Plenty of Contenders After First Day of Anthem Challenge
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
The opening day of the Anthem Club Challenge usually finds several teams in contention and Friday was no exception.
Six teams are within four points of the lead, but the bad news for the rest of the field is that one of them is ACAC.
The Chesterfield County club, formerly known as Briarwood, has won the past two events that determines the top club in the area each year. ACAC dropped only five (of 22) matches Friday in accumulating 40 points to top the list of 12 teams.
“We can’t win the tournament on the first day, but I don’t want us to lose the tournament on the first day,” said Jason Kinder, director of tennis at ACAC and captain of the squad, after play was completed at the Westwood Club.
“Probably the key to our success today was we came from behind in a few matches and we closed out some important matches that were tight. The team is playing well right now and they were ready for the challenge today.”
Right on ACAC’s heels is the host team, Westwood, at 38 points, followed by Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club and Dominion Club (both with 37 points) and the Country Club of Virginia and Salisbury Country Club (with 36 apiece).
Westwood has won five titles and CCV four, so either is capable of catching ACAC.
“We started strong and we finished strong,” said Miguel Castro, head pro at Westwood who works mainly with adults at the club. “If we can pick up in the middle (4.0s) tomorrow, we should be looking good to take over first.
“The 4.0s had a tough day today but there’s no reason they can’t come back tomorrow. Hopefully, we got the jitters and nerves out of their head today, and tomorrow we come back strong.”
All of the matches are held on Westwood’s clay courts, both indoor and outdoor.
“It’s helpful that we know how to play on clay,” said Castro. “It’s helpful that we know our indoor courts. Aside from that, it’s anybody’s game on any day. We don’t have to worry about getting lost. We know where we’re going.”
Burkwood, a small club located in Hanover County, is seeking its first championship.
“The best part of today, for us, was we won more than we lost of those third-set tiebreakers,” said Ann Abernathy, Burkwood’s captain. “We don’t always come out on the right end of those, but today I think we only lost two.
“Our 3.5s and 4.0s did pretty well. We’ve got pretty good depth. It’s a real close-knit community so it creates a camaraderie for the team. We had a pizza party on Monday night and we practiced tiebreakers the whole time.”
A 10-point tiebreaker is used in place of a third set whenever the teams split sets.
The rest of the 12-team field finds Willow Oaks Country Club (35 points) in seventh, followed by Raintree Swim and Racquet Club (33), Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club and Midlothian Athletic Club (each with 32), Hermitage Country Club (30) and Midlothian Tennis Club (28).
Although his team is ahead, Kinder doesn’t plan on letting them get overconfident.
“Tomorrow, we’ll wake up and go back to work,” he said. “That’ll be my message to the team in the morning. It’s just one day. We know it’s going to take a team effort three days in a row. We’ll be ready to go in the morning.”
Play begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and should wrap up around dark on Sunday.