After a year’s hiatus, the Third Annual Wilmington Tennis Open made its return this past weekend, and the players, organizers and fans couldn’t have been happier to be back in action, as 40 participants combined for a memorable day under steamy conditions at both Wilmington High School and the Boutwell School.
Like pretty much every other sporting event last year, the Wilmington Tennis Open was canceled to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with a new year and chance for a fresh start, tournament organizers Wilmington High Girls Tennis coach Matt Hackett, Wilmington High Boys Tennis coach Rob Mailey and Kathleen Reynolds put together a great day for everyone involved. All proceeds from the tournament went to support Friends of Wilmington Tennis, a local group founded by Reynolds, who support tennis throughout Wilmington, but particularly the Boys and Girls Tennis teams at Wilmington High.
The main goal of Friends of Wilmington Tennis is to grow the game of tennis in Wilmington, and with several local participants each year, the Open Tournament is certainly evidence that they are doing just that. But the tournament also continues to draw players from surrounding towns as well, and this year was no exception, as players competed in three separate divisions, Boys Singles, Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles.
It was a good turnout. The first year might have been bigger, but this was more than last time,” Hackett said. “And we had some really great people who came out to play. We had some really nice boys in the singles tournament, with kids not just from Wilmington, but from Billerica, Burlington and Central Catholic. It was a little more diversified than in years past, so it was great to see people from other towns coming out.”
Making the day even better was that once action got underway, there was some great tennis throughout the day, starting in the boys singles where a pair of Wilmington High teammates, sophomores Anuj Gandhi and Sidd Karani, squared off in the finals, with Gandhi coming out on top by a score of 8-6.
“That was a great match, with a bunch of long rallies,” Hackett said. “That was the fourth match of the day for both of them, so they were both very tired, but boy, did they play well. It was a really entertaining match to watch.”
In mixed doubles, the team of Alex and Alise Ritterhaus of Lynn combined to pick up a hard fought 8-5 win over fellow Lynn residents Sam Duong and Kim Ma. The group not only provided some great tennis, but some great entertainment off the courts as well.
“I told them probably the best way to describe them would be to put Friends and Seinfeld together,” Hackett said. “They were just so much, so hysterical, all of them. It was definitely great to see some players from other towns in there. It gives us confidence to keep this going.”
In men’s doubles, the father-son duo of Jeff Towne and Rechab Towne came out on top, pulling out an 8-5 win over Sam Stallings and Griffin Castergine of Melrose. Stallings is in fact the head coach at Melrose High and Castergine was his senior captain and number one singles player this past season. But the Town duo had just enough to get past them in the finals, just as they had defeated the duo of Gandhi and Karani who played together in doubles.
“Jeff is 65 years old, and he plays so well. He is as fundamentally sound as we have seen. He is just so accurate,” Hackett said. “They both played really well. That was another great match.”
The tennis was indeed great all day long and everybody enjoyed themselves despite the intense heat on Saturday, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees at times. Everything ran as smoothly as possible, but Hackett knows that hosting a successful tournament like this doesn’t happen overnight, as there is a lot of work and several months of planning behind the scenes. While Hackett certainly played a big role in making the tournament a success, he deferred credit to Mailey and Reynolds, with Reynolds continuing to help out, even after moving out of state recently.
“All credit goes to Rob and Kathleen. Kathleen moved to New Mexico, but she still handled all the registrations and so many other things to help us get organized. I just can’t say enough about what she has done for us every year of the tournament and this year as well,” Hackett said. “And Rob put in just a herculean effort coming up with fair first round matches. That is very hard to do, but Rob does a great job of putting it all together.
“Rob and Kathleen put in a ton of work. It just couldn’t happen without them. Wilmington is lucky to have them.”
Mailey for his part, also deferred credit to his fellow organizers.
“It was really a great day for everyone involved,” Hackett said. “Matt did a great job, and Kathleen from afar did a great job as always. We can’t thank her enough. There is a lot that goes into a tournament like this. The Town Crier putting it in the paper for three or four straight weeks certainly helped and we posted flyers on all the courts in Wilmington. And then of course we sent out lots of emails, and I am always at the courts in Wilmington reminding people about it.”
But as much fun and as much of a success as this year’s tournament was, Mailey is hoping for even bigger and better things going forward.
“It was great to have so many players from all over this year, and I think it will just get larger and larger as the years go by,” Mailey said. “We have been mostly promoting it in town, but hopefully it will just keep growing and more and more people will want to play.”