By Adrian Kemp…Photos by Barney Tanfield
The Racquet and Tennis Club hosted the Etchebaster Trophy and its Racquets equivalent, the Kendrick Cup, over the weekend of January 19th-21st. A large group of R&TC members & summer guests were joined by competitors representing Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Tuxedo.
The Etchebaster Trophy is open to men who have taken up the game in the previous three years. Though the tournament is generally described as an event for novices, the quality of the draw suggested otherwise; the field included three players who had been involved in the recent Whitney Cup event.
A record draw of 38 players meant that matches began on Thursday, with a full schedule of games on Friday morning.
Early highlights on Friday included a 10/9 victory for Chicago member Boyd Vor Broker, in which he fought back from match point down. Elsewhere, Tolly Krusen was making good progress beating fellow R&TC member Pasha Aziz, before coming from behind to beat Brad Feld 10/8.
Top seeds Ben Hudson (Boston), Matt Mackin (R&TC), Hugh McDonald (R&TC), and Patrick Harris (Philadelphia) negotiated the early rounds safely. However, the Quarter-Finals threw up a couple of surprises courtesy of former R&TC summer guests, Charles Michele and Alex Ma. Michele took down Hugh McDonald with an impressive display of target hitting. Hugh’s, normally deadly, left-handed railroad was routinely swatted into the dedans by Michele, who proved equally effective at dictating play from the service side.
On the other court Alex Ma and Patrick Harris were putting on a retrieving exhibition in which the crowd were treated to some extremely long and entertaining rallies. With the players trading games evenly, perhaps the key moment arrived on a crucial 40-all game point; a misread serve ended up behind Ma’s back, with a flick of the wrist he sent the ball past his opponent and into the top corner of the dedans for the game.
A 16-man consolation draw was also underway. Cooper Veysey, Danny Dolan, Will Hubbard, and James Wyper all recorded impressive, closely-contested victories on their way to the Quarter-Finals.
Players reconvened on Sunday morning for the Etchebaster Semi-Finals. Michele looked on course to continue his run of upsets and took the first set against Mackin. However, he couldn’t sustain his level of play and Mackin was able to impose himself on the match, taking the following two sets and the match. Number 1 seed, Ben Hudson, displayed ruthless efficiency, taking down a sprited challenge from Alex Ma with a minimum of fuss.
Sunday’s consolation matches were tightly fought on court, and vociferously supported from the gallery. R&TC members Alex Howard and Ned Pierrepont contested the final. Howard dramatically saved several match points but could not prevent Pierrepont from taking victory.
The Etchebaster Final was a much anticipated battle between the top two seeds, Ben Hudson (Boston) and Matt Mackin (R&TC). Mackin was also making strong progress in the Kendrick Cup Racquets event. With a hard-fought Kendrick Cup Semi-Final victory serving as a warm up, the multi-talented New Yorker arrived on the Tennis court carrying an array of bats of varying shapes and sizes.
The match proved to be an incredibly exciting spectacle, with both players wowing the crowd with their movement in particular. Hudson served slow railroads, whilst Mackin switched between cut-sidewalls, underarm-twists, and bobbles; none of which deterred Hudson from utilising his favored cut-volley return of serve.
Hudson led the early stages; his ability to find targets, the grille in particular, proved to be important against an opponent determined to chase every ball down. Mackin clawed his way into a 5-4 lead, with many of his aggressive tambour shots going unreturned, and held a set point at 40-all game point. Hudson took the game, and calmly won the first set from 5-5 deuce with no sign of nerves.
The second set followed much the same pattern with the Boston player taking an early lead before being pegged back. Mackin was making very few errors, but was finding it difficult to put the ball away. Several inventive shot-selections perhaps alluded to the frustration he was starting to feel. Hudson was able to keep his nose ahead, and close out the win with a maturity that belied his years.
Special thanks to Tournament Chairmen Ted Goneos, Phil Stockton and Andrew Foote and the R&TC staff for a magnificent weekend of play and hospitality. If the weekend’s standard of play and level of enthusiasm is any indication, the future of the game in the U.S. is very bright indeed.