2017-18 NATIONAL LEAGUE
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OCT. 5 - CHICAGO VS. TUXEDO @ CHICAGO
Steve Virgona beat John Lumley 6/4 6/3
Conor Medlow beat Josh Dodgson 6/4 6/1
Virgona/Medlow lost to Lumley/Dodgson 3/8
Report by Ed Beard
The infamous, two-time defending championship Chicago team of Steve Virgona and Conor Medlow battled it out with the Tuxedo Park team of Josh Dodgson and John Lumley (substituting for Tim Chisholm, recovering from an injury at the French Open) in the opening installment of the 2017-18 National League. This highly anticipated match was played before a full house at the Racquet Club of Chicago with the crowd on its feet from start to finish.
The first match saw World #10 Lumley against the Chicago legend and World #3 Virgona. Both players came out firing from the get-go, with many fast exchanges interspersed with good length and spin.
With the first set in the balance at 4/4 after some relentless brute force displayed by Lumley, Virgona managed to show his class, demonstrating why he’s world #3 as he managed to keep his opponent at bay through a variety of power hitting and touch play, enabling him to string points together and win the first set 6/4.
The second set started in a similar fashion with Steve securing a 3/0 cushion in the second set. However, after a few lucky bounces and some sheer determination from Lumley, two games were pulled back with the set poised at 3/2. Steve’s class managed to shine through in vintage Virgona style in the sixth game after a 23 shot rally was ended nonchalantly with a passing fore hand into the tambour, enabling him to take the match, brushing off his opponent to take the second and final set 6/3.
The highly anticipated doubles was up next, which saw Medlow, Chicago’s rackets professional, join Virgona in taking on the highly rated underdog pair of Dodgson and Lumley. All four players demonstrated quick reflexes as there was plenty of forcing for the winning openings and galleries!
Tuxedo went off on a flyer, playing textbook tennis and at times outthinking the Chicago pair by playing safe and keeping the ball on the floor. Dodgson proved to be solid as a rock at the net, protecting the galleries from the dexterous Virgona and Medlow, enabling Tuxedo Park to take an unexpected 5/0 lead in the match. However, a comeback looked promising as Steve and Conor began to fight back, showing their experience on court as the lefthanded pair penetrated with good length and obtained a number of chases better than 3. Despite their best efforts, a slow start from the talented Chicago pair meant that their chance of a victory was insufficient, and Tuxedo prevailed 8/2.
The final match of the night saw Medlow play Dodgson, a previous partner of his from Seacourt in the late ’90s. Both players showed great retrieval skills and the match really could have gone to either; however, Conor was the stronger more accurate player ilat the opening and managed to close out a whirlwind first set at 6/1.
Dodgson, despite often being blown away in the first set by Medlow’s athleticism and sheer determination, came out of the blocks quickly, ensuring that Medlow was kept at bay as the set hinged at 3/3. Dodgson’s notorious railroad serve kept the crowd altuned in and one could hear a pin drop in the galleries. Medlow eventually sealed the match, nearly taking his opponent’s head off in the penultimate game, which rattled Dodgson sufficiently to enable Conor to take the second set 6/4.
All of the matches displayed great sportsmanship and were played in tremendous spirit.
It was another fantastic turn out by the Racquet Club membership with around 70 members attending the event. Congratulations ad well to Tim Merrill who was victorious in the grille competition held between matches! Also, huge thanks to Josh and John for travelling out to Chicago and performing so admirably.
OCT. 7 - TUXEDO VS. NEW YORK @ TUXEDO
Tuxedo wins 3-0
Dodgson (TUX) def. Kemp (NY) 6/0 6/3
Chisholm (TUX) def. Stout (NY) 6/2 6/3
Chisholm/Dodgson (TUX) def. Stout (NY) 8/5
by Josh Dodgson
The Tuxedo Club vs the New York Racquet and Tennis Club- the battle of the New York state teams, both sides very familiar with one another and a crowd that was undecided on elegance, given the crossover in membership. This would be sure to make for an interesting match!
As the colors of the leaves in this wooded setting, almost visibly changed, so did the players. First up, the two Englishmen and regular training partners, Josh Dodgson and Adrian Kemp. The two players met courtside and exchanged personal jokes, before stepping onto the court, spinning the racquet and instantly transitioning into “game mode”. No jokes were told from this point on.
The match started with a bang, Josh Dodgson sending a message straight out of the gate, with a fast hit main-wall dedan. The crowd could tell that this was an early sign of Josh not wanting to have a repeat of their last meeting and a match that lasted over two hours. Feeling at ease on his home court, Josh continued to hit his return of serve with intent and found himself not spending much time at the receiving end. With a court that favored railroads, Adrian found it hard to find his usual line and length. This resulted in eight games of volleys, hard hitting and little rally’s.
The crowd sensed a change early in the second set with Adrian finding confidence in his shots and intern beginning to remind Josh of his ability to create new angles, angles unseen by most court tennis players. This, combined with Adrian’s vicious spins and wingspan, changed the dynamic of the game. Spectators seemed thoroughly entertained and appreciated the long, hard fought points. Fortunately for the home player, his strategy held up at the right times and he was able to close out the match 6/0 6/3.
Next up was the headline match between James Stout (racquets world champion) and Tim Chisholm (Racquet sports connoisseur and world #2, based on handicap). Previous history suggests that this match was going to be a combination of both long and short points, with little in-between. Each player hoping for one more than the other.
The first point of the match lasted for more than fifteen strokes and the crowd chuckled amongst themselves, noticing that one player was seemingly more effected by this exchange. However, these long points did not come often enough for the guy with arguably the best footwork and retrieval skills in the game. The bells were ringing and the marker repeatedly rocked back in his chair, to avoid the incoming balls. The first set taken 6/2 by the recent French Open doubles winner, in a hard hitting, pinpoint manner.
James, was not ready to give up that easy. He began to throw everything at Tim and forced mistakes through sheer creativity and talent. This forced the home pro to reluctantly ‘play smart’ and win the service end at all cost. Sometimes even coming inside that ball and putting it into the gallery! This ensured the win for Tuxedo and converted a close second set to 6/3, for the home side.
The National League format is such that the final doubles match was not a dead rubber, and instead worth a valuable point for team able to reach eight games first. The majority of the crowd stuck around for the much-anticipated, high speed, tactic specific game, that is court tennis doubles. The match did not fail to live up to this and balls were flying from the get-go. The New York side were full of life and made some unbelievable recovery shots to keep the pressure on the home side. This allowed them to get off to an early lead and thus making it a very competitive game.
A few points separated a 5 all match, but the comfort of a 7/3 lead gave Tuxedo the confidence to close out the match 8/5. Bruises were compared whilst both teams shook hands to complete the New York Racquet and Tennis Club and The Tuxedo Club meeting. Another great night of first class court tennis and sportsmanship.
OCT. 11 - NEW YORK VS. NEW ENGLAND/PHILADELPHIA @ NEW YORK
John Lumley (NE/PHL) def. Barney Tanfield (NY) 6-2, 6-2
James Stout (NY) def. Nick Howell (NE/PHL) 6-5 2-6 6-5
John Lumley & Nick Howell (NE/P) def. Barney Tanfield & James Stout (NY)
MATCH SUMMARY by Adrian Kemp
On Wednesday, October 11th The Racquet and Tennis Club hosted a National
League match against the New England / Philadelphia team. Both teams went
into the match looking to open their accounts and put themselves is
position to take a spot in the season Final.
In the pre-match build-up, a group of more than a dozen R&TC members and
guests took to the court to compete in the USCTA target shootout. Zach
Sacks and R&TC Intern Sam Corbett showed the Pros how it should be done,
both hitting a flurry of winning galleries. It was young Sam Corbett who
took home some USCTA merchandise, winning a sudden death shootout.
The first match of the night featured John Lumley (Assistant Professional
at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia) versus Barney Tanfield (Racquet and
Tennis Head Tennis Professional). Lumley came out strong and built a
four-game lead whilst Tanfield was still finding his rhythm. A series of
closely fought games followed, Lumley clinched the first set 6/2, but
found himself 2/1 down in the second set. Both players were displaying
incredible court coverage, chasing down seemingly lost-causes. It was
Lumley’s greater accuracy which was proving crucial as he retook control
and ran out a 6/2 6/2 winner.
The second match featured Nick Howell (National Tennis Club Assistant
Professional) and James Stout (Racquet and Tennis Head Racquets
Professional). The two players previous National League meeting produced a
tightly fought 3-set victory for Stout. By the time the players headed
onto court a packed gallery of 80+ spectators was looking forward to
another entertaining match. Stout was in imperious form in the early
stages, dictating play from both ends whilst the Australian Howell
struggled to get comfortable. Stout raced out to a quick 4-0 lead before
Howell, courtesy of a series of tight railroad serves and precise volleys
took the next couple of games. A crucial 40-40 game point at 5-4 was won
by the New Yorker, clinching the first set 6-4. Despite the loss of the
first set, the momentum had begun to shift in Howell’s favor and he was
able to build a 4-2 lead in the second. Cheered on by an increasingly
well-lubricated home crowd, both players displayed incredible athleticism,
with the languid unpredictable style of Stout being in contrast to the
controlled precision of Howell. The Australian was able to close out the
set to take the match into a decider. As per National League rules the
Final set began at 3-games all. Both players knew that the early games
would therefore prove crucial. Stout looked refocused, and set about with
a more varied service strategy. This was to prove crucial as he began and
ended the set at the service end, clinching the deciding set 6-3 in the
With the evening poised at one match all, the outcome of the doubles would
prove decisive. In the early games Stout and Tanfield monopolized the
service end, but were having to deal with a barrage of heavy hitting from
Howell and Lumley. With all four players striking the ball cleanly, there
were very few easy points, and many long spectacular rallies. The two
teams traded blows, and games, with neither able to establish a decisive
lead. The first-to-eight match went to a deciding game, and after saving a
match point it was the New England / Philadelphia pairing who secured the
Special thanks to the Racquet and Tennis members and staff, who supported
the event with a great turnout and fantastic appreciation of the
high-class tennis played.
OCT. 25 - NEW ENGLAND/PHILADELPHIA VS. TUXEDO @ NEWPORT
- Josh Dodgson (Tux) def. Mike Gooding (NE/PHL) 5-6 6-0 6-3
- Tim Chisholm (Tux) def. Nick Howell (NE/PHL) 0-6 6-4 6-5
- Dodgson & Chisholm def. Gooding & Howell 8-6
Match Report by Nick Howell
Neither rain nor wind dissuaded over sixty members and guests who assembled Wednesday night at the National Tennis Club in Newport, Rhode Island to watch Newport’s professionals Mike Gooding and Nick Howell take on Josh Dodgson & Tim Chisholm from the Tuxedo Club in the most recent installment of the National League season.
1st match: Mike Gooding v. Josh Dodgson.
The first set was a great set for spectators, featuring some great rallies and a lot of long points between Gooding and Dodgson. Gooding took a good lead in the first set, running up 4 games to 1 for Dodgson; however, Dodgson fought back, serving his railroad very tight to the wall and putting a lot of pressure on Gooding’s return of serve. Dodgson went on a four-game streak to bring the game score to 5/4 and was poised to take the set. Gooding drew upon as many years of experience in the game as Dodgson has in life, rolling back the years to play some great tennis and take the next two games, winning the first set 6/5. The first set lasted over an hour, which considering National League matches have only one deuce per game, is a testament to the length and quality of the points.
Winning that marathon first set took a lot out of Gooding and he was not able to maintain the high standard he displayed at the outset of the match. Young Dodgson was relentless on every point and the next two sets went swiftly to Dodgson, with Gooding failing to win a game in both the second set and the shortened third set (commenced at 3-all).
Josh Dodgson defeats Mike Gooding: 5/6, 6/0, 6/3.
2nd Match: Nick Howell v. Tim Chisholm
The Newport members were well lubricated and warmed up after several glasses of wine during the first match. Their uninhibited enthusiasm created an atmosphere of bonhomie and good cheer, not to mention loud cheering for Nick Howell in the evening’s second match. Howell responded well to the crowd’s encouragement and came out of the gate seemingly the better of the two players. Chisholm had just come from a long drive and an exhausting weekend running the Hadden Tomes in Tuxedo Park. And was feeling the accumulated fatigue and stiffness from hours behind the wheel. To the crowd’s and Howell’s own surprise, Howell quickly took the first set 6/0.
Unfortunately for Howell, that first set was the warm-up Chisholm needed, and the second set was nothing like first. To Howell’s credit, he played well, didn’t miss a lot of shots, and kept it close, but Chisholm was now moving better and hitting the ball hard. Chisholm kept Howell busy defending his forces and the set showcased some exceptional rallies which delighted the assembled audience. Chisholm won the second set 6/4.
The shortened third set started at 3-all. Neither player yielded an inch, never mind a yard, but Chisholm took the first game. Howell won the next game to tie the set at 4-all. The back-and-forth continued as Chisholm piled on the pressure and hit the ball so cleanly that he took the next game and brought the set to 5/4. Not to be outdone, Howell squared the match to make it 5-all, saving a match point in the process. The final game of the match began with Howell at the service end. Chisholm hit two dedans to and got a chase to secure service for match point. Howell served two tight serves to even up the game. Howell then hit another tight serve and Chisholm overhit his cut volley return, but Howell sent the opportunity to switch ends with the lead directly into the net. With Chisholm serving for the match, Howell needed to beat chase more-than-a-yard-worse. Chisholm hit a good, deep bobble; Howell tried to cut the ball down the line on his return, but his ball hit the top of the net tape and fell short, as did he.
Tim Chisholm defeats Nick Howell: 0/6, 6/4, 6/5.
Doubles and Spectator Skills Contest:
The doubles match featured more of the same exciting play and the visitors edged out the home team in a tight 8/6 set.
Newport member Andy Segal won the grille shootout competition and took home a bottle of bubbly for his efforts. Honorable mention goes to Noelle Shiland, the newest member of the National Tennis Club, who hit the grille on her first attempt.
Despite the 0-3 result for the home team, Newport’s spectators left happy to have seen a night of great tennis.
NOV. 2 - NEW ENGLAND/PHILADELPHIA VS. CHICAGO @ PHILADELPHIA
DEC. 13 - NEW YORK VS. CHICAGO @ NEW YORK
Kemp def. Whitehouse 6-2, 6-2
Virgona def. Stout 6-3, 6-2
Tanfield/Stout def. Virgona/Whitehouse 8-7
MATCH SUMMARY by Adrian Kemp
On Wednesday, December 13th The Racquet and Tennis Club hosted the final National League match of the season against the Racquet Club of Chicago. The Chicago team knew that a clean sweep of the matches would secure their place in the Final, whilst the New York team was looking to clinch their first win of the season and move up into 3rd place. Chicago was forced into a late change of personnel, with Rob Whitehouse replacing an under-the-weather Conor Medlow.
In the pre-match build-up, a group of R&TC members took to the court to compete in the USCTA target shootout. New R&TC member and recent convert to the game, Paul Vittone, found his targets and took home some ProShop merchandise.
\The first match of the night featured Philadelphia’s Rob Whitehouse versus home pro Adrian Kemp. Kemp began strongly, moving his opponent around the court, easing out to a 3/0 lead. Whitehouse got a foothold in the match courtesy of some tight serving and precise forcing. The players traded games before the New York Pro took a couple of crucial games, sealing the first set 6/2. The start of the second set was tightly contested with Whitehouse moved into a 2/1 lead courtesy of a 40-all game ball. However, the long rallies had begun to take their toll on the American and the younger man was able to re-establish himself on the match running away to a 6/2 6/2 win.
The second match featured Steve Virgona (Racquet Club of Chicago Head Tennis Professional) and James Stout (Racquet and Tennis Head Racquets Professional). The two players have had some memorable matches over the years and a packed gallery was looking forward to another entertaining match.
Virgona was in imperious form in the early stages, dictating play from both ends whilst Stout struggled to find his form – Virgona took the first set 6-3. Stout began to find his targets with increasing regularity and, coupled with some spectacular retrieving skills, was starting to build some momentum. Under pressure, Virgona made a couple of uncharacteristic errors, giving the home crowd hope of a comeback. Steve steadied himself and began working Stout around the court, showing patience before finding his openings. The Chicago Pro kept up the pressure taking the second set 6/2.
With the evening poised at one match all, the outcome of the doubles would prove decisive. The first game, begun by Tanfield serving giraffes to Virgona, went back and forth from deuce a number of times, with neither team able to convert on game point. After more than ten minutes of play the game score was still love-all; finally the Chicago team was able to seal the game. However, the loss of this first game didn’t affect the confidence of the New York pair, and they were able to clinch the next five. The Chicago duo kept their concentration edging their way back into contention, taking the match to a deciding game at seven games all. It was the New York pair who held their nerve and took the match.
Special thanks to the Racquet and Tennis members and staff, who supported the event with a great turnout and fantastic appreciation of the high-class tennis played.
USCTA National League Champions
2006 New York Ged Eden, Andrew Fowler, Mike Gooding
2007 Newport Tony Hollins, Camden Riviere, Rich Smith
2008 New York Andrew Fowler, Mike Gooding
2009 New York Mike Gooding, James Stout
2010 New York Mike Gooding, James Stout
2011 Philadelphia Barney Tanfield, Steve Virgona, Rob Whitehouse
2012 Philadelphia Steve Virgona, Rob Whitehouse
2013 New England/Aiken Tony Hollins, Camden Riviere, Rich Smith
2014 New England Tony Hollins, Camden Riviere, Rich Smith
2015 Boston/Washington Tony Hollins, Neil Mackenzie, Camden Riviere
2016 Chicago/Philadelphia Will Hopton, John Lumley, Steve Virgona
2017 Chicago/Philadelphia Steve Virgona, John Lumley, Conor Medlow