By KEVIN ROBERTS
Dylan Avena and Eric Henne played the match of the 2019 Wayton Open tennis tournament on championship Sunday. After so much water had been consumed and sweat had been expended, it was a shame someone had to lose.
Avena outlasted Henne, 6-2, 6-4, 1-6, 6-7(4), 6-2, in a four-hour Men’s A Singles final. Avena didn’t show much if any outward emotion until the final point had been decided. He won the first two sets, but Henne, just like his 2018 Men’s A Singles final against Saurabh Kumar, rallied to win the third and fourth sets. Henne was the two-time defending champion.
“No, especially after I won the first two sets,” Avena said when asked if he thought he would have ended up in a five-set marathon match. “Then I was up a break for most of the fourth set – he played a really good third set – but the fourth set, I just got tight and he played really well.”
In the fifth set, Avena stopped listening to what was in his head and threw everything he had at Henne. Avena went back to his strong forehand, launching one after another deep with spin to Henne’s forehand.
“I just shut down whatever I was thinking and I was just like if I lose it hitting hard, then I lose it,” Avena said. “It turned around and went my way, so I was happy with that.”
Avena and Henne played the most competitive, exciting match in what was a “pretty good” 2019 Wayton Open, according to tournament director and founder Matt Wayton.
About 200 players started the tournament on the weekend of July 6-7. The following are the champions from each of the other eight divisions: Varsha Rathore (Women’s Singles); Rohan Kataria (Men’s B Singles); Kade Huang-Savino (High School Singles); Mark Habek and Eric Henne (Men’s A Doubles); Kovid Bhandari and Alok Arora (Men’s B Doubles); Varsha Rathore and Sam Rathore (Mixed A Doubles); Shawna Baron and Carl Ajello (Mixed B Doubles); and Zofia Lavoie and Judi Blanchette (Women’s Doubles).
For the second straight year, Varsha Rathore won at Women’s Singles and Mixed A Doubles. She won the Women’s Singles in straight sets and did the same in Mixed A Doubles with her father Sam. Varsha Rathore has won five titles in the three years she has played the Wayton Open.
“She’s still young, too. She’s going to be a high school senior [at South Windsor], she’s got a lot more titles to go here,” Wayton said.
Wayton thinks the long Fourth of July holiday weekend may have contributed to the lack of a large increase.
“I’m going to move the tournament back,” Wayton said, mentioning the middle of July as a likely landing point. The Fourth of July falls on a Friday in 2020.
The Wayton Open raised about $2,500 for Thank Dog Rescue, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Newtown. Co-founder Debbie Maas was thrilled with the money that her organization received.
“We came for opening day and did an adoption event, met some families who came to meet their dogs,” Maas said. “Every year that they put this together for us is money that goes into our coffers, for medical, for food, to take care of the dogs in our care.”
Maas was carrying around one-year-old Kevin, a Chihuahua mix.
“We’re all breed, all ages, medical, and that’s why this is really so important,” Maas said. “We get a lot of medical, a lot of senior dogs who need our care, so it’s great. We’re a 501(c)(3) and we look for charitable donations, and this is our third year.”
The Rathore family, with a major push from 10-year-old Lavanya, raised $185 on Sunday. Lavanya Rathore also played in the tournament in Women’s Singles.
“I’m happy about the Rathores. That was awesome, they said they’re going to do that again next year,” Wayton said. “That was kind of a last-minute thing. They set up shop, they went down to Dunkin Donuts, they got a bunch of stuff donated, they wrote a letter for me, then they bought some fruit at Stop and Shop and sold it, and they raised almost $200.”
As far as the tournament goes, Wayton wants to see an increase in the number of Southington High School players playing, along with more women. There were three current high school boys players in the tournament and no girls.
“Overall, it was good, we had a lot of familiar faces, but the old guard, it was like a shift in the guard,” Wayton said. “All the old guard were out early or didn’t win, there’s a lot of new faces, new names everywhere.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com
Photos by KEVIN ROBERTS