Rye Lawn Tennis Club’s 89th Annual Invitation Tournament, last Friday to Monday, was played in good spirits in typical British weather - sun, rain and heavy cloud - but, unusually for Rye, very little wind.
With a strong international presence among the 270 entrants - including skilled players from Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Slovenia and New Zealand - the British competitors once again found themselves put to the test.
The men’s singles final saw local coach Matt Golledge take on New Zealander Mark Hadley, who had emerged the victor by just a few points in a tight semi-final against Dutch international Alex Soeters.
In spite of some determined opposition from Golledge, Hadley came up with some big serves and volleys to win his third singles title at Rye.
The ladies’ singles final pitted Catherine Hall – who knocked out last year’s champion, Karen Hazzard, in the semis – against her doubles partner, Surrey county player Philippa Coates, who powered her way to the victory which had eluded her since she last held up the trophy in 2013.
Coates and Hall then joined forces to take on Hazzard and Annabel Watson in a hard-hitting ladies’ doubles final, played in the rain on the club’s artificial clay court. A closely-contested match saw Coates and Hall just get their noses ahead to take the title.
In the men’s doubles finals, tennis-coach-turned-banker Rupert de Laszlo teamed up with talented young player George Davies for a fast and furious game against experienced East Sussex coach Rupert North and 19-year-old David Mould, also from East Sussex and a Colorado State University player.
With some powerful serving from Davies and some sharp net play, de Laszlo and Davies came through the winners.
In the last match of the day, the mixed doubles final, last year’s winners Hadley and Watson took on Slovenian Bruno Nikolic and Swede Annie Goransson, who came from behind in a nerve-wracking match to snatch victory from the title holders.
The standard of play in the handicap sections was also exceptionally high and very competitive. So there was much relief all round when young Rye member Freddie Pack emerged with only bruises and grass burn - but a thoroughly mangled tennis racket - from a dramatic collision with a net post, having executed a brilliant between-the-legs return before racing for a drop shot from Andrew Page, former British ambassador in Slovenia, in the men’s quarter-finals.
All the matches were watched by an appreciative crowd, which was treated to some brilliant displays of tennis. The action at Rye LTC continues with the three-day Junior Tournament until tomorrow (Friday), the Closed Tournament on Saturday and the Mixed Doubles on Sunday.
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