Love at first set: A tennis love affair

A real doubles racket.

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Beth Mazza reacts after missing a shot during the Love at First Set tournament. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Tennis Center (VTC) held their 19th annual Love at First Set mixed doubles tennis tournament this past weekend. All the proceeds from the competition will go to aid Dana-Farber Cancer Research.

Darren Belisle and Lucia Hayman were crowned champions of the 3.5 and up, a more advanced draw, while Shawn and Susie Schofield went undefeated in the 3.5 and under, a less advanced draw.

Skip Dostal and Tammy King lost in final of the 3.5 and higher draw. The game was well matched. Darren’s fierce serves were evenly matched by Skip’s quick movement around the court, while Lucia and Tammy both had many crucial points. “Darren and Lucia have very few weaknesses; we had to hit perfect shots to get points,” said Mr. Dostal in an interview with the Times after the game.

Over the course of the weekend, 15 couples batted for a top spot in their draw. With many familiar faces, the tournament was friendly and polite. “This tournament is enjoyable because it pairs men and women, changing the dynamic of the usual games,” said Chuck Scott to the Times. Mr. Scott is a regular competitor in many of the wintertime tennis tournaments held at the VTC.

“The tournament allows for a change of pace in my usual tennis routine,” said Mr. Scott. “We call it the winter thaw tournament; it keeps us interested in competitive tennis,” he added.

The games were well matched, with many going to the final point. Although the games were close, mixed doubles offered a different type of tennis. “Playing mixed doubles brings out a relaxed, social aspect of tennis that many of the competitors are not accustomed to,” said VTC tennis pro Connie McHugh.

Familiarity with each of the competitors offers its own set of challenges. “The mixed doubles makes it more competitive, and it’s much less drama,” said Beth Sawyer, a competitor in the tournament. “We know each other’s game so well that we have to outsmart each other to win points.”

“Playing with couples of different skill levels gives me the chance to improve my game,” said Susie Schofield, winner of the 3.5 and under draw.

Kyle Howell, a trainer at the VTC, has competed in the tournament for the past three years. He said, “I started getting into tennis a few years ago, and have been improving my game ever since. Playing in these tournaments gives me a chance to develop my tennis technique. In addition, we are playing to support a great cause, which is important.”

“We like to donate to an organization where the proceeds go directly to research. I chose Dana-Farber Cancer Research because all of the proceeds for the tournament will go directly to aid cancer research,” said Ms. McHugh.