Three Chopt Earns First Autumn Cup Title

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Three Chopt Earns First Autumn Cup Title

For each of the last three years, Three Chopt Recreation Club has finished runner-up in the Autumn Cup tournament, a weekend of competition and camaraderie between area clubs and rec associations held at Avalon Recreation Association.

This time the outcome was different. Three Chopt took the lead with a huge second day and held on to claim its first Autumn Cup.

“This is an awesome feeling,” said a grinning Rob Johnston, director of tennis at Three Chopt and captain of the winning squad.

Three Chopt finished with 83 points, which left them four points ahead of Avalon, with one match pending because of rain that delayed the matches on Saturday. But the most points Avalon can muster is 81, leaving them trailing by two.

This was the ninth edition of the Autumn Cup, which utilizes the U.S. Tennis Association’s rating scale by combining those numbers to form teams from 5.0 to 8.0, but only the fifth time that Three Chopt had participated in the event.

“We had such a strong turnout the first year we competed in it, which I knew would happen,” said Johnston. “There was so much excitement. We always have a year of practice and challenge matches to see who is going to compete for our club.

“However, I always try to get as many people in it as possible, so they can experience the event. Playing for the club, and how friendly it is with the other seven clubs. Once we got through that first year, it was just a matter of time.”

It was frustrating to Johnston and his members, though, to come in second three years in a row.

“The past three years, I’ve been telling them, ‘We’ve been in second place, so let’s try to get it done but let’s have some fun at the same time,’” Johnston said. “’Get your partner now, so we can get as many teams as possible.’

The tide turned in their favor on the second day, when Three Chopt only dropped three matches to overtake first-day leader Metro Richmond Tennis Club. MRTC had 28 points on Friday, while Three Chopt finished with 26 and Avalon was third (25).

“MRTC did awesome the first day,” said Johnston, standing in the darkness on Sunday evening. “But we only lost three matches [Saturday] and three or four [Sunday]. Every single level had great partnerships … great matchups.”

Johnston contributed to his club’s total with a victory in the 8.0 men’s No. 1 doubles match.

“I try to instill relaxation and mental toughness into my club mates,” Johnston said. “But even after my match tonight, I felt like I had won the U.S. Open because I got the monkey off my back. I won a match and I went to my knees. That’s the feeling I have right now.

“I just love it so much for my club. Just to experience something like this is just awesome. We’re going to have a huge party.”

IMG_0759Avalon has won the most Autumn Cups (five), while Ridgetop Recreation Association is second with three. Avalon trailed Three Chopt by three points (55-52) heading into the final day but couldn’t make up any more ground.

“They had a really good team,” said Avalon’s co-captain, Jack Blanton. “We had a good team. Three Chopt was a little better today.

“They’ve been trying real hard. I give them credit. They did a real nice job. They beat my co-captain Brad Williamson and his partner in a head-to-head match, and they beat me in a head-to-head match, so they beat us where it counted.

“We played some real tough matches today but we didn’t get the results we needed. We’ll be back.”

With eight hardcourts spread over a cozy layout tucked into a cul de sac off Derbyshire Road in western Henrico County, Avalon has served as a gracious host every year for the event designed after the Anthem Challenge held at Westwood Club.

IMG_0762“It was a wonderful weekend,” said Blanton. “Great people. Lot of fun. Lot of hours of tennis.

“We’ve got these wonderful facilities here. The club is kind enough to let us take the course for the whole weekend. All the clubs help out. MRTC was fantastic this year. They were here to help set up Thursday night and that made it so much easier.

“There’s a great community of tennis players here, and that’s what it’s all about.  We know we’re getting a chance to help the RTA out with their youth tennis, and also to make some connections [for future matches]. We have a lot of fun.”

After the strong start, MRTC faded and wound up third in the tournament with 76 points. A relative newcomer to the event, MRTC is composed of mostly inner-city players under the direction of George Banks, who has helped revive tennis in the city.

Defending champion Ridgetop was fourth (73), followed by Southampton Recreation Association (70), Richmond Country Club (67) and Bon Air Community Association and Kanawha Recreation Association, tied for last with 60.