Rye Lawn Tennis Club’s 90th Annual Invitation Tournament will take place from tomorrow (Friday) until Monday.
The tournament will once again mark the start of 10 days of competitive tennis on the club’s immaculate grass courts on the banks of the River Rother.
This year’s entry of some 240 participants includes skilled players from Italy, Germany and Slovenia, as well as a strong field from all corners of the UK.
New Zealand international Mark Hadley, who last year was crowned men’s singles champion for the third time, returns to defend his title.
But he could face some tough opposition from Kent county player Lewis Burton - one of the highest ranked players to compete at Rye - as well as 2015 winner Jonathan Tassell and local coach Matt Golledge, last year’s runner-up.
Others aiming for a tilt at the title include Slovenian pair Nikola Maljkovic and Bruno Nikolic - hot from an International Tennis Federation tournament in Paris - Colorado State University player David Mould, former tennis professional Robin Drysdale and his son Johnny, Wiltshire county player Robert Loosemore, Polo Farm coach Ben Roger and former world rackets champion Willie Boone.
Chris Gorringe - the retired All England LTC chief executive and Rye Tournament referee - joins the men’s doubles line-up, partnering Freddie Menzies, the son of 1930s tennis champion Kay Stammers and responsible for the superb maintenance of the club’s grass courts.
Rupert de Laszlo, half of last year’s winning men’s doubles pair, teams up with top Surrey county player Jamie Whiteford to make a fearsome combination.
In the ladies’ draw, with last year’s winner Philippa Coates not in Rye to defend her title, strong competitors for the cup include another Slovenian player in Karen Lusnic, Surrey county player Victoria Brook, Queen’s first team member Annabel Watson, Rye LTC coach Frances Candy, and Gorringe’s daughters Kim Levine and Anna Craigen, as well as sports commentator John Inverdale’s daughter Josie.
Among the local teenagers taking up the challenge are Louis Duvoisin, from Rye, and Camber resident Martha Holt, the grand-daughter of Bimby Holt, who as chairman of Rye LTC ran the tournament for many years.
The club’s “oldest playing member”, Peter Woodroffe, recently celebrated his 90th birthday and will be taking part this year in his 63rd tournament.
The action is ongoing throughout the weekend, with all the finals being contested on Monday afternoon. Members of the public are welcome to come and watch.
The Junior Tournament, which follows on from Wednesday to next Friday, also sees a good number of local youngsters taking part, as well as others coming to compete from further afield.
The club’s Closed Tournament and Invitation Mixed Doubles will take place through the weekend of August 12-13.
Rye LTC’s annual programme also includes tennis matches against other leading clubs in the UK and participation in the Sussex County and Wealden leagues.
The club is active in several other sports, including squash, table tennis and croquet. There is a rapidly growing junior tennis section and a regular programme of coaching for adults and juniors throughout the year.
A number of junior players have recently competed in the LTA’s Road to Wimbledon national 14 and under tournament.
The club recently purchased the field adjoining the grass tennis courts as part of a long-term project to develop the facilities for members, and to promote and improve community participation in tennis.