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Father-son duo takes Shelter Island tennis tourney

The racquet twirled around in my hands as I waited to return my opponents’ serve, just as I had done countless times before. The sweat slipping down my neck belied my stone-cold face that showed my opponents I was not nervous. This was important because whoever won the next point, won the match. That unusual “winner take all” position is a product of the Shelter Island Library’s format for their annual tennis tournament. My dad, Scott, and I made it to the semi-finals, winning all four of our round-robin matches along the way. The opponents served the ball to my backhand, my less comfortable shot, to which I decided to hit a passing shot past the net opponent down the line. Everyone heard the “SNAP” of the net as my ball hit the top of the tape. Somehow, the ball jumped over and my startled opponent missed the next shot… sealing our victory and sending us to the finals.

The Shelter Island Library Tennis Tournament has been a beloved Island event as far back as the 1960s. Originally, it was played on private courts around the Island, but as Chuck Kraus, Chairman of the Tournament, noted: “Playing on the school courts together is much better as a community.” 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. In 2020, there was no tournament due to COVID-19, but it’s back and here to stay.

Chuck Kraus discussed the tournament’s importance for the Library, emphasizing that the money supports its variety of programs for kids and adults. Last year the event raised about $8,000, and this year they are projecting to be closer to 9 or even $10,000. 

Terry Lucas, the Library Director, and Chuck Kraus said how grateful they were for the generous event sponsors. The event would not be possible without tennis pro 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.

The Walter Richards family supplied Dry Fit T-Shirts for all the competitors. Stars Cafe served Continental breakfast, and Flying Goat Restaurant provided lunch. A new addition to this year’s tournament, Alex of Bonheur Supreme Spa, was available to give massages.

Before the finals, my dad and I had to beat four tough opponents in matches with a total of 5 games played each. In the first match of the round robin, we won 5-0 after winning two clutch deuce games. However, I had some rust on my serve that I would need to figure out if I was going to have a shot at winning the finals. 

In the second match, we played the runner-ups of last year’s tennis tournament. These skilled players gave us trouble. The first two games went by quickly, splitting them 1-1. The third game was the decisive game that would shift the balance of the match. On a deuce point following a double fault, my dad hit a solid serve down the middle that forced an error by the returner. This gave us the 2-1 lead that led to the 3-2 win. 

In the third match, we began to play more as a team and complement each other’s play styles, giving us a swift 4-1 win that essentially sealed our spot in the finals.

In our final round-robin match, we ended it with another 4-1 win. These players tried using mental tactics against us, most notably their friendly trash talking. Unfazed, I set the tone in the first point with a no-look drop shot volley winner. My dad and I were communicating better than ever, high-fiving after every point and staying disciplined with our strategies. 

All these matches were warm-ups for the final match. Unsurprisingly, we had to face our second-round opponents and the runner-ups of last year for the chance to win the title. One of the players, a graduated college player from Skidmore, went head to head with me from the baseline. We had many aggressive baseline exchanges, and we were waiting for who would be the person to crack first. On one occasion after a few backhand exchanges, I used my down-the-line passing shot and caught the net player off guard. I continued to use this strategy in the first two games, giving us a strong 2-0 lead. Then, our opponents had a steady next two games where they had a total of zero unforced errors. 

It was now 2-2, deuce. I stood there, bending low in my ready position to receive our “winner take all” deuce point at the most decisive point in the match, completely locked in. I kept telling myself that I had been there before, and that I knew what was going to happen. On that note, I hit a return cross-court and then a passing shot down the middle to win the game. After that point, I knew I had found my full confidence and rhythm. The game slowed down for me; the ball felt like it was staying on my strings for a long time. The rest of the match was a cruise. 4-2, 5-2, and then 6-2 sealed our fate as the champions of the Shelter Island Library Tennis Tournament.