For tournament organizers, the day started early. It’s not just a question of reassembling every morning to make the courts shine in every way–it’s a matter of pride that the tournament is presented in the most professional way possible–every day for every player.

There are signs to put up, tents to assemble, tables, chairs, sponsor signs, general tidying and more. This year’s Sunday finals’ set up began early on Saturday morning as, for the first time ever, the LWSPO Men’s and Women’s Singles finals were live-streamed. Scaffolding went up and the crew from Roll Focus made sure everything was ready to go.

Eyes on the prize

Centre court was prepared with trophy tables, umpire’s chairs, sponsor signs and score cards. As match time approached, an army of officials began to gather along with a group of ball kids–the atmosphere was charged–it was time for the players to take the court. Commentary for the live stream was provided by local legend and past Stanley Park Open Champion, Robert Bettauer.

Alessia Cau showing striking form.
Jena Cheng shows her determination.

First up was the Women’s Singles final. After the official toss of the coin, the players warmed up and the crowd settled in to watch. Unseeded Jena Cheng and 16-year-old Alessia Cau, the third seed, faced off. It was a battle to behold. Both competitors showed impressive power as they slugged it out from the baseline. The difference between the two women was slim with shots missed by mere inches, but in the end, Cau proved to have the edge, winning 6-4, 6-4. .

Women’s Open winner, Alessia Cau and finalist, Jena Cheng.

At 1:00 p.m., the Men’s Open final began. The heat was on–literally. By 1:00, the temperature had risen significantly, especially on the courts. Riaan Dutoit, the third seed, and Henry Ren, the fifth seed, took to the stage. The crowds gathered once again as the warm up took place. Once the play started it was clear that serving was going to play a big part in the outcome. Ren quickly got the edge in the first set, but Dutoit battled back– he just couldn’t find a way to break through. The second set began with a break of serve as Ren went up 2-0. Dutoit put on a heroic effort to draw level but Ren held him off to win 6-4, 6-3.

Riaan Dutoit battled for every point.
Henry Ren gave his all.

Both Men’s and Women’s finalists battled hard to get to the final and they did not disappoint, providing a level of tennis worthy of any stage. It was a privilege to watch.

Men’s Open winner Henry Ren and finalist Riaan Dutoit.

NTRP wrapped up today, with finalists in all events working hard and fighting to the last point. Also on deck was the U12 Girls’ compass-draw event which gave the participants a chance to play lots of tennis on a perfect day.

As everything wound down and wrapped up, tournament staff gave a sigh of relief at a job well done–despite rain delays, there were few hitches in the 17-day stretch–and that was down to the tireless work of Tournament Organizer Max Korkh. Planning an event of this size is a bit like staging a drama–except no one knows what the outcome will be.

Shakespeare wrote “the play is the thing!” and while his context was different, his intent was to use the play to show the truth. Over the course of the last 17 days, a truth has been revealed. The play is the reason that we hit a ball in the first place, and why we keep doing it. It’s why people gather to watch–family groups, friends–old and new–acquaintances and strangers. We are all sharing in the play, whether we actively compete, play for fun, or perhaps, have only just held a racquet for the first time.

A touching moment that reminds us what it’s all about.

It struck this writer as the stage was set for the drama of live sport, that tennis is a reflection of life, just like theatre. There is struggle, redemption, victory, pain, loss, and joy. Tennis gives us all a chance to play, to strive and to share in something greater than ourselves. It brings us together and teaches us that win or lose, the Play is the thing.

One last Stanley Bark Open

Dawson, one of the ball boys, and Toby!

A huge thank you to all the sponsors, without you we could not put on this spectacular event.

For all the photos, click the Flickr link!