The Clothier Cup is a biennial match between junior teams from Australia and the USA. The junior teams are composed of Under 26 players from both nations with teams usually comprising of 4 members. Historically the HRTC has contributed an abundance of junior players to the Clothier with the majority of the current crop of A-graders having been a member of a tour or two in the past. The Australians team is currently the holders of the trophy after a 5-3 win on American soil 2 years ago but the Americans claimed victory last time they came down under in convincing fashion 7-1.
The Australian Team included 2 Hobartians, 2 Melbournians and a Ballarodent and comprised of (in order of handicap 1-4): Hilton ‘Paris’ Booth (Captain), Dan ‘Thunder’ Williams, Patrick ‘Coach’ Dunne and Simon ‘Jack Sparrow’ Carr with Paul ‘Rosie’ Rosedale the reserve/5. The 4 selected players have represented Australia in the Clothier the last 2 times (Hobart in ‘07 and Newport in ‘09) with Paul touring 2 years previously on the overseas trip to UK + USA.
This year the match was to be held in Melbourne with the visiting team sending over a team of 4. The captain Pat Winthrop (Newport) was the veteran with 2 previous tours under his belt and a recent victory on home soil in the Tuxedo Gold Racquet. The remaining members of the teams were all rookies with Dylan Ward from Philly, Garret Gates from Kansas via Boston and Tom Pickin from Newport. Pat was obviously a very good player (a 5 handicapper) however the other three were all unknown quantities with handicaps ranging from 20-28.
Leading up to the Clothier the majority of players participated in the Aus Am Juniors in Ballarat with Hilton emerging victorious. On the way to claiming the chocolates he won two 5-setters in 2 days against Dan in the semi and Pat in the final. The teams then travelled to Melbourne for some team practice and social events leading up to the Match. After a long night spent strategising as a team the match was upon us with the first day being entirely singles matches.
Day 1 – Singles
The 4 singles was played first with Simon on his home court taking on Tom Pickin. Simon is a dogged retriever who is very strong at RMTC and with his fast railroad dominant controlled the match and claimed the first victory for the home team.
4 Singles – Simon Carr def Tom Pickin 6/0 6/0. AUS 1-0.
The 3 singles was Pat Dunne against Garret Gates. Contrasting styles Garret’s significant lawn tennis background vs. my more classical game provided a riveting encounter. Despite Pat taking a controlled 4-1 lead in the first set Garret rallied and took the 1st set 6/5. The American utilising solid retrieving and a dominating double-handed topspin backhand drive volley to control the service end (sounds unconventional but was in fact very effective).
The second set was close the whole way with players trading points, control and games until the score reached 5 all. Garret claimed a 40-15 lead and Patrick somehow defended 3 match points (including the last match point where with Pat at the receiving end one of Garret’s shots was centimetres away from bouncing into the winning gallery off the tambour. Safe to say that wouldn’t happen at HRTC). Despite all the drama yours truly gritted out the set and it was level.
In the third and final set a steadier performance from Pat regained control of the play and setting up camp at the service end he worked his way into the lead and finally after 135 minutes on court a victory.
3 Singles – Patrick Dunne Def Garret Gates 5/6 6/5 6/4. AUS 2-0.
The 1 Singles saw Hilton and Pat W renewing acquaintances on court again. Both this year had made significant improvements in their respective games with good results and improved handicaps to show for it. Hliton had form with a victory in the juniors but sustained shin splints that same weekend. In an interesting opening both players started with a classical floor game with Pat W taking an early 3-1 lead. Gaining confidence Pat W started to open the shoulders mixing tight floor play with big winners and took the 1st set 6/3. Hilton opened up an early 3-1 lead in the 2nd set before Pat W levelled the match at 3 all with some power hitting. A riveting and long 7th game went to Pat W as did the match, claiming the first rubber for USA.
1 Singles Pat Winthrop def Hilton Booth 6/3 6/3. AUS 2-1.
The final singles kicked off at 1800 and Dan ‘ Thunder’ Williams had just come from a frenzied end of financial year day at work for his match against Dylan Ward. He showed no signs of fatigue as his relentless volleying, tight railroad and greater real tennis experience proved too much for his opponent as he raced to victory.
2 Singles Dan Williams def Dylan Ward 6/0 6/0. Aus 3-1
So the day of singles was completed with a 3-1 lead to the host nation. However it was centimetres from being 2 all as the 3rd singles could easily have gone both ways. The two teams headed to a local establishment for some food and a (quiet) beverage or two keen to recharge batteries before the doubles.
Day 2 – Doubles
The doubles started off with the 3 & 4s (Dunne and Carr v Gates and Pickin). Coach Pat usually the motivator of the pair was under the weather and busy fighting his own battles (namely headache, nausea and sleep deprivation). The American pair coming off a victory last night in the drinking games were keen to continue their winning run.
The first set saw the American team spend a large amount of time at the serving end as the Australian pair put in an error ridden display. Garrett’s ability to step in on his backhand wing and clobber the ball two-fisted was proving a particularly damaging. In the second set the Australians controlled the tempo of the game a lot better and with good communication and liberal time at the service end went on to close out the set 6/2. Just when it looked like the Australians were working their way to a victory the Americans rallied. In the third the matched seesawed with games going to the pair that controlled the service end. The game got to 4 all before the boys from down under finally rested control of the match away from the Americans.
3&4 doubles – Dunne & Carr def Gates & Pickin 4/6 6/2 6/4
In the 1 and 2 doubles Hilton and Dan played the match with Hilton up covering the galleries to limit any further damage to his already painful legs. With Dan playing capably at the back and the Australian pair avoiding Pat W in the majority of the rallies. They managed to close out the set 6/1 before the Americans managed to put some games together. Down 2/3 in the 2nd the Australians rallied and played through a tight 7th game to peel of the last 4 games of the match and retain the Clothier.
1&2 doubles – Booth & Williams def Winthrop & Ward 6/1 6/3
The third doubles of the day saw the Victorian pair of Williams and Carr play Ward and Pickin. The Australians played well in a relaxed win with the pair playing solid doubles with good court coverage and shot making.
2&4 doubles – Williams & Carr def Ward & Pickin 6/1 6/2
Following discussion between the captains of both teams Paul Rosedale was bought in to cover for Paris who pulled out due to injury. Winthrop and Gates cantered to an early 6/0 set lead with a large amount of winners and control of the service end. The Australians produced a better performance in the second set rallying from a 1/3 deficit to tie the game up at 5 all. Not being able to capitalise on a 40/30 set point proved crucial as Pat Winthrop calmly hit two grilles at deuce to close out the match and take the win for the Americans.
1&3 doubles – Rosedale* & Dunne lost to Winthrop & Gates 0/6 5/6.
Following the match the teams were privileged to enjoy a dinner in the Members at the MCG. A great meal, good company, a speech by the World Champ Rob and a trip after to the Richmond strip provided a fitting end to the 2 days of competition.
So in the end a 6/2 victory to the Australian team but this result doesn’t truly reflect how close the match was. The 3 singles and 3&4 doubles could easily have gone to the Americans and we would had a live 2&3 doubles to decide the match. The tournament was a success and thanks must go to RMTC for hosting the tourney, ARTA for their organisation, the Americans for travelling over and the various families that billeted players/hosted events. The members of the Australian team who are still eligible, will I’m sure, look forward to travelling to America in two years’ time to again participate in this great event.