Welcome back to our official EJMSL blog! Here, we will be looking back at the 15th edition of our amazing amateur tennis tournament; EJTT.
Its been a strange year for everyone, and our annual tennis tournament was due to be held in May 2020, but we had to postpone until September, but I must say, we were extremely lucky with the weather. We didn't have a drop of rain for the first 3 weeks!
Right lets get to it.
This was actually the first tournament we have spent money on to advertise, so it was good to see a record amount of singles entries since 2017, and a record amount of doubles entries since 2016.
Once again, 7 time champ Reece Foxon was the defending, but his opponent in last year's final was out. Unfortunately unable to play due to a wrist injury. This was just the 2nd tournament in 12 years that our 2016 champion, Matt Leadbetter has missed out on. Reece's nearest challengers were expected to be 2018 champion Ashley Jolly and debutant Kshitij Chauhan. Outside of them was the 07 & 08 champ Elliot Jones and the much improved Shiel Dadrah.
Ade Serrano was a new name on the scene, and with an 8.2 LTA rating, you couldn't rule him out. You can also never rule out best friends Daniel Nash & Joe Frost. Nash won the Masters in 2017, and both of them have improved year on year, despite never reaching the semis here.
The doubles featured perhaps the most competitive field we've ever had. The defending champions were Joe Frost & Dan Nash, but 6 times champions Foxon & Jones were back. However, the favourites were new pairing Chauhan & Jolly. Outside of those 3 you had the Lewis's, a dangerous team indeed, plus 4th seeds Gary Beazleigh & Paul Hayes, who were just concentrating on the doubles. And fans of EJTT would have been extremely excited to see two old faces in the doubles, returning after 9 years away. They refer to themselves as 'The slice is right'. 2010 quarter finalists Pat Newton & Martin Putman.
The draws were broadcasted live on Facebook and as ever it threw up some great ties. For a start, number 3 seed Kshitij Chauhan had been drawn into the same half as defending champ Foxon, and 8th seed Michael Springett was drawn into Foxon's quarter for a possible 3rd meeting in 5 years. Dadrah was the form player that the top players would have wanted to avoid, and he got a difficult draw, landing in Chauhan's quarter. Dan Nash was drawn into Jolly's quarter for the 2nd year in a row, while the other quarter was a possible match up between the 4th & 5th seeds; Jones & Serrano. The top 7 seeds went straight into round 2, with the number 1 seed Foxon straight through to the quarters.
The first round featured 16 players, and personally the two ties that excited me the most were Paul Clark v Isabelle Eustache & Simon Watson v Michael Lewis. Clark had recently just finished bottom of the EJMSL premier league, while Eustache had finished top of division 1, so a great match up on paper. Watson v Lewis had the makings of another close battle. With a lot of debutants in the draw, it was hard to predict a lot of the matches.
In the doubles, Frost & Nash were handed a really tough draw to defend their title, with a route to the final possibly featuring Lewis/Lewis in the quarters, followed by Chauhan/Jolly & Foxon/Jones. EJTT legends Martin Putman & Patrick Newton were handed a 1st round draw against another EJTT legend in the shape of Simon Watson, who was playing with his 5th different partner; his girlfriend Anna Johnson.
The order of play was out, and the tournament kicked off at 9am on Saturday 5th September at King George V playing fields, Sittingbourne. The opening singles match featured debutant George Collins, against 2 time quarter finalist Joe Frost, the highest ranked undseeded player. A tough draw for Collins, and so it turned out to be. Frost, the master of the whitewash, produced his 4th 6-0, 6-0 win in just 3 EJTTs. Ruthless.
In the doubles, it was Putman/Newton v Johnson/Watson. On paper this was a good match up, but the cobwebs were still showing on the rackets of Putman & Newton. Johnson & Watson ran out easy 6-1, 6-0 winners. The next match was arguably the match of the tournament, and definitely the longest. Debutant Michael Lewis was on the verge of pulling off a shock straight forward victory against 12th ranked Simon Watson. Lewis led 6-1, 5-2, and at 5-3, 40-15, he had 2 match points. But 3 time semi finalist Watson rallied, he battled back, took the set to a tiebreak, won that 7-1 and firmly swung the momentum in his favour. Watson had found his game, in the 3rd set he went 4-1 up and had 2 break points to make it 5-1, but couldn't take them. It was Lewis's turn to battle back, he got back to 4-4, but Watson went 5-4 up, and at 0-40 in the next game, Watson had 3 match points. But there was further drama, Lewis won the next 5 straight points to level at 5-5! By this point, both players were seriously flagging, and 2 games shared meant we were to finish with another tiebreak. Both players gave it everything, but it was Lewis that eventually came out on top, winning the tiebreak 7-4 and completing the victory in exactly 2 hours & 30 minutes. The 3rd longest match in our history. In the days other matches, two more debutants picked up wins. Andy Taylor beat Nick Leeks, while Kamil Mocar beat Ashley Watson. Both in straight sets.
Michael Lewis had to recover quickly, because he was in doubles action the following morning, and he and his Dad put in a very impressive performance to beat Isabelle Eustache & Riccardo Ragazzo, 6-3, 6-2. There was also a superb doubles win for the 4th seeds, Gary Beazleigh & Paul Hayes. They dispatched Andy Taylor & Ashley Watson for the loss of just 2 games.
In the afternoon, Riccardo Ragazzo won his first ever match in the main draw of EJTT. He beat Anna Johnson 6-0, 6-1. And in the final game of the day, we got to see Kshitij Chauhan's title credentials, he dazzled in a 6-3, 6-2 win, putting out a tough player in Joe Frost.
On Monday 6th September, it was the 4th seed's turn, Elliot Jones wasn't at his best, but he squeezed through, beating Kamil Mocar 6-4, 6-3, who had the 2 time champ worried at times. Wednesday was Michael Springett's turn. The 8th seed was at the peak of his powers, he thrashed debutant Said Chratou, who didn't do much wrong himself.
Thursday 10th saw a double bagel win for Shiel Dadrah over Ragazzo, and a three set thriller between 2 more debutants, Ade Serrano & Victor Malaschuk. The latter was just 2 points away from knocking out the 5th seed at 5-3, 30-0 up in the decider, but Serrano battled back to win 7-5 and book his quarter final place against Elliot Jones.
Friday 11th saw the first consolation match played, with George Collins gaining his first ever competitive tennis win, beating Nick Gardner on his 11th EJTT appearance. Paul Clark & Isabelle Eustache then played out another classic, Clark edged a very close first set on a tiebreak, but Isabelle wrapped up the 2nd 6-2. With darkness swiftly approaching, Clark conceded. Isabelle had become the first female since Siobhan Weston a decade ago, to reach the 2nd round at EJTT. Under the lights at Frindsbury LTC, 2018 champion Ashely Jolly joined the party. Though he was pushed hard by Andy Taylor, he came through unscathed 6-2, 6-4.
After such a busy first weekend, we only had 1 match the following weekend. Two time quarter finalist Dan Nash wasn't at his best, but he did enough to beat Michael Lewis 6-2, 6-4 to reach his 3rd quarter final in 4 years.
Monday 14th September saw the 2nd longest match of the tournament, and a match that broke 3 records. All going to Kshitij Chauhan. He won an enthralling quarter final against Shiel Dadrah 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-0 at Gravesham LTC. He smashed all previous records for winners. Hitting 36 off the forehand, 28 off the backhand, 64 in total. Chauhan had put down a statement, he was here to win.
The following day Michael Springett ended Isabelle's hopes of becoming the first female to reach a quarter final, and by Wednesday 16th, the consolation draw was in full swing. Malashchuk, S.Watson, Chratou & Clark all impressed, winning their consolation quarter finals in straight sets.
Saturday 19th, and we were down at Jackson's Field, Rochester. The first match was a quarter final between the 4th & 5th seeds. It was a close encounter, with a lot of deuces, but 2 time champ Elliot Jones reached a record 13th semi final, winning 6-3, 6-3. Ade Serrano was out, but a quality addition to the tournament, so hopefully he'll be back next year.
We decided to run a doubles consolation this year, and competing in the first ever match was Andy Taylor & Ashley Watson versus Martin Putman & Pat Newton. A 6-1, 6-1 win for the former. Then we had our first consolation semi final, featuring a familiar face in Simon Watson, and debutant Victor Malashchuk. The Ukrainian took the first set, but 2016 consolation winner Watson came back to win in 3 sets.
The last player, yet to play a match, was none other than the reigning champion. Reece Foxon had a bye into the quarter finals and was aiming for a record 8th title, and in his quarter final, he faced a familiar foe in Michael Springett. Their 7th meeting in total, and 3rd at EJTT. Springett has never beaten Foxon, but has won a couple of sets. At EJTT however, Springett has never managed more than 3 games against the number 1 seed. Springett though, came into this one on good form, with 2 winning matches under his belt. Foxon had only played competitively once this year. A chance of an upset perhaps? Not this time, Foxon looked in imperious form, losing just 2 games as Springett's game fell apart. A 12th semi final reached for Foxon. Only once has he lost at the quarter final stage, back in 2008 against Terry Whitehead.
The following morning featured our final quarter final matchup. Number 2 seed Ashley Jolly against number 6 seed Dan Nash. A rematch of the same quarter final last year, that Jolly edged in 3 sets. Nash had improved, could he reach his first semi final? The problem was; Jolly had also improved, he was terrific on the day, and a deserved winner. 6-3, 6-3. Our semi final line up was complete. It was to be Foxon (1) v Chauhan (3) & Jolly (2) v Jones (4)
We also had a doubles quarter final on the day, and a hungover Beazleigh & Hayes were pushed close by Johnson & Watson. Johnson looking to become the first ever female to reach the doubles semi finals. Gary & Paul won 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semi finals on their debut, where they would face 6 times champs Foxon & Jones. Or would they?
Monday 21st saw our 2nd consolation semi final, and it was a tight one. Paul Clark looked a frustrated figure at times, but he produced his best performance of the tournament so far, beating Said Chratou 7-6(3), 6-4. Clark would go on to meet Simon Watson in the final. Monday 21st also brought with it the news of a positive Covid-19 test for our number 1 seed, who had picked up the virus on Friday 18th or sooner. This left organisers with tough decisions to make. Would the tournament be extended or would Foxon be eliminated?
Answers came, and the decision was taken to extend the tournament to the weekend of October 3rd/4th, where Foxon would have to play a possible 4 matches.
Back to the action, and Saturday 26th saw the first spell of rain hit the tournament. How lucky we had been, to have 3 weeks of sun and no rain up to this point. The consolation doubles final went ahead Saturday morning, and Eustache & Ragazzo were the favourites, playing against Taylor & A.Watson. The match appeared to be going with script. The favourites were leading 5-2 in the first set, but Taylor & Watson turned the match on its head. They fought back and won 7-6(4), 6-1.
The following day was supposed to feature both doubles semi finals, but a communication error from the organisers caused one of them to be abandoned when both teams couldn't agree on a rescheduling time. Chauhan & Jolly subsequently withdrew, and Frost & Nash were into their 5th consecutive final having not played a match to get there. They had been due to play Lewis & Lewis in the quarters, but Lewis senior had his hand bitten by a dog, causing them to withdraw. Eustache & Ragazzo were then put through to face Frost & Nash on Saturday 19th. But this was also abandoned when Joe Frost couldn't get back in time from his Greek holiday on the 18th after a Cyclone hit the country. Yes these are true stories!
The other semi final went ahead in wet conditions, but with Foxon self-isolating, 2016 doubles finalist Scott Russell stepped in to replace him alongside Elliot Jones against 4th seeds Gary Beazleigh & Paul Hayes. A bold gamble from Jones, who knew if they lost, there would be no reprieve for Foxon. An incredible first set saw every player hold serve, and into a tiebreak they went. Beazleigh & Hayes led 5-2 in the breaker, and then had 2 set points at 6-5 and 7-6, but 3 consecutive points saw Jones & Russell fight back to take it 9-7. Incredible. The 2nd set went to a tiebreak as well, but it was more straightforward this time for Jones & Russell, who took it 7-4. Scott Russell had not played a match of any kind for 3 years, but played a huge part here, helping Foxon & Jones make it into their 6th final.
Tuesday 29th, and we were back at Frindsbury LTC under the lights for our first semi final, a rematch of the 2018 semi that Jolly won, beating Jones 7-6(5), 6-4. A combination of brilliant play from Jolly, and a poor game plan from Jones contributed to a 6-1 first set scoreline in favour of Jolly, and he was close to sealing a 6-1, 6-2 win. At match point down, Jones showed great resilience, he saved 6 match points in total, but ultimately ended up losing 6-1, 7-5. Jolly had reached his 2nd final in 3 years.
By Saturday 3rd, Foxon was available to play, and he took on 3rd seed Kshitij Chauhan on another rainy weekend. So this match was played indoors at Avenue tennis club, Gillingham. It was hard to call, both players came into the match in good form. But Foxon just seems to find his best tennis in this tournament, and although it took him 3 sets, he looked fairly comfortable against a very dangerous opponent. Credit to Kshitij, a genuine title contender, we hope he returns next year. Foxon had reached a record 10th EJTT final, astonishing.
And he wouldn't have to wait long to play it. The rain disappeared and it opened up a window of opportunity at 3pm. Reece had to find some energy from somewhere and get ready for a final against his 2018 nemesis Ashley Jolly. Their head to head record stood at 1-1, the venue was King's sports centre, Rochester. The final was a close one, but not of the highest quality, both Foxon & Jolly were not at their best, in fact it was possibly both their worst performances of the tournament. Foxon edged the first set on a tiebreak 7-5, and at 5-3 in the 2nd set he should of had the title wrapped up, but Jolly fought back, making it 5-5, before Foxon finally got over the line, winning 7-5. A record 8th EJTT title for Reece. Outstanding. He came into this tournament with very little match practice, and with his title and number 1 ranking on the line, but still walked away with both in tact. Ashley can be proud, he had a great tournament, and hopefully this is the 2nd final of a great rivalry between the pair.
Rain & lack of light was proving to be a real issue, and the last 2 matches of the tournament were postponed a week, but then scheduled and played on Saturday 10th October. The first was the consolation final, which was being played at Penenden Heath, Maidstone. Simon Watson was aiming to be the first player ever to win two consolation titles. He was up against debutant Paul Clark. A very even match up on paper. Watson showed his intentions from the start, he had saved his best performance till last, and it was a comfortable win for the 3 time semi finalist, who added a 2nd consolation title to the one he won in 2016. Simon ended the tournament with 20 aces to his name, which was 15 more than any other player, and took him above Jack Whitehead to number 1 on our all time aces list. Clark had a good tournament on his debut, and picked up a silver medal for his efforts.
The final match of our 2020 tournament was the doubles final. The two most successful teams taking each other on indoors, due again, to the rain. Foxon/Jones had played Frost/Nash before, back in the 2018 final, and they were comfortable straight set winners. So what could they do differently this time? On paper, they needed to play extremely well, and hope Foxon & Jones have an off day. And that's exactly what appeared to be happening early on. Frost & Nash came out firing, and it took their opponents by surprise. Elliot Jones in particular was really poor, but somehow they were hanging in there, in fact it was Foxon & Jones that had the first chance at 5-4 up, but Frost & Nash were playing well, the set went to a tiebreaker, and Joe & Dan got what they deserved, a 7-5 tiebreak win. This seemed like the wake up call that Foxon & Jones needed, and they rallied. A dominant 6-1 2nd set, levelled the contest. Unfortunately, for the first, and we hope only time, the final was to be decided by a championship tiebreak to 10. Once Foxon & Jones got their noses in front, they stayed there. Frost & Nash won a couple of epic points, especially one at match point down, but the title was won when Foxon served and Frost could only send his return wide. Credit must go to Joe & Dan for putting in a fantastic performance and making the final so close, but Foxon & Jones have never lost in the doubles at EJTT, and that record remained in tact as they won their 7th titles, and 6th together. Reece had achieved the double for a record 3rd time, taking him above his playing partner in that department.
For the first time in our history, the seedings for the singles event were 100% accurate. The number 1 seed beat the number 2 seed in the final. Seeds 3 & 4 went out in the semi finals, while seeds 5, 6, 7 & 8 exited at the quarter final stage. We know our tennis!
So there you have it, EJTT 2020 featured 28 players, competing over 5 weeks, at 12 different venues. 83 sets were played over 38 matches. There were 7 three setters, and 12 tiebreaks. 46 aces and 269 double faults. And at the end, Reece wins. Different year, same story.
Thanks to everyone who helped support the tournament this year, from the players, to spectators and all of you that just follow the results & updates on our social media. Stay safe and see you in 2021, where we may introduce a new mixed doubles event!