John Lightbody writes: A little anxious, but also glad, I arrived at Hove Park on Saturday morning for the start of the 2021 Tournament. Anxious for all the games and players I’d be looking after for the day – would I even be able to add up correctly? One slip and you’re gone! Glad, though, to see the sun out, players arriving and, at last, after a year’s break the Parks League End of Season Tournament about to get under way.
Now in its eighth year the Tournament has proved a popular event. Twelve teams, 72 players – some old faces but also some new. I was surprised as always by everyone’s enthusiasm. It wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated filling up the entry this year, with some clubs not able to field teams. Fortunately both Hove and Queens were able to make up the shortfall. It has been a strange year as we all emerge from the pandemic. In the end there were teams from Dyke Park, Hove Park, King Alfred, Queens Park, Saltdean and St Ann’s.
So the aim of the game is to play three pairs – usually a men’s, ladies’ and a mixed – in a fifteen minute session. The teams were split into two groups depending on their relative team strength. Each team played the other teams in their group once with the aim being to win as many games as possible in that fifteen minutes. The winner of each group would be the team with the most games won at the end of the day. With only six courts available at Hove it was going to be a tight timetable.
After explaining this, and the basic rules for the day, we were off. I was a little concerned that the timetable was going to slip little by little during the day. With the courts only booked till 6 pm and the presentation of the trophies to come it could be tight. My worries though were completely unfounded. As the games got under way and the time for a new match approached I was amazed how quickly the next teams were ready, champing at the bit for the next game. I needn’t have worried at all – it seemed like it was all running like clockwork.
All through the day it was lovely to see people so relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere. The sun kept shining, the talk kept flowing and most importantly so did the tennis! At the mid-way point it started to look very competitive in both groups, with only a few points separating the teams. After a couple of minor injuries and a bee sting to add to the excitement I could see there might be a climatic end to the day. As the final round started it looked like a three-way race in the top group between Dyke, Hove and Queens A. In the second group, with Hove A and St Ann’s tied in first place and Dyke A only one point behind, it was a similar story.
As the final results came in Group B seemed to have a winner emerging – Dyke A coming up from behind to snatch it away from Hove A and St Ann’s by a margin of three points. In Group A however it just got a little tighter. By one point ahead of a tied second place with Queens A and Hove, first place was tied between Dyke and Queens! There would have to be a play-off. Both teams were duly instructed that all three pairs were to play three straight games to decide the winner. I thought this would be a quick and easy way of sorting things out. Bearing in mind that during the day each tie was allowed 15 minutes with easily 16 or 18 games played between the three pairs, it was after an extremely competitive 25 minutes that Dyke pulled through with 5-4 victory over Queens! Here’s how the final tables looked.
An exciting day was topped off with presentation of the trophies. Mike Jenner, our President, was on hand to present the winners of both groups with their Shields. There then came the presentation of the League Trophies that had been sitting on the table all day catching the eye and wonderment of not just our own members but passers-by who were fascinated to see and hear the history of the Brighton and Hove Parks LTA. With the Shields presented in reverse order, Division 4 to Queens D, Division 3 to King Alfred A, Division 2 to King Alfred and Hove declared the League Champions, the day was all but over. And what a satisfying day it was too!
I have many people to thank for making the day work so well. Firstly to the Hove Park Tennis Alliance for not only making the courts at Hove Park available to us but also for their generosity in waiving the court hire fee for the day, allowing us to raise a grand sum of £378 for the Parks League to help us cover our running costs.
To Rita Mullins for supplying the balls, taking care of finances and being there to give advice and getting people organised.
To Mike Jenner for the presentation of the trophies.
And most importantly of all – to the 72 players who turned out for the day and the Club Secretaries who made it all possible.
See you all again next year.
- John Lightbody