After our successful 2005 championships, we were delighted to be back at Holyport Real Tennis Club for our 2006 event. For the weekend of 27th/28th May, we were made very welcome, and played lots of tennis, as well as having the chance to catch up with friends made last year and meet new ones.
The tennis was expertly organised by the pros Adam and Charlie, although Charlie had more important business to attend to over the actual weekend, as his wife had given birth just a few days earlier. We played a series of doubles games in groups on the Saturday, followed by a few games of singles too for a change of pace. As was the case last year, matches were played with handicaps and kept to time. The number of games won and lost was then recorded when the out-of-time bell rang. This arrangement kept us on schedule, which was vital with so many games to play. At one point, rain stopped play — very unusual for real tennis! A small leak had appeared in the roof, but Adam, perched on a ladder, was able to put a few towels on window ledges to allow play to resume.
Like last year, an excellent lunch was provided by Jill Newby in the bar area of the club. Play went on until 6pm, and then Saturday evening saw a good number of the players and supporters at the Belgian Arms for a pub meal and a couple of drinks. Not too late a night, though, as players didn't want to impair their play the next day.
The tournament was due to resume at 9am on Sunday, but Holyport kindly opened the club at 8am to allow the Irish visitors to squeeze in a bit more court time. The remainder of the qualifiers then got underway, picking up the singles matches where we left off on Saturday. Our honorary professional, Stef King of the Harbour Club, came to Holyport to catch up with everybody, and also gave Adam a break from marking the matches. Jill again provided a delicious lunch for everyone to enjoy while watching the tennis.
Jim Duncan and Mark Heffernan were the two finalists for the Open Final, played at a fairly significant handicap of Mark owe 30, Jim receive half-15. Despite facing such an uphill struggle for each game, Mark had the lead at several stages of the match, and the match went to the very last game, with the score at seven all. The deciding game then went Jim's way, allowing him to claim the title of 2006 Open Champion.
Mark's scores in the qualifying matches meant he was also eligible for the Irish Championship final, and after a short pause for breath, he was back on court facing defending Irish Champion Roland Budd across the net. This time, Mark had the handicap advantage, although only by receive half-15. An excellent forty minutes of tennis followed, much appreciated by the spectators. Many games and indeed points were very closely fought, and the end result was that Roland held on to his title 8–5.
IRTA chairman Mike Bolton gave a brief update on the Dublin court, and on the IRTA in general, pointing out that events such as this are a vital part of maintaining our momentum and vitality as an organisation. He also presented a copy of George Limb's book From Melbourne To Myopia to Holyport club as a token of thanks for their support.
The event could not have happened without the hard work of many people: professionals Adam and Charlie of Holyport, Bear North of the IRTA, and Doris Siedentopf of Holyport. Richard and Leslie McGregor very kindly provided accommodation for the Irish visitors. We are very grateful for the continued generous sponsorship of Investor Select Advisors. Finally, of course, we would like to thank everybody who took part in the event for making it such a success. We look forward to seeing as many as possible at next year's event, to be held at Bristol and Bath Tennis Club.
Many thanks to Sarah Hird for providing all the photographs on this page. Sarah is also to be commended for her hard work recruiting a good number of additional members for the IRTA over the course of the weekend!