The scene was set, and the refrain familiar. As rain pelted Boston on this cold April evening, the local heroes were preparing to face their incoming opponents, a scrappy Montreal team eager to be on the right side of history in this chapter of a decades-long rivalry. With silver on the line, both the players and the crowd shared nervous excitement. This time, however, the duel would not feature the Bruins and the Canadiens, playoff atmosphere notwithstanding. Friday, April 13thinstead would be host to the first matches in the Inaugural NARA Under 35 Interclub Tournament between the Boston Tennis & Racquet Club and the Montreal Racket Club. Let the fireworks begin!
Now that we know the setting, let us introduce the teams:
Ben Smith – As dangerous on the court, as he is off it. Don’t sleep on him.
Andrew Peabody – Questionable serving tactics, worse hair. But the man can play.
Stephen Merwin – Nicknamed “Mumbles” but does a lot of talking with his forehand.
Eric Speed – A new player to the game who will have no trouble catching up
Chris Mercurio – Runs marathons. We’ll see how long that lasts on the racquets circuit…
Tristan Boylan – Frazer Anderson’s even more ginger doppelganger.
Racquet Club of Philadelphia
Henry Smith – At only 18, his competitors hope that the inevitable “freshman 15” will slow him.
Andy Dick – Converted real tennis player… what took him so long to pick up a real racquet?
Mike Barton – Hit rollers against him. He will chase everything else down.
Lucas Garvin – Grizzled tour veteran who knows his way around the court.
New York T&R
Phil Stockton – Don’t let that smile fool you. He can whack the ball.
Matt Mackin – The reigning Kendrick Cup champ showed he definitely belongs.
Pete Roessler – As skilled on court as he is with a piano. Interpret that however you want.
Pasha Aziz – “Why the $*%*$*%@ didn’t you guys tell me about rackets until now?!”
Montreal Racket Club
Frazer Anderson – Imagines someone yelled “hit it harder” before every strike. He complies.
Fred Vennat – Fast Freddy doesn’t always play smart, but he always plays hard.
Charles Vennat – Considerably slower than his brother. Not the family’s genetic lottery winner.
Dave Fortin – Tour rookie with unparalleled enthusiasm. He’ll be back!
So back to Friday night…
The teams arrived for the first showdown between Boston and Montreal at the beautiful T&R and were greeted by professionals Tony Hollins and Leon Smart. The tournament’s format ensured that each participant would play a minimum of four matches, mixed between singles and doubles, so this would be a busy weekend for them both. The weekend’s architect, Lucas Walsh, wasted no time in ensuring that the players were on court and, more importantly, that the gallery was packed with well hydrated spectators. The matches got off to a furious pace, with Boston handily sweeping the singles matches as Montreal consoled itself with the short-lived title of “doubles specialists.” Joined by the RCOP boys (NY R&T was missing in action… but more on this later), the group then headed to Earl’s for some semblance of dinner and copious libations to regale in Michael Gales’ winding tales.
Saturday’s schedule proved to be jam-packed, featuring a total of 18 matches. Bleary-eyed competitors from the RCOP squared off against a freshly-rested R&T team, who had skipped the previous night’s festivities. After a good deal of finger wagging and warnings that future such incidents would be treated as if they had used performance-enhancing drugs, team R&T promised to atone later that evening which, of course, they did. Nevertheless, their rest tactic proved to be futile as the RCOP handily won this clash, with the lone blemish being Andy Dick’s singles loss to Matt Mackin. Just as the pastrami sandwiches arrived (Lucas was kind enough to call it “kinda like smoked meat” for the Canadians), it was time for the R&T vs MRC showdown. Players refrained from diving into the buffet, though this time the tactic paid off for New York as they swept Montreal in all matches. Finally, it was time for the home club to take on the RCOP juggernaut, but they, too, would be outgunned with the visitors holding the brooms.
After a busy day of play, the competitors clearly had more energy to expend, and made plans for dinner and evening activities with the help of Thomas Pickin’s heavy pouring hand. Once a consensus was reached on dumplings in Cambridge, the boys headed out, determined to consume as many sake bombs as possible. This predictably did not endear the group to the owner of the quiet Chinese restaurant, nor to its patrons, and so the action moved down the block to the legendary Cantab Lounge for some live music and cavorting. With no regard for the morning’s matches, all participated with gusto, leaving little doubt that a special camaraderie was forming that weekend.
As Sunday morning arrived, the gallery was treated to what could charitably termed as a controlled demolition of Frazer Anderson by Henry Smith, who had been very well behaved the night previous. Fearing a bagel in the second match, a haggard Frazer pleaded that “it would be polite to serve a fault now” to a very uncooperative Henry. Alas, this would be another sweep for a very strong RCOP team as they defeated the MRC team and were crowned Interclub Champions. The tournament concluded with the T&R vs R&T matches, handily won by the New Yorkers, with the promising Andrew Peabody handing them their only defeat.
By all accounts, this was a great tournament enjoyed by all participants. As the inaugural event, the goal of the tournament was to encourage play amongst younger participants and to build camaraderie within the next generation of racketeers. On this front, the NARA Under 35 Interclub Tournament was a resounding success! All are eagerly anticipating next year’s iteration, and hope to have representation from all seven North American clubs.
Many thanks are due to the entire staff of the Boston T&R, especially Tony Hollins, Leon Smart and Thomas Pickin. Last but certainly not least, thank you to Lucas Walsh who, despite not playing in the tournament, was present throughout the weekend and ensured that a good time was had by all. Truth be told, he may have had a pretty good time himself!
Congratulations to the champion RCOP team and to tournament MVP Charles Vennat (a title bestowed upon him, in the words of Lucas Walsh, as being “not so much for the on the court stuff”).