For three days, from Friday to Sunday, the sun shone and some 240 competitors battled their way through the sets at Rye LTC’s 92nd Annual Invitation Tournament. Come Monday morning, however, the wind blew and the drizzle arrived, postponing play until lunchtime. The finals were completed, nevertheless, under blue skies in the afternoon and early evening before an appreciative crowd, thanks to the excellent preparation of the grass courts and the hard work of the tournament’s dedicated referees.
Friday’s singles saw some closely contested matches, with Worcester’s Charlie Crisp testing top seed and last year’s winner Lewis Burton in a tight quarter-final and Kent county player Michael Suleau just coming through 7-5 against Dominic Hemy. Sadly having to withdraw from the semis, Suleau gave Burton a walk-over to the final to meet 2017 champion Oscar Podlewski, the second seed, who had come through the winner against Middlesex player George Davies. The final was a tight, hard-hitting match, with Podlewski coming from behind to repeat his 2017 victory in a nerve-jangling championship tie-break final set.
In the ladies’ singles final, 2017 Rye champion Victoria Brook came up against Dutch player Julia van Rosendael. Battling through some lengthy rallies, and playing double-handed on both sides, Brook proved just too strong for her opponent and took the title in two closely contested sets.
Brook teamed up with fellow Surrey county player Natalie Haden-Scott in the ladies’ doubles to take on the talented Kings College London pair Maria Alexandroff and Marine Beugre-Guyot in the final. Playing some superb tennis, the KCL girls came from a set down to win in the championship tie-break final set.
The men’s doubles final saw some powerful serving and volleying from singles runner-up Lewis Burton, teamed with three-times Rye singles winner Mark Hadley, versus Rye Tournament regular Rupert de Laszlo and his partner George Davies. In spite of some great serving from Davies, this time Burton came through with Hadley to take the title – making it a hat trick in the men’s doubles for the pair.
In the last match of the tournament, the mixed doubles final, singles winner Podlewski joined forces with Queen’s Club member Leonie Watson against ladies’ singles runner-up van Rosendael and former Rye singles champion Jonathan Tassell. Played in good spirits, and with no sign of the singles finalists running out of steam, van Rosendael and Pearson just pipped Podlewski and Watson to the post by three games.
The standard of play in the B groups and Handicap sections was also exceptionally high, with some very competitive matches. Rye LTC member David Wallis won the men’s handicap singles and Brookland resident Freddie Menzies, responsible for the maintenance of the club’s superb grass courts, repeated last year’s success in the handicap mixed doubles with step-daughter Roxy Cox.