By KEVIN ROBERTS
The 2018 Wayton Open Tennis Tournament crowned champions in eight divisions last Sunday and Monday at Southington High School and in Berlin.
The big winner in the 11th installment of the Wayton Open was Eric Henne, who claimed his second straight Men’s A Singles championship and fourth overall. It wasn’t easy for Henne, who had to battle back from a two sets to love deficit against first-time finalist Saurabh Kumar.
Kumar took the first two sets 7-6(6) and 6-4, but Henne picked up his game after that. Henne claimed the last three sets by scores of 6-1, 6-3 and 6-4, and won his fourth singles title in as many attempts.
“It was a great match,” founder and director Matt Wayton said. “Saurabh Kumar did well, had a great tournament to make the final. He’s been playing here for six years and it’s his first final. He had his chances today, but they both hit well, and it was just a great match. I love it when it goes five sets.”
Wayton said the tournament is the only one around where a match can go five sets.
Henne also teamed up with Mark Habek to win Men’s A Doubles, 6-3, 6-4 over Brandon Sanford and Alex Schade. Henne and Habek won A Doubles for the fifth straight year.
The Henne-Kumar Men’s A final was just part of a great day of tennis on Sunday at Southington High. In the Men’s B Singles final, Phil Gordon needed four sets to take down Erik Chupron. Gordon won 7-5, 6-2, 1-6, 6-2.
“The A singles went four hours and the B singles went about three and a half,” Wayton said. “They went four sets. Phil Gordon won the championship in his first year playing B’s, and he’s going to move up to A’s next year.”
The High School Boys Singles final went the full three sets. Southington’s Andrew Kudla battled until the end, but Fairfield Ludlowe’s Sion Moon claimed a 6-7(3), 6-0, 6-4 victory.
A full three sets were necessary in the Women’s Doubles final, where Zofia Lavoie and Judi Blanchet claimed a 6-7, 7-6, 10-8 win over Lynn Siebert and Shawna Baron.
“All the matches were high quality, high-quality tennis, and that’s what we like to see in the finals,” Wayton said.
The father-son duo of Jason Duan and Jeff Duan took down Cheshire Class of 2017 graduates Aiden Tiriolo and Mike Toscano 6-2, 6-4 in a competitive Men’s B Doubles final.
The Mixed Doubles final was won by Dam Rathore-Varsha Rathore. In the Women’s Singles final, Varsha Rathore. Both were changed from Sunday to Monday and were played in Berlin.
“I think the quality of players are better,” Wayton said of the tournament. “The quality of tennis has just been getting better and better. We started with just 20 people, and now we pull people from all over the state, and even out of state.”
Out-of-state participants came from North Carolina, Massachusetts and Maryland. It could be as simple as someone is on vacation visiting family in the area, sees the tournament and wants to play. Whatever draws players to the Wayton Open works for Wayton.
Wayton was elated with the $3,100 check that he and wife Joanna were able to give to Thank Dog Rescue last Sunday. The check was up from $2,000 last year.
“We’re very happy with that, very grateful for the sponsors who donated money,” Wayton said. “I’m very grateful for the players who came out and paid money to enter this tournament, and it all went to a good cause. I hope to give them even more next year, and I hope to have an even bigger adoption event on the first day next year.”
Thank Dog Rescue had Greyson, a 10-month-old Pomeranian mix, on hand to help accept the check. Greyson could be adopted within the next couple days.
“That’s why we love Thank Dog Rescue,” Wayton said. “They find great homes for the dogs, they find great fits.”
Wayton added: “We just want a better life and a better world for animals.”
To that end, Wayton wants his tournament to keep going in 2019.
“I want 250 players, I want to give Thank Dog Rescue more money, keep growing on it,” Wayton said. “I want a bigger adoption event.”
Six rescue organizations were present on the opening weekend in 2018 with about 40 dogs. A couple dogs were adopted, and people put in applications for others. Wayton would love to see at least 20 groups at next year’s event.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.