By John Goralski
Matt Wayton slumped in a canvas chair and stared out at the empty courts. Nobody was in the bleachers. Nobody was warming up. The women’s doubles finalists were already making their way back to their cars, and his three weary volunteers were already breaking down tables and taking down signs.
On Sunday, July 21, Wayton was expecting to be celebrating the successful completion of his 10-day charity tournament, but that just isn’t the case. He survived one bout of rain, a scorching heat wave, and over 400 entrants to his annual tournament that helps fund two scholarships for Southington High School graduates.
Wayton has only crowned two of his five bracket winners as his tournament stretches into an unprecedented third week. Three more matches will have to be played, and that has the tournament director thinking ahead to next year’s schedule.
“It was a little bit disappointing that we couldn’t do a true Championship Sunday, but we had too many scheduling issues with players and doubles teams now that we’ve gotten so big,” he said. “We did get rain on the first Saturday, but we got caught up by the end of the first weekend. It was really a delay because of scheduling issues. I think we’ll have to be more firm with our schedule next year, but we’ll look at that.”
On the other hand, the 2013 Wayton Open championship has already proven to be more competitive than any previous year. The women’s singles bracket crowned a new champion. Last year’s women’s doubles champions were upset in an early round. Last year’s men’s singles runner up was dispatched in the quarterfinals, and the men’s doubles brackets will crown a new champion, too.
The brackets have become unpredictable. The match-ups have become more and more challenging, and that was Wayton’s most ambitious goal when he envisioned the growth of the local event.
“It’s been amazing, and the field has been deeper than ever before,” he said. “We had a lot of good, solid players, especially in our men’s brackets. We were so deep this year. We had a lot of high caliber players like Dennis Scarpa, Ben Doolittle, Mark Habek, and Eric Henne.”
The women’s divisions were the only ones to finish in their allotted time. Newcomer Alexandra Cifone continued her torrid pace through the second weekend as she swept past Sarah Hopkins, 6-0, 6-0, in the singles final. Hopkins had dispatched Sarah Crampton to reach the finals, and Cifone had upended Alejandra Gimenez in the final four. Cifone upset last year’s winner in the first weekend and capped her run with a singles title.
“She was just a better player,” said Wayton. “She had all the strokes. She was experienced because she played in college, and she used it on the court. It was a really one-sided victory.”
Women’s doubles more of a challenge as Laurie Nash and Roxanne Kilpatrick outlasted Robin Thompson and Lucille Hage in the final match, 6-2, 6-3. Thompson-Hage hadn’t dropped a set coming into the final match, but Nash-Kilpatrick held on for the title.
“Women’s doubles was our smallest bracket, but every match was competitive all the way through,” said Wayton. “We really had some solid teams.”
Both men’s brackets are in the finals, and both will be finished by the end of the week. With 91 entries in the men’s singles division and 40 team entries into the men’s doubles competitions, both brackets provided top-level competition.
“Men’s singles was our most competitive division, but our men’s doubles wasn’t too far behind,” said Wayton. “Both were really deep with a high level of players. Some of our quarterfinals and semifinals could have gone either way, and that’s what you want to see. It was a lot of fun.”
Habek and Henne advanced to the championship round to face the Sheehan brothers. On the singles side, defending champion Benjamin Doolittle has advanced to face Dennis Scarpa in the finals. Doolittle edged James Nitz in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-1, while Scarpa upended Mark Habek, 6-4, 6-3, to reach the final match. Both finals will be played later in the week.
“I’m hoping that the men’s finals is going to live up to last year,” said Wayton. “In 2012, it was our best match. We’ve got Scarpa and Doolittle playing a best of five series, so it should be good.”
Mixed doubles is the newest addition to the tournament, and there is only one game remaining. Wint Filipek and Alejandra Giemenez will face James Nitz and Ali Garry in a mid-week contest.
“It was the first year that we were able to offer it, and I think there was a lot of excitement about it,” said Wayton. “I was watching them, and they all seemed to have a lot of fun with it.”
Wayton is already thinking ahead, and he expects next year to be even bigger. The tournament helps raise funds for a pair of scholarships. Former Blue Knight captains James Nitz and Matt Downes joined the staff this year, and Lady Knight coach Robin Thompson has a prominent supporter and player as she battled into the finals of the women’s doubles competition.
“I’m hoping to get some of the guys and girls from the high school teams to come and help out next year,” said Wayton. “Maybe they can serve on our committee, too. I think it would be a good thing because it really benefits them directly. That’s so important. It was important when we ran this as a one-day tournament our first year, and it will continue to be important as this keeps growing.”
Volunteers for next year’s event can contact Matt Wayton at WaytonOpen@gmail.com. To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.