The inaugural NSMTA National Senior Men’s Doubles Championships played out on the tennis courts at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs last weekend, the first time a national tournament has been held on Martha’s Vineyard. After the cancellation of all matches on Friday due to rain, the USTA event got underway on Saturday morning with 48 players from 11 states, including six Islanders, taking part. The men were competing in the 60, 65, 70 and 75 age divisions for a chance to win up to 300 points toward their USTA national ranking.
In the Men’s 60 and 65 divisions, the teams with the best and second best win/loss records were named champions and finalists, respectively. Robert Rippcondi (Vineyard Haven) and Mark Thompson (Jackson, Ms.) were the Men’s 60 Doubles champs, with Ward Jannuzzi (Sudbury) and Daniel Radler (Southborough) finalists, while Ed Cunningham (Lakewood Ranch, Fa.) and Larry Turville (Dunnellon, Fla.) took the 65 division crown over runners-up Bill Flynn (Mendon) and David Murachver (Framingham).
The Men’s 70 doubles took the winners of flights A, B, and C and played off in a championship round robin. William Ruth (Waban) and William White (Boston) won the title over finalists Tommie George (Northborough) and George Ulrich (Waterford, Conn.).
In the 75 division, which followed a semifinals/finals approach, Charles Niemeth (Greenwich, Conn.) and Henry Steinglass (Hartsdale, N.Y.) won the championship match 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 over John Swan (Brewster) and Edward Underwood (Naples, Fla.)
Tournament organizer Mas Kimball said in an email to the Times, “Although the number of players was a bit lower than we would have liked, most players were joined by their wives or significant others, and with the enthusiastic support of sponsors, local tennis players, and spectators, there was a very festive and competitive atmosphere all weekend.”
Competitors arrived by plane, fast ferry, Steamship Authority, and sailed from the Cape on their own boats, using them as both transportation and accommodation. One of the most enterprising and unplanned arrivals was aboard the Patriot at 1 am, after weather-driven flight delays caused a contingent from Florida to miss the last steamship from Woods Hole. “We set off in this small boat in the pitch dark, not knowing where we were going, with waves breaking over the bow — I was convinced my final hours were coming, and I would soon enter a watery grave. Either that or I expected sudden floodlights from an armed Coast Guard patrol boat to appear looking for drug runners,” said Ed Cunningham, who didn’t end up in a watery grave, arrived safely and went on to win the 65’s division.
A players party was held on Saturday night, which also included sponsors and their guests, committee members, host families who kindly housed players at no cost, and people who bought tickets just to join in the fun.
Kimball said that both the tournament and the players’ party were extremely well-received, and he hopes to have an expanded field for next year’s event.