EJTT 2021 - The Review

Here we look back at the 16th edition of the EJ Tennis Tournament!

31 players in total were competing across 2 events (singles & doubles), which was our highest amount of entries since 2017. Reece Foxon was the defending singles champion, as well as the defending doubles champion with Elliot Jones, though they opted not to defend their title in 2021.

Reece Foxon - Defending Champion

Reece again was the strong favourite, he had won 5 out the last 7 EJTTs, only losing 1 match since 2012. His nearest challengers were again the usual suspects, Ashley Jolly, the 2nd seed and 2018 champion. Elliot Jones was the 3rd seed, and the ever improving Shiel Dadrah was at his highest ever seeding at number 4. Shiel was in red hot form, having beat Ashley Jolly for the first time recently and won the EJMSL Medway tennis summer league. Kamil Mocar is another player on the rise, he was the number 5 seed, and after missing the 2020 tournament with injury, 2016 champ Matt Leadbetter returned as the 6th seed. The 7th seed was Bearsted men's A team player, Stefano Santini, and the draw featured many dangerous unseeded players such as Brendan Felton, Anil Babu, Andy Taylor, and youngest player Hari Williams making his debut. It also saw a return of one of our legends. Two time runner-up in 06 and 07, Joe Bannan returned to the tournament for the first time in 13 years!

The Doubles event saw Elliot Jones & Andy Taylor as number 1 seeds, with their nearest rivals expected to be number 2 seeds Kamil Mocar and Carl Beckwith. However Joe Bannan & Jack Jones were also in the draw, as well as 2016 finalists Scott Russell & Simon Watson.

The draws were made live on Facebook on the 31st August and there were some great match ups. The 1st round featured just 4 players and threw up players that had just played each other in the EJMSL Medway tennis league. George Collins was again up against Carl Beckwith, who he beat a few weeks previous, and Ashley Watson drew John Lake. The pair has just battled out a 3 setter in nearly 3 hours with Watson eventually prevailing 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-2. The pick of the 2nd round matches was Hari Williams v Brendan Felton, and there were plenty of tasty 3rd round matchups. The top half of the draw looked tougher on paper, with Foxon (1), Dadrah (4), Mocar (5) & Leadbetter (6) all facing tough routes to the final.

The doubles draw threw up a huge 1st round match as Joe Bannan & Jack Jones were drawn to play the 2nd seeds Carl Beckwith & Kamil Mocar.

Kamil Mocar & Anil Babu

The tournament started on Saturday 4th September with Carl Beckwith & George Collins facing off. It didn't disappoint. Beckwith was just 2 points away from winning the first set, but Collins reeled off 4 games in row to come from 3-5 down to win 7-5. The 2nd set was tight throughout, went to a tiebreak, which Beckwith played superbly, hitting 3 aces on route to levelling the match. Beckwith broke immediately in the 3rd, but 5 successive games saw Collins take control, and he wrapped it up in 1 hour & 39 minutes, winning 7-5, (1)6-7, 6-2. Debutant Cliff Gay was up next against Nick Leeks, and he needed just 47 minutes to reach round 3, defeating Leeks 6-3, 6-0. The final match of the day saw 15 year old Hari Williams take on 48 year old Brendan Felton. It was a cracking match, could have gone either way, but Felton edged it 6-4, 7-6(3) in 1 hour and 18 minutes.

Just the 1 match on day two, with Andy Taylor claiming a 6-3, 6-3 win over debutant Jack Jones on a very tough court in Chatham.

Day three featured our only other 1st round match, and it was another long one but this time straight sets, as Ashley Watson beat John Lake again, 7-6(5), 6-1.

Day four saw Jack Ivory impress in his win over Louis Howard. 38 unforced errors didn't help Louis, but Ivory hit 12 forehand winners in a 6-3, 6-0 win. Then we had the first doubles match of the tournament, which saw 2016 finalists Russell & Watson beat doubles debutants George Collins & Josh Reed, though they had to save 2 set points in the 2nd set as they won 6-2, 7-5.

Day five saw Adam Budd fight through a severe hangover from a recent stag weekend to defeat debutant Rob Jefferys, 21 winners and 3 aces from Budd, who had now won 20 sets in a row in all our competitions, yet to drop a set to anyone.

Ashley Watson & Joe Bannan

Day six saw the long awaited return of Joe Bannan, and he was ruthless as he beat Ashley Watson 6-1, 6-0. He'd play 4th seed Shiel Dadrah next.

Day 7, and debutant James Jefferys was up against Paul Clark, a player he'd beaten in straight sets recently and who had only won 1 of his previous 13 matches. But Clark tore up the form book in what was the first upset of the tournament. He played superbly to win 6-1, 6-4. Later that day saw the first consolation match of the tournament, with Nick Leeks defeating John Lake 6-3, 6-1.

Michael Springett & Paul Clark

On to week two of the tournament and Paul Clark's reward for beating Jefferys was a 3d round matchup against 8th seed and former finalist Michael Springett. Springett came through untroubled 6-1, 6-2.

Later in the day we got to see the defending champion start his campaign, but it wasn't all plain sailing for Reece Foxon, he cruised the first set, but Andy Taylor took the 2nd 6-4, before Foxon won 6-0, 4-6, 6-0. This was the first time Foxon had dropped a set before the quarter final stage since 2008! It was then the turn of two time champion Elliot Jones, but he was up against Adam Budd, who was on a remarkable run of 20 straight sets in the EJ tennis competitions. Budd put up a good fight, but Jones's serve did the job, as he came through 6-2, 6-3.

Day 10 started off with Ashley Watson & John Lake defeating Angelica & Riccardo Ragazzo 6-3, 6-3 in the doubles 1st round. Then it was the turn of the 4th seed Shiel Dadrah, but he had a tricky match up against two time finalist Joe Bannan. Bannan fought hard, but Dadrah was just too consistent, coming through 6-4, 6-2.

Second seed Ashley Jolly started his campaign for a 2nd title on Day 11 against debutant Jack Ivory. Again it wasn't all straightforward for Jolly. Ivory showed flashes of brilliance, and can take heart from a respectable 6-2, 6-3 loss.

On Day 12 Hari Williams and James Jefferys progressed to the consolation semi finals. Williams beating Nick Leeks 6-1, 6-1, while Jefferys beat Ashley Watson 6-3, 6-4.

Day 13 saw the final 2nd round match take place, with Anil Babu beating George Collins 6-0, 6-1. Jack Jones then beat Carl Beckwith 6-1, 6-4 to reach the consolation semis. But he couldn't repeat the job in the doubles, with Bannan & Jones losing to 2nd seeds Beckwith & Mocar 6-3, 6-4.

Day 14 featured our first doubles semi final. The number one seeds were in fine form, Jones & Taylor defeated Lake & Watson 6-0, 6-1. Jones was into his 8th doubles final.

Day 15 saw round 3 in full swing, and the first seed to fall! Anil Babu beat 5th seed Kamil Mocar 6-2, 6-3. This was the first time a seed had been beating by an unseeded player since 2017. The 2nd match was particularly exciting on paper, but is failed to live up to the hype, as 6th seed Matt Leadbetter beat Brendan Felton comfortably 6-1, 6-3. This was Brendan's heaviest defeat in any of our competitions.

Cliff Gay & Stefano Santini

Lastly we saw a clash between two of our golden oldies! 7th seed Stefano Santini took on Cliff Gay, with neither player able to make their age an excuse, both 58 years young. Santini looked impressive though, winning 6-1, 6-0. He'd play 2nd seed Ashley Jolly next.

On day 16 we saw a shock in the doubles! Second seeds Beckwith & Mocar were sent packing by 2016 finalists Scott Russell & Simon Watson. Watson was into his 4th doubles final after the 7-6(4), 6-3 win.

Day 17, and it was quarter final time! 4th seed Shiel Dadrah was up against Anil Babu. Shiel took the first set 6-3, but found himself 5-2 down in the 2nd set, before reeling off 5 straight games to reach the semi finals for the first time! Then it was seed 2 versus seed 7. Jolly v Santini, an exciting prospect on paper. The match started tightly, then at 3-3 Santini appeared to injure himself when stretching for a ball. He played on briefly, but at 5-3, 30-0 down he retired, unable to continue. A big shame for him and us, the match had been a great spectacle. Who would play Jolly in the semis? It was to be Elliot Jones again, after a straightforward 6-1, 6-2 win over Michael Springett. Jolly & Jones would battle it out in the semis for the 3rd time in 4 years, with Jones yet to get the better of his opponent.

On Day 18, George Collins reached the consolation semi finals. He beat Rob Jefferys in his quarter final 6-2, 6-3. George was back in action on day 19, he and partner Josh Reed picked up their first doubles win, beating the Ragazzos 6-1, 6-4 in the consolation semis.

The tournament then took a 2 week break and returned on Saturday 9th October. It was Collins again in action, but this time beaten in the consolation semi finals by the impressive 15 year old Hari Williams, 6-2, 6-1.

Shiel Dadrah

Sunday 10th October 2021 was an unbelievable day for the underdog today in EJTT for many reasons. Our first match of the day was at Gravesham LTC, where Matt Leadbetter ended a 7 match losing streak against number 1 seed and defending champion Reece Foxon. The match started with 5 consecutive breaks, before Matt held from 0-30 to make it 4-2. The crucial 7th game went to deuce 5 times but Matt broke again before serving the set out confidently. The 2nd set started the opposite, with 4 consecutive holds. In the 5th game the rain began to fall, and as the court got slippy, the players produced a rally of 41 strokes. Leadbetter then broke to lead 3-2, before the players went off court for 20 minutes. When they returned, the 2016 champ moved ahead 5-2. But the defending champion fought back, Foxon won 3 games on the bounce. He then served, and 2 unforced errors from Matt saw him go up 30-0, but the 6th seed showed great mental strength to stay in it and break Foxon for the 7th time. Matt then successfully served out the match, winning MP at his first opportunity. This was the first time Reece has lost before the final since 2008. A huge win for Matt.

Our second match was a 3rd semi final meeting in 4 years for the number 2 & 3 seeds. Jones had never beaten Jolly, with Jolly on a 5 match winning streak against Jones.

The first set saw 9 consecutive holds, In the 10th game Jones was finally rewarded, taking the first set 6-4 on his 7th break point. The 2nd set started well for the 2018 champ, he broke Jones immediately but was then broken straight back, there were then 3 holds of serve, before Jones broke again to lead 4-2. There wasn't to be any more holds of serve, Jones tried to serve it out at 5-3, but couldn't, and at 0-40 in the next game, he had 3 MPs. Jolly saved the first, but on the 2nd he put a backhand approach shot wide. Jones was into his 4th EJTT final!

Two days later, Jones & Taylor wrapped up the doubles title, beating Russell & Watson 6-0, 6-3.

Day 23, and it was time for our 2nd semi final. 2016 champion Matt Leadbetter went in as a slight favourite against 4th seed Shiel Dadrah. After all, Leadbetter had just knocked out the defending and 8 time champion. This was the match of the tournament. Leadbetter started well, breaking to lead 2-0, but Dadrah then won 6 straight games to take the first set 6-2. At 5-2 in the 2nd set, it was looking look a routine win for Dadrah. But reaching your first EJTT final isn't easy. Despite reaching 30 or deuce in every remaining game in the 2nd set, Dadrah saw his lead evaporate as Leadbetter roared back to take the 2nd set 7-5, just as Dadrah had done himself to Anil in the previous round. Leadbetter was in the flow now, and 10 straight games saw him reach the brink of a 5th final, he led 5-0 in the final set. Shiel won the next game, then Leadbetter looked on his way at 5-1, 40-0 up with 3 match points. In a remarkable game, Dadrah fought back won 10 of the next 11 points as he got back to 5-3. He couldn't, could he? Shiel then had a break point chance to get back to 5-4, but Matt this time held on, showing his mental strength and making it into his 5th final, winning 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. An incredible match.

The Final - Elliot Jones (3) v Matt Leadbetter (6)

Two days later and we had our final. Jones v Leadbetter, 3 versus 6, two titles versus one, and with their EJTT head to head record poised at 2-2.

The players exchanged breaks at the start of the match, but then Jones took control. It was more a case of who could hold serve, and Jones managed this twice to Leadbetter's zero. 6-2 Jones, sealed with an ace down the T.

The second set was a similar story, and Jones took it 6-3 on his first match point to win his 3rd EJTT title and first since 2008! A brilliant tournament for Jones who didn't drop a set, nor was he taken to 7 in any set.

Our Champion

What a tournament! That concludes our 16th EJ Tennis Tournament. In my opinion, its been our best Tournament since 2016, and definitely the highest standard, thank you to all our participants and spectators, you all made the tournament so special. Elliot Jones claimed his 3rd singles title 🏆 putting him outright 2nd on the list for titles, Reece has 8 🏆. It was a double win for Jones as he and Andy Taylor won the doubles title. This is the 6th time the double has been done, with Elliot and Reece achieving it 3 times each.

Here are the stat leaders:

Most Aces: Jack Ivory & Michael Springett (4)

Double Faults: Andy Taylor (23)

First Serve %: Cliff Gay (87%)

First Serve Pts Won: Carl Beckwith (69%)

Net Pts Won: Paul Clark 5/6 (83%)

Winners: Matt Leadbetter (67)

FH Winners: Matt Leadbetter (44)

BH Winners: Matt Leadbetter (23)

Unforced Errors: Matt Leadbetter (141)

FH Unforced Errors: Shiel Dadrah (73)

BH Unforced Errors: Matt Leadbetter (70)

Longest Rally: M.Leadbetter v R.Foxon (41)

Longest Match: M.Leadbetter 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 S.Dadrah (1:57)

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