Centenary Tennis Clubs Meet in Dublin

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Last weekend saw the Centenary Tennis Clubs (CTC) come to Dublin. Following on two recent high-profile tennis visits by the All-England Club and the US’s University of Notre Dame, Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club hosted an event over two days (21-22 September) which included teams from two other Centenary Club members, Stockholm’s Kungliga Club and Leimonias from the Hague.

The Centenary Tennis Clubs, as its name suggests, is made up of tennis clubs worldwide in existence for over a hundred years. The Club’s founding members are all European clubs, but membership has been extended over the years to include a worldwide grouping. It includes clubs from Britain, Ireland, Continental Europe, North America, South America, Australia, South Africa and Asia – a truly global outreach, with household names such as London’s Queen’s Club, Melbourne’s Kooyong and the Westside Club in Forest Hills, New York (former home of the US Open).

In its mission statement, CTC’s aim is to uphold the traditions of tennis, as well as the spirit of fair play in the sport. It seeks to achieve this through organising competitions and other sporting and cultural events; arranging tennis workshops and seminars; and generally supporting the activities of member clubs around the world. It also strongly encourages the development of young talent through its support of a range of junior events, seeking to foster the future stars of the sport. Matches (friendly yet competitive) are organised under the CTC umbrella in different club locations.

The hosts of the September 2012 event, Fitzwilliam LTC, are one of the oldest clubs in the world, founded in 1877 (in the same year as the first Wimbledon Championships were held).

Kungliga LTK was founded in 1896 by the then Crown Prince Gustav (later to become King Gustav V), himself a tennis enthusiast who initiated the development of the game in Sweden. The former king’s legacy has clearly been a fruitful one for Swedish tennis as the careers of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and many others have borne out. Speaking to Kungliga’s Team Manager/Captain, Stefan Soderstrom, the club has been at the centre of development of the game in Sweden over the years. Lennart Bergelin, former Swedish Davis Cup player and coach/mentor of Borg during his career, for example, was a member of the club for many years.

The visiting Dutch club, Leimonias of the Hague, founded in 1888, has also played a prominent role in Dutch society and in the development of the game in Holland. Located just outside the Hague at Scheveningen, it boasts a wide membership which includes many diplomats posted to the Dutch capital (tennis being the main sport of choice of the diplomatic circle!).

Two teams from Fitzwilliam, one team from Kungliga and one from Leimonias competed in a semi-final, final and third-place play-off format. While competitive, the spirit of matches remain decidedly friendly (no recourse to Hawkeye being provided for disputed line calls!). Teams were mixed with six singles and three doubles matches per team match. To accommodate as wide a spread of playing standards as possible, teams comprised Men’s 35’s and 45’s and Women’s 30’s and 40’s. Matches were played on Fitzwilliam’s fast, sandy Astroturf surface and one clay court (indoor courts placed in reserve in case of rain – a constant threat in Ireland). Team selections (some of which were subject to variation over the two days) were as follows:

Fitzwilliam 1

  1. Niall Murphy
  2. Connor Smith
  3. Conor McCullough
  4. Pat Guiry
  5. Anne Fleming
  6. Bernie Griffith

Kungliga

  1. Anders Lindgren
  2. Marcus Mirahmandi
  3. Henrik Bergman
  4. Lars Svenson
  5. Lina Westberg
  6. Anna-Carin Mansson

Leimonias

  1. Olli Eklund
  2. Erik Jan Uleman
  3. Anti Tallgren
  4. Albert Holtslag
  5. Perlita Hoff
  6. Fieke Uleman

Fitzwilliam 2

  1. Garbhann O Nuallain
  2. Justin Purcell
  3. Richard Collins
  4. Noel Sheridan
  5. Dearbhla Kelly
  6. Patricia Lord

Friday’s proceedings opened at about 10 am on a typically grey and overcast Dublin morning. Rain always threatened but managed to hold off as the sun came out in the afternoon.

Fitzwilliam 1 were pitted against Kungliga in the first semi-final. Conor McCullough and Pat Guiry won their singles for Fitzwilliam, while Lindgren, Mirahmandi, Westberg and Mansson won theirs’ for the Swedes, leaving the score 4-2 in Kungliga’s favour going into lunch. After lunch, Guiry and Griffith won their doubles while Lindgren/Bergman and Mirahmandi/Westberg secured an overall victory for Kungliga 6-3 by winning theirs.

Fitzwilliam 2 managed a clean sweep of 9-0 in their semi-final against Leimonias, the court surface seeming to pose big challenges to the visitors.

In Saturday’s final, Kungliga proved too strong for Fitzwilliam 2, defeating the home side by 8-1, Richard Collins being the sole victor for Fitzwilliam in his single’s match against Bergman. In the singles’ before lunch, there were two very tightly-fought matches which went to tie-breaks and eventually sealed the match in Kungliga’s favour. The match result thus having been decided, some of the competitive pressure eased after lunch as players relaxed for their doubles in the afternoon sun. Fitzwilliam 1 secured a comfortable 9-0 victory in the 3rd place match against Leimonias.

Drawing together players of varying standards and age groups from each club helped add to the ‘social’ aspect of the fixture. As is the tradition, hospitality was laid on by the Fitzwilliam hosts for the visiting teams on the Friday and Saturday nights at which the obligatory speeches were delivered and awards made. On the Saturday night, players were also able to mingle with visiting US squash team, the Jesters, who were playing a match against Fitzwilliam that afternoon, adding to the international flavour of the day. All credit must go again to Fitzwilliam Director of Tennis and Squash, Jimmy McDonagh in staging such a successful event.

Both visiting teams departed the following day glad to have participated in the CTC event. Despite current tensions at an economic and political level in Europe, the CTC events show clearly how positive relations remain between the nations of Europe at a sporting and social level. Long may such events continue in their role in helping to cement sporting and social contacts between tennis clubs across the world.

Paul McElhinney

23 September 2012

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