After days and days of glorious sunshine, the weather was rather less kind for the club’s 91st Annual Invitation Tournament. The event opened and closed, however, under blue skies and all the finals were completed by Monday evening thanks to the hard work of the tournament’s dedicated referees.
Friday’s singles saw some closely contested matches, which came to an abrupt halt late afternoon as a ferocious squall rolled in from the marsh, sending the players scuttling for shelter. Tested by blustery conditions on Saturday, the contestants nevertheless all rose to the challenge with some fast and furious doubles. Strong winds and lashing rain brought a washout to Sunday, with no play on the grass, but the Bulldog spirit prevailed. A number of stalwarts faced up to the weather and took to the hard courts, while others honed their skills at table tennis in the clubhouse and the rest tested their vocal chords as RLTC member Reg Marchant swapped racket for guitar and led a singalong with fellow member Kate Menzies in the marquee. Then happily, at 10.30 on Monday morning, the skies cleared and thanks to the impeccable preparation of the grass the players were soon able to take to the courts again.
The men’s singles semi-finals pitted top seed Jamie Whiteford against last year’s runner-up Lewis Burton and 2017 champion Oscar Podlewski against Jean Thirouin, the sole surviving member of the Harvard and Yale visiting teams. Burton and Thirouin narrowly came through to contest a hard-hitting final, with some powerful serving and volleying from Burton which this year won him the title.
In the ladies’ singles, despite their very best efforts the British were unable to match the power and skill of the young US players, who came through to meet each other in the semi-finals and then the final. In a hard-fought match, Yale’s Sam Martinelli defeated Harvard’s Erica Oosterhout to take the cup.
In the ladies’ doubles final, Martinelli and Oosterhout again took to the court, with British team-mates Anna Craigen and Rowena Edington. The close contest brought a second win for Martinelli with the help of Craigen.
The men’s doubles final saw some spectacular play from singles semi-finalist Oscar Podlewski, partnered by sixteen-year-old Oscar Weightman, versus the 2017 winners Mark Hadley and Lewis Burton. Culminating in a nerve-jangling tie-break, Hadley and Burton just got their noses ahead to repeat last year’s victory.
In the last match of the tournament, the mixed doubles final, Podlewski this time joined forces with Kent county player Sarah Cantlay to take on Harvard’s Logan Weber partnering Queen’s Club’s team member Annabel Watson. With no sign of running out of steam, Podlewski at last came out on top as he and Cantlay powered their way through to clinch the title for a second year.
The standard of play in the B groups and Handicap sections was also exceptionally high, with some very competitive matches. The action was enjoyed by an appreciative crowd, which was treated to some exciting and impressive grass-court tennis. The 2019 Open Tournament will be held from 2 – 5 August.