By James Zug
Thirty-nine pairs of fathers and sons came to New York in April for the 5th annual U.S. Father & Son nationals. The solid numbers in the five draws were supplemented in the full gallery by the robust crowd on hand at the Racquet & Tennis Club for the World Racquets Doubles championship, which was going on right next door. The metronomic shout of “Play!” and the metallic smack of the racquets ball against the slate walls seemed to echo in the doubles courts (an old racquets court after all) with extra hard-hitting all weekend.
The main draw has, after half a decade, solidified into a contest of who might beat the Parks. For the third consecutive year, Steve & Greg grabbed the open title. Two years ago they barely got it, running into tough competition in every round and escaping with a five-game win in the finals against the defending champion Simontons. Last year, they were four points from losing to the Quicks in the semis before conjuring up a 15-12 in the fifth escape; in the finals they overcame the Simontons in four. This year, they dropped just a single game in their four matches to Sandy & Josh Schwartz in the quarters. Displaced to the left wall, Greg Park hit with overwhelming juice. He is an up-and-coming player, having begun playing in ISDA events this winter, and he reached the quarters of the Paypal World Hardball Doubles in San Francisco a few weeks later, partnered with Father & Son tournament director, Morris Clothier.
A number of teams were scrambling for the chance to face the Parks in the final. The Simontons were the No. 2 seeds but were shocked in a tightly-contested quarterfinal by John & Coly Smith. The Smiths then lost to Bill & Will Broadbent, perennial contenders for the title. It was the most entertaining match of the weekend in a way, with the two striplings, Will and Coly, covering most of the court, yet most of the points still came down to their fathers’ abilities to handle the heat and convert openings.
The age-group categories (played at the New York Athletic, University, Union, and Heights Casino clubs) were just as riveting. Ron & Taylor Tutrone won the 17s. It was not surprising, as Taylor is a top junior, having earned a national singles ranking of 3 in the boys 17s this past season.
Peter & Spencer Stokes, who, unseeded, snagged the under 13s two years ago, added the 15s to their growing pere et fils collection (who can win all five national divisions first?).
The 13s had seven teams, but it was hardly in doubt which one should come through. Last year Chris & Carson Spahr won the 13s with a five-game win in the finals over Ted & Hayes Murphy. This year Carson was 11 years old and showed such flashes of racquet-work brilliance that some observers were reminded of his legendary grandfather, Kit. The Spahrs overcame the Murphys again in the finals. It was not easy for the Spahrs, with Hayes holding a No. 8 singles ranking in the under 15s, while Carson was No. 26 in the under 13s (and No. 84 in the under 15s). The Spahrs have two more years of eligibility in the Father & Son 13s, but at this rate of improvement, they might move up a draw—or two.
The century had vibrant geographical strength, featuring players from San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. It looked like a rematch of the 2006 finals were in the offing, with John & Eric Vlcek and the Jim Zugs pointing towards each other, but Eric aggravated a hip-flexor at the end of the Vlcek’s match with Jack & Andy Seitz and defaulted the rest of the tournament. The Zugs, with wins over the Seitzs and the David Vahlsings, thus became the fourth different team to win the four-year-old century draw.