By BRIAN JENNINGS
Although the Wayton Open tennis tournament wrapped up play with a sun-filled, championship Sunday on July 16, the rest of the week brought rain to the Southington courts. But it didn’t delay or postponement matches.
Three-consecutive days of rain put tournament director, Matt Wayton, in a bit of a pickle, as he was forced to scramble on Thursday and Friday. However, some of the players alleviated the inconvenience of soggy cement with accommodation, graciously paying out of their own pockets to move their matches indoors.
Players from six to eight men’s and women’s singles and doubles matches scheduled to play Thursday and Friday contacted the Tennis and Fitness Center of Rocky Hill and were invited into their facilities with open arms, as the center stayed open later past their usual business hours to help out the Wayton Open. Matches were also played at the Bloomfield Tennis Club and Glastonbury Tennis Club as well.
“It was a call-and-see situation,” said Wayton. “We had to get those matches in, otherwise we’d be behind, and they would be doing double duty Saturday or Sunday. That’s tough for a lot of people.”
Without indoor matches during the week, the quarterfinals and semifinals of divisions would have been played on Saturday, which was also was iffy for rain. But the indoor matches and mostly dry weekend allowed for a smooth transition for the remainder of the tournament.
Eric Henne (men’s A singles), Ellie Doolittle (women’s singles), Nick Cristante (high school boy’s singles), Ben Doolittle (men’s 45-and-over singles), Mark Habek-Eric Henne (men’s A doubles), Kevin Yawgel-Nick Loveland (men’s B doubles), Charlotte Smith-Lindsay Fisher (women’s doubles), Kim McCarthy-Chris Dougherty (mixed A doubles), and Sam Rathore-Varsha Rathore (mixed B doubles).
Henne claimed the men’s A singles title by defeating the No. 1 singles player of the Southington High School boy’s tennis team, Matt Balaoing, with a walkover. Besides winning the men’s A singles division title, Henne team up with Habek to take the men’s A doubles title for the fourth-straight year after defeating Kunal and Rohan Kataria in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3.
“Mark and Eric have been playing together for years and are excellent singles and doubles players,” said Wayton. “Mark is tall with a long wingspan and very good at the net. Eric’s just very consistent with solid shots. They never make mistakes.”
High school sophomore Ellie Doolittle won her first women’s singles title in her first appearance in the division after defeating Opal Bravo in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5. After winning a play-in match, Ellie Doolittle upset the top seed and former champion, Megan Fitzgerald, in the second round in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5. From there, she ran through the rest of the tournament without dropping a single set in only her second year playing in the Wayton Open.
“She actually didn’t even register for women’s singles because she registered for the high school division,” said Wayton. “It was so small though that I threw her into women’s singles. She’s going to be an excellent player throughout her life.”
This was the first year the Wayton Open raised money for Thank Dog Rescue, located in Newtown. As a result of the second-largest turnout of about 212 entries in the tournament’s 10-year history, the Wayton Open donated $2,000 of its tournament funds to Thank Dog Rescue.
“I was really happy and proud that we were able to raise that much money for the rescue dogs,” said Wayton. “There were fewer people this year, but we cut back some tournament costs to make up for it. I was hoping to give them at least $1,000, but $2,000 was just the cherry on top.”
Foster dogs were present at Southington High School for most of the tournament throughout the week, and applications were even put in for adoptions. Wayton said that he plans to continue donating future tournament funds to Thank Dog Rescue.
“They pay all the food and medical bills for the dogs,” said Wayton. “When they get dogs from animal shelters or pounds, sometimes the dogs have health issues, and surgery is expensive. The donation is going to go a long way with them.”
Southington High School graduate, Jim Mele, served players and spectators during the first weekend with his local business, The Deli Rescue. As an Afghanistan war veteran, Mele runs his veteran owned and operated business out of a unique, 1959 International Ambulance that was converted into a food truck.
“The food truck was great,” said Wayton. “He did breakfast and lunch here and did good business, selling a lot of sandwiches. People ditched their Dunkin and supported a good, local business.”
Wayton was limited with volunteers for this year’s tournament and is looking to add more volunteers for the 2018 Wayton Open.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/07/19/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-july-21-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.