By KEVIN ROBERTS
A dry, hot summer day greeted tennis enthusiasts at Southington High School on the first day of the 2018 Wayton Open last Saturday.
“I think we have a good crop,” director Matt Wayton said of the 11th edition of the annual tournament.
Players ranged in experience from casual to active, and the divisions helped players compete against others on their level.
“Most of the players play all the time,” Wayton said.
There were about 180 players registered among eight divisions for the 2018 Wayton Open, down from the 212 who registered in 2017. Still, the 180 who signed up have made the 2018 Wayton Open the fourth largest in tournament history.
The Wayton Open started with 24 players in a one-day tournament. They all just wanted to get together, play tennis, and have a good time.
“I hoped, but I was never sure,” Wayton said when asked if he thought there would ever be as many people in the tournament as there have been in recent years. The high-water mark was 233 in 2016.
Money raised from the tournament will go to Thank Dog Rescue, which is based in Newtown. Journey, a 3-5 year-old pit bull mix, was among many canines who caught the attention of tennis players and spectators alike at a dog adoption event held alongside the tournament last Saturday. A Pups’ Pizzazz Rescue Inc., Southbury, and Brass City Rescue Alliance, Middlebury, were also among several groups in attendance at the dog adoption event.
“They had a lot of interest, a lot of people interested,” Wayton said.
Wayton would love to get even more dog groups to the tournament in 2019, and it’s a good bet he will be working on marketing the Wayton Open to potential attendees in the near future.
“I do a little bit all year long,” Wayton said.
All seven Southington High School courts were used, along with one court at Memorial Park. Registration for the tournament usually starts in early April, Wayton said. Marketing happens via social media, but more often through word of mouth.
“I hope every year people just keep bringing more people,” Wayton said.
One example of new players joining the Wayton Open is St. Paul-Bristol graduate Victoria Kilbourne. She was slated to play a doubles match with her former head coach Beth Hines. Plenty of former Southington tennis players fill up slots in the various brackets.
Wayton’s goal is to get people together to play tennis and help out the community.
“People just having fun, being competitive, coming out and supporting the tournament, supporting the dogs,” Wayton said.
The championship matches are this Sunday at Southington High School, beginning at 9 a.m. For schedules and brackets, visit www.WaytonOpen.com.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.