Strong American challenge for Rye tournament

There will be a strong American challenge as Rye Lawn Tennis Club hosts its 91st Annual Invitation Tournament from today (Friday) until Monday.

2017 Rye men's singles winner Oscar Podlewski with Rye LTC chairman Jonathan Jempson.
2017 Rye men's singles winner Oscar Podlewski with Rye LTC chairman Jonathan Jempson.

Ten talented young players from Harvard and Yale will be competing at the Military Road club prior to their biennial Prentice Cup (men) and Seabright Cup (ladies) matches against Oxford and Cambridge on the grass courts of Wimbledon next week.

At Rye, they will find themselves up against some tough opposition. In the men’s singles, last year’s winner Oscar Podlewski returns to defend his title, along with Kent county player and 2017 runner-up Lewis Burton, one of the highest ranked players to compete in the tournament.

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They are joined by talented 16-year-old junior Oscar Weightman and top Surrey county player Jamie Whiteford, as well as New Zealander Mark Hadley - taking a tilt at a fourth Rye singles title - along with former world rackets champion Willie Boone and his son Ned, Polo Farm coach Ben Roger and former tennis professional Robin Drysdale.

The men’s doubles will also no doubt bring some hard hitting and devious tactical play to the courts from defending champions Burton and Hadley, as well as last year’s runners-up Whiteford and Rupert de Laszlo.

In the ladies’ draw, the four seeded Americans will come up against some experienced opposition from Bolivian player Diana Kyllmann and Julia van Rosendael from Amsterdam, as well as Kent and Essex players Sarah Cantlay and Stephanie Cornish, Queen’s first team member Annabel Watson and Rye LTC coach Frances Candy.

Last year’s ladies’ singles winner Victoria Brook is not defending her title, but returns to Rye to compete in the mixed doubles with Nicolas Janssen, having been narrowly defeated by Cantlay and Oscar Podlewski in the 2017 final.

Cantlay and Podlewski will be defending their title against a strong field which includes sports commentator John Inverdale and his daughter Josie - a semi-finalist in last year’s ladies’ singles - and Hurlingham coach Ben Nash partnering his mother Jane, who coaches at Eastbourne.

The ladies’ doubles draw also contains some powerful contenders, with previous winner Annabel Watson playing alongside van Rosendael and Yorkshire-born Jennifer Ren, an ex-circuit player new to Rye, teaming up with Katie Purnell.

Among the younger locals taking up the challenge are Louis and Luc Duvoisin from Rye, and Camber resident Martha Holt - the grand-daughter of Bimby Holt who, as chairman of Rye LTC, ran the tournament for many years.

The club’s “oldest playing member”, Peter Woodroffe, will be taking part in his 64th tournament this year.

The action is ongoing throughout the weekend, with the finals being contested on Monday afternoon. Members of the public are welcome to come and watch.

The Annual Invitation Tournament kicks-off 10 days of competitive tennis on the club’s immaculate grass courts on the banks of the River Rother.

The Junior Tournament, which follows from Wednesday to next Friday, also sees a good number of local youngsters taking part, as well as others coming to compete from further afield.

The club’s Closed Tournament and Invitation Mixed Doubles will be held through the weekend of August 4-5.

Rye LTC’s annual programme also includes tennis matches against other leading clubs in the UK and participation in the Sussex County and Wealden leagues.

The club is active in several other sports, including squash, table tennis and croquet.

There is a rapidly growing junior tennis section, and a regular programme of coaching for adults and juniors throughout the year.

A number of junior players have competed this year in a Rye LTC Team Challenge, an LTA initiative which saw more than 20 children on several occasions taking part in 10-minute matches over a two-hour period. The club also fields an under-16 boys’ team in the Sussex League.

Rye LTC recently purchased the field adjoining the grass tennis courts as part of a long-term project to develop the facilities for members and to promote and improve community participation in tennis.

See also: * British players rise to the challenge in Rye* Big win puts Rye 31 points clear at topBenefit from an ongoing discount on your Observer by joining our voucher membership scheme. Once you’ve subscribed, we’ll send you dated vouchers which can be exchanged for your paper at any news outlet. To save money on your Observer, simply click here (