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Tennis Tournament returns: Serving the Library and the community

It was a sunny morning, but there was a storm brewing on the Shelter Island School tennis courts Aug. 21. And it wasn’t Henri, but a storm of tennis competition.

At 7:45 a.m., players were already eager to start the Shelter Island Tennis Tournament, warming up on the courts while others continued to arrive and check in under a white tent. Some players were dressed in all white, similar to the players at Wimbledon. A sense of happiness and community was palpable as more players arrived.

The tournament has been a beloved Island event as far back as the 1960s. Originally, it was played on private courts around the Island. The tournament stopped for a little while, however, before starting again during the 1980s to the mid-1990s. Eventually it paused again, but Linda Kraus, her husband Chuck Kraus, and Don Dunning brought it back in 2018.

While the tournament has had a few hiatuses, the goal has remained the same, to raise money for the Shelter Island Public Library. Library Director Terry Lucas explained that the money that’s raised from this event goes to fund every aspect of the library; from special programs they host, to office materials and even to keep the electricity on. The funding also allows for more books to be purchased, since Ms. Lucas said that more people have been checking out books because of the pandemic.

Funding from the event comes from the teams that register to play, but also individuals and businesses around the Island. STARs Café and the Flying Goat Restaurant provided food for the players during the tournament. This year the tournament raised $8,000.

Ms. Lucas and Ms. Kraus noted that the event would not be possible without Moussa Dramé, who makes sure everything is organized throughout the entire day. He, along with a few other tennis coaches from his program, create the lineups for all the doubles matches. Mr. Dramé said he also wants to ensure that “people are happy.”

All 20 teams were in attendance as Mr. Kraus and Mr. Dramé gathered players of all ages around to formally welcome them and announce the rules. It was round robin style and the matches consisted of men, women, and mixed doubles. Women doubles were one full set, while men and mixed doubles were only five games total.

After the brief overview of the day, that storm of competition began to emerge as play began. Islander Cynthia Barrett said she was looking forward to “having a good time and meeting new people — and winning.”

Players found their partners and went onto the court to warm up until Mr. Dramé called time. Some doubles partners planned out strategies in between points, while others gave each other a high five with their racquets. Players often said “good shot” or “nice point” to their opponents. Each match lasted approximately 20 minutes.

Players who were waiting to play sat on beach chairs they’d brought, or on the bleachers, and clapped in between points. While many people sat quietly observing, some were discussing Hurricane Henri and how they were preparing.

Ms. Lucas said that the competition is not “cutthroat,” however, there were prizes. In each category, there was a winner, with prizes including a tote with a book, sweatshirt, and Shelter Island Library swag. Along with prizes, there was also a raffle that included items donated from White Oak and STARs.

While the day was full of friendly competition, Ms. Kraus noted her favorite part of the tournament is getting outside and being with people. Ms. Lucas agreed, saying she was happy the weather was nice before the hurricane and noted that, while she doesn’t play tennis, she’s “inspired” by the tournament.

Mr. Dramé said his favorite aspect is helping support the library, getting everyone involved, and inspiring children. He achieved all his goals.