Rye Lawn Tennis Club’s 90th Annual Invitation Tournament, from last Friday to Monday, was played in good spirits in typical British weather - a mixture of warm sun, heavy rain showers and the usual Rye wind.
Facing a strong international presence among the 240 entrants, the British competitors once again rose to the challenge with some stunning displays of tennis.
The men’s singles draw sadly saw the last-minute withdrawal of 2015 champion Jonathan Tassell, a strong contender for the title, hampered by a hamstring injury, leaving the coast clear for his Queen’s Club team-mate Oscar Podlewski to storm his way to the final.
Beating New Zealander Mark Hadley, last year’s winner, in a hard-hitting semi-final, he then came face-to-face with professional tennis player turned model Lewis Burton, the number one seed, in a nerve-jangling encounter. Podlewski came from behind to win by just two points in the championship tie-break final set.
The ladies’ singles final pitted Slovenian player Karin Lusnic, who knocked out Rye LTC coach Frances Candy in the semis, against Surrey county player Victoria Brook, daughter of All England Club chairman Philip Brook. Playing double-handed on both sides, Brook proved too strong for her opponent and took the title in two sets.
In the ladies’ doubles final, Brook joined forces with Essex player Stephanie Cornish in a competitive battle against Kent and Surrey players Sarah Cantlay and Laura Slater.
Another tight match concluded with a shoot-out in the third when Brook and Cornish finally charged ahead to clinch the title.
The men’s doubles final saw some powerful serving and volleying from singles runner-up Burton, teamed with Hadley, versus tennis coach turned banker Rupert de Laszlo and talented Surrey county player Jamie Whiteford. This time Burton and Hadley came out on top, firing on all cylinders to overcome their opponents in two sets.
In the last match of the tournament, the mixed doubles final, the two singles winners took to the court again - Podlewski with Cantlay and Brook with Nicolas Janssen.
Showing no signs of running out of steam, Podlewski and Cantlay just got their noses ahead to snatch victory and deprive Brook of a Rye hat-trick.
The standard of play in the B groups and handicap sections was also exceptionally high, with some competitive matches.
The action throughout the four days was enjoyed by an appreciative crowd, which was treated to some exciting and impressive grass court tennis.
The action at Rye LTC has continued with the three-day Junior Tournament until today (Friday) before the Closed Tournament tomorrow and the Mixed Doubles on Sunday.
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.