Champion: David Lowry
Photo courtesy Radley College
The 10th IRTA Open Championship was held at Radley College over the damp June bank holiday weekend. The tournament saw good tennis and close competition among a group of 16 players the age range of which was only slightly greater than its handicap range — and the latter ran from the mid-20s to the mid-70s. Several matches went to 5–all, 40–all, and participants and spectators seemed to enjoy themselves throughout.
Each match was played to handicap, with all but the final being decided by a single set to 6. The draw was limited to 16 players, and was arranged with a repechage so that those defeated once had another chance to earn a place in the semi-finals.
Following some acclimatisation time on court for early arrivals, the first match of the tournament took place on Friday evening and found Rupert Derham (41.8) too strong for local Radley player Nick Manby-Brown (45.4). Roland Budd (31) was then fortunate to take an early lead against the Radley Club Captain, Paul Kettle (24.6), but managed to hold on to win the set 6-4.
Most of the contestants arrived on Saturday morning, and those who had travelled furthest were among the first on court, at 9am, for some pre-match practice.
The first 2 matches on Saturday saw the 2 youngest entrants through to round 2, with Fin Ramjane (75.7) overcoming Kevin Sammon (66.2), and his brother Zak (74.9) then defeating James Henderson-Gibb (53.4). IRTA Chairman Mike Bolton (58) enjoyed a convincing win (6–2) over the 2011 champion and local player, Maggie Henderson-Tew (48.9), but the match between David Lowry (48.7) and Hugo Axel-Berg (47.6) went to the final game, with David progressing 6–5, and Hugo going into Sunday’s repechage. Another close contest saw Vern Cassin (36.6) of Radley winning the 11th game against Mark Heffernan (another past champion, playing off 41.4), and in the last of the first round matches Richard Ramjane (32.8) absorbed the hard-hitting strategy of Tom O’Nolan (34.3) to take the set 6–4.
Fin Ramjane saw off the challenge of his brother Zak in the first of the second round matches; David Lowry prevented Mike Bolton from finding the form which had brought him through his opening set; Rupert Derham beat Vern Cassin; and Roland Budd beat Richard Ramjane. David then coped just well enough with a significant handicap difference to defeat Fin 6–5, and Rupert capitalised on the (rather smaller) handicap difference to defeat Roland by the same margin.
The weekend’s programme of tournament matches was interspersed with occasional opportunities for friendly doubles, and lunch — which included patriotically-decorated cakes, produced by the Heffernan family — was enjoyed in the viewing gallery over the service end of the court on each day. Players and supporters gathered on the Saturday evening for the tournament dinner at the King’s Arms, at Sandford Lock, beside the river — a very attractive setting, which we might have appreciated all the more had the rain not kept us all indoors (except for a damp sprint over the lock gates to the car at the end of the night).
Kevin Sammon made a lively start to the day against Jamie Henderson-Gibb in the first match of the repechage on Sunday morning; the other early games saw Hugo defeat Maggie, Paul Kettle overcome Tom O’Nolan, and Mark Heffernan show his consistency and determination against Nick Manby-Brown. Of those four winners, however, only Hugo and Paul came through the next stage, with Zak Ramjane eliminating Mark to love, and Richard Ramjane seeing off Kevin 6–3. Zak went on to beat Paul Kettle 6–5 in ‘the match with the biggest handicap difference of the weekend’, but Richard encountered Hugo Axel-Berg on strong form, and Hugo took the set 6–3. In the final repechage matches, Hugo won his fourth match of the morning, against Roland Budd, 6–2, and Zak reversed the result of the previous day against his twin, Fin, this time emerging the winner by 6–3.
David Lowry and Rupert Derham having survived Saturday without defeat, each was to contest a semi-final against one of those who emerged from the repechage. David, playing his first match of the day, defeated Hugo Axel-Berg, playing his fifth; Zak Ramjane, playing his fourth match of the day, defeated Rupert, playing his first. The two semi-finals presented an interesting contrast: the first involved players of similar handicap but differing levels of fatigue; whereas in the second Rupert’s freshness (as well as his team of family and friends in the dedans) proved insufficient in the face of a significant handicap difference and an ever-improving young player.
In the final, however, David Lowry tempered his usual exuberant approach to the game, and his patience and careful stroke-making were rewarded: Zak Ramjane took four games, and came close to taking several more, but David emerged the IRTA Open Champion for 2012 by 8 games to 4.
Following a group photograph on the court, Mike Bolton thanked Radley for permitting the IRTA to hold its tournament at the College once again; thanked Chris Ronaldson for all his assistance in organising and running the event; and presented the trophy to David Lowry.
In addition, the IRTA thanks all players and supporters for making the trip to the tournament and contributing to the overall success of the weekend. It was great to see our honorary professional Stef King at Radley, and special thanks are due to him for travelling to Radley, and for his continuing support. Bear North did great work on the organisation and administration of the weekend, and we look forward to seeing her on court again soon….
— Roland Budd
All matches were played to handicap.
Hugo Axel-Berg and Zak Ramjane re-entered the tournament by means of the Repechage: