International field to serve up treat

Last year's ladies' singles champion Philippa Coates with Jonathan Jempson
Last year's ladies' singles champion Philippa Coates with Jonathan Jempson

Rye Lawn Tennis Club’s 87th annual Invitation Tournament is poised to get underway on the club’s immaculate grass courts.

The popular event - which starts tomorrow (Friday) and continues until Munday - kicks-off 10 days of competitive tennis on the banks of the River Rother.

Once again there is a strong international flavour to the tournament’s 270 entrants, with 10 talented young players from Harvard and Yale universities in the United States competing prior to their biennial Prentice Cup (men) and Seabright Cup (ladies) matches against Oxford and Cambridge on the grass courts of Wimbledon later in August.

At Rye, they will find themselves up against tough opposition from a contingent from Slovenia, introduced to the tournament by former British ambassador in Ljubljana Andrew Page, which includes ex-Davis Cup player Gregor Krusic and former tennis professional Karin Lusnic.

Also in the field is New Zealand international Mark Hadley, and some strong players from Italy and Germany. Among the home-grown talent taking to the courts is Philippa Coates (last year’s winner of the ladies’ singles, doubles and mixed doubles), former ladies’ singles winners Anthea Stewart and Arabella Martin, Rye LTC coach and UK number one senior in her age group Frances Candy, rackets champions Willie Boone and Alex Titchener-Barrett, Tim Henman’s parents Tony and Jane and brother Richard, former tennis professional Robin Drysdale and recent All England LTC chief executive Chris Gorringe.

Last year’s men’s singles and doubles winner, Kent county player Jonathan Tassell, has been forced to withdraw with a motorbike injury.

The Junior Tournament, which follows from Wednesday to next Friday, also sees a strong field of youngsters from all corners of the UK, as well as France. The club’s Closed Tournament and Invitation Mixed Doubles will take place through the weekend of August 9 and 10.

Rye LTC’s annual programme also includes tennis matches against other leading clubs in the UK, participation in the Sussex and Wealden leagues, and matches against teams from several tennis clubs in continental Europe.

The club is also active in several other sports, including squash, rackets, table tennis, croquet and padel tennis. There is a growing junior tennis section and a regular programme of coaching for juniors throughout the year.

Rye LTC has recently purchased the field adjoining the grass tennis courts as part of a long-term project to develop and further improve the facilities for members.