By KEVIN ROBERTS
Carolyn Callahan took a deep breath and prepared for match point against Kristen Bell this past Saturday on opening day of the 2019 Wayton Open. When the point went in Callahan’s favor, she had secured a three-set women’s singles division win over Bell, 3-6, 7-6(8), 7-5.
It was Callahan’s first singles win in her third year of competition, but she had to earn it in the heat against a solid opponent.
“I just kept taking deep breaths and reminding myself, it’s a new set, you can restart, reload,” Callahan said about losing the first set. “I’ve got to keep it together because it’s not over yet.”
Callahan’s match was one of two women’s singles matches to go the full three sets.
“She kept serving to my forehand side, which is my weaker side,” Callahan said. “I had to get used to that, and she also had a lot of low balls, so I had to make sure I bent down and got it over the net.”
About 200 players began the tournament in nine divisions this past weekend, according to tournament founder and director Matt Wayton.
“People are coming out, good turnout. A lot of divisions,” Wayton said. “There’s different skill levels. We’ve got everything from a 12-year-old to a 78-year-old.”
The 12-year-old girl won in a walkover while the 78-year-old, Bill Kamenoff, won his Men’s B Singles first round match by a score of 6-3, 7-6(4). The roughly 200 participants is up from 180 in 2018. It’s not as high as Wayton would like, but it’s still good for a tournament that’s in its 12th year.
“It’s definitely a positive,” Wayton said of the increased turnout. “I want it to keep growing.”
Callahan has been playing in the tournament since the summer between her junior and senior years at Southington High School. She was a 2018 senior captain.
“I really like that it’s local, so you’re supporting a local tournament,” Callahan said. “You get to see a lot of people, engage with other tennis players who you might not have met before. If you want to get their number, you can and play after the tournament.”
The animal rescue organizations who showed up for the adoption event were also happy to have the local tournament around.
“I think anybody that’s willing to do anything for charity nowadays, when we’re so focused on ourselves, is just awesome,” said Jen Humphrey, founder and CEO of the Brass City Rescue Alliance, which is located in Middlebury.
Thank Dog Rescue, the beneficiary of all funds raised, was also present at the opening. Also present were Double Dog Rescue of Unionville and Perfect Imperfections of Watertown. Perfect Imperfections works with dogs that have issues such as being blind, deaf or disabled.
“We’re all kind of fighting an uphill battle, and there’s just not enough hands, so the more hands the lighter the load,” Humphrey said. “I commend the Waytons for not only having something, but also thinking of rescues as well.”
Wayton estimated that there were 30-40 dogs at the rescue event. Humphrey, who grew up in Southington, brought her dogs in a bus that was from North Shore Animal League America of Fort Washington, N.Y. North Shore is sponsored by Purina and is the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. The buses travel around the country to adoption events.
“The awning, they bring the tables, the chairs, the water,” Humphrey said. “It’s heated, it’s air conditioned, so we can do events all winter.”
Or put the dogs inside on the bus when it’s hot like it was for the adoption event. All proceeds from this year’s Wayton Open benefit Thank Dog Rescue, an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to finding loving homes for shelter, homeless and abandoned dogs of all breeds.
A passing shower ended matches just before 2 p.m. this past Saturday, but most matches were able to be played before the rain came. One area where Wayton was disappointed was high school player turnout. There were three current high school boys playing in the tournament and no girls. Class of 2019 graduate Matt Balaoing also took to the court.
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