timely backhand forces to the dedans. Alex had set points at 5/2, 40/0… Again at 5/3, 40/30… AGAIN at 5/4, 40/0… But Shep wouldn’t budge. After clawing his way back to 5/5, Shep closed out the set to force a decider. At this stage, it wouldn’t have done the match justice if it didn’t go to 5 games all, and it did just that. After dropping the second set with so many match points passing him by, Alex did extremely well to gather himself and stay composed to close out a very exciting three-set victory and make sure his name will be emblazoned in gold paint on the winner’s boards once again.
Congratulations to Alex!! Thanks to all those who participated in the tournament from near and far, and also thanks to the large gallery that gathered on Sunday to take in the matches and watch this great spectacle.