This year’s Baltic Tennis Tournament, known as the Fehr Cup after the renowned shipping family that first gave their name and trophy to the competition 81 years ago, took place on the 14th July once again on the stunning grass courts of Surbiton RTC in South West London. In this part of the world it’s very much tennis season hot on the heels of Andy Murray’s win at neighbouring Wimbledon the week before. The 15 teams gathering for mid-morning coffees on what was a perfect summer’s day, were spurred on, eager to get on court, stretch arms and legs as well as take a peek during the warm ups, at who they’d be up against this year.
This has to be one of THE best ways of enjoying the shipping network; a pristine setting, an incredibly welcome lunch, of course washed down with Pimms, strawberries and cream not to mention grass courts unlike most that amateurs ever have a chance to play on. But most of all, the good natured rivalry across such wide ranging levels of ability, mean there’s far more to the day then just bat and ball. There’s tennis for everyone; as pairs knocked out of the main tournament then go on to an American Cup – a shorter competition featuring best of eight games in each stage rather than full sets.
Certain companies stand out for always bringing their game to the competition, AM Nomikos or Gibsons come to mind, but more recently others have emerged with intent, for example Affinity Shipbrokers, who got off to a keen start, looking to reclaim the cup after their company’s triumph in 2015.
The Baltic team, featuring new young blood Dominic Gavan with returning player Crispin Eccleston, had a challenging start staying neck and neck with the Howe Rob mixed two; Alex Lindsay & Cheryl Schofield. Eventually the Baltic managed to turn up the tempo, pulling ahead by 3 games in both sets to move through to the quarters to face the big Thurlestone pair, Tony Shadarevian and Zac Frei.
The notably sport-centric AM Nomikos fielded an impressive looking three pairs; their 1st team, made up of Louis Brooks and the towering Ben Regan, whose pummelling forehand many remembered from the 2015 cup, looked strong contenders to move swiftly through the competition. But alas, his recurring right arm injury struck again in the initial round, seeing Regan forced to switch play, part-way through to using his left hand – a valiant, if slightly cloddish-looking effort to stay in the competition.
Unfortunately Regan’s left, even with solid support from Brooks on his right, would be no match for the mighty serve of tennis club regular Christian Burmester, or even his steadfast Galbraiths compatriot Charles Dashwood, who managed to knock them out with the telling score of 7/5, 6/0.
On the other side of the tournament the usual strong showing from EA Gibson had kicked into full force, Andy Lawson and Chris Thompson calling an end to the tournament for Clarksons 6/2, 6/2 in the quarters, to then be put in front of Aneta Mundelova and Charles Chasty, the smart looking pair from Affinity.
The Affinity mixed couple, both excellent players, had overcome MOSK in the quarter final with a convincing 6/1, 6/2 victory before then being called up to face the unflinching Gibsons in the Semis. Affinity’s bid for top place though would falter there, with Mundelova struggling to manage, despite nobly playing through on a bought of tennis elbow in the onset of the Gibson serve, the Gibson volley and the awkward Gibson drop-shot on grass, to take only four games from their solid opponents overall.
This put Galbraiths digging deep and in need of bringing their ‘A’ game to the final against Gibsons while the Baltic pair took on Affinity for third place.
As the crowds gathered over at the final, the epic struggle for third around the corner kept on: After some reliable if defensive strokes, having found themselves just three games from victory and a place on the podium, the Baltic would only see their dreams melt in the Summer sunshine, as Affinity came back from the brink to solidify their well-deserved third place.
What a final it was; running to three sets the first of which seemed surely to be a success for Gibsons before eventually being stolen on tie-break by Galbraiths who held on courageously through the back and forth points-swing to the bitter end. This would be the breaking of them however, neither the Burmester serve or the fast footwork from Dashwood who seemed to reach and return the impossible on multiple occasions, were enough and the Gibson pair started to take control.
As Gibsons switched up a gear, fielding some clever returns and punishing drop shots from Thompson, not to mention added witty commentary from Lawson, the second set went their way by 5 games then the third and having found their groove, the ultimate set of the day too by 6/4.
The American Tournament would be won by Alan Kent Lemon and Fergus Duncan of Clarksons 1 and Stefano Laigueglia and Alex Whyte of Clarksons 2.
Sincere thanks on behalf of all that took part to Perry Perera and Costas Maramenides once again for organising and running the tournament so well as well as to Richard Fehr for generously arranging and presiding over the prize giving. This really is a fantastic event and anyone keen on taking part next year should email firstname.lastname@example.org to register their interest.