SOUTHINGTON — The 12th Annual Wayton Tennis Open had its championship matches Sunday morning at Southington High School under the sweltering sun. And the competition did not disappoint.
Dylan Avena and two-time singles champion Eric Henne had to battle the heat as they competed for the title in the A-Division. The match went five sets, lasting four hours, long after the women’s singles championship and men’s B singles championship concluded.
After Avena shot off to a quick two-set lead, Henne came back to even the match.
Heading into the fifth set, all eyes were on this fierce competition. Avena, who plays club tennis for Central Connecticut State University, had to focus on the basics to win the championship in the fifth set. Set scores were 6-2, 6-4, 1-6, 6-7(4) and 6-2.
“I was fatigued. I was really angry. I try not to show it because that is not who I am,” Avena said of dealing with the heat. “I like to be as internal as possible. But I think I was down love-40 in the first game of the fifth set and I just told myself to hit the ball. I just tried to shut down whatever else I was thinking. I was just like, if I lose it hitting hard, then I lose it. But it turned around and went my way. I was happy with that.”
Varsha Rathore captured the women’s singles championship and shortly after, she teamed up with her dad to win the mixed doubles championship in the A-division.
Rathore, who is 17-years old, said that after she won the singles championship, her only focus was on mixed doubles.
“After the first win, I kind of just reset and didn’t think about the first win,” Rathore said. “It’s a new match with new people and a new style. I think I played better in the mixed doubles because in the singles I was hitting unforced errors, one after the other.”
Rathore, who played in the Wayton Open for the third time, said she didn’t let the 90-degree heat fatigue her because of a lesson she learned from a previous appearance in the Wayton Open.
Following three matches in a United States Tennis Association tournament, Rathore said she got crushed in the mixed doubles B-division at the Wayton Open shortly after.
Rathore said she never wanted that to happen again. So, she has learned to conserve energy and build up her endurance by running cross country. The results on Sunday, confirmed that those adjustments have made her a better tennis player.
While the competition is all fun and good, helping dogs at Thank Dog Rescue is what it is all about, especially for Rathore.
“I think it’s a really nice cause that Matt (Wayton) decided to donate toward,” Rathore said. “When we were taking our picture with one of the dogs, we found out that the dog had surgery that our money went towards. That was a good feeling to know that you helped out another life.”
Wayton, who adopted his dog Daisy through Thank Dog Rescue, said that assembling the tournament for a good cause is what helps him stay motivated each year.
“Giving the money to the dogs and trying to raise money for them, is a big motivator for me,” Wayton said. “Sometimes you can get burnt out after running something like this, especially after 12 years, but that keeps me going every year.”
In fact, Wayton helped another dog during the Open.
One of the onlookers brought his poodle, but it did not appear to have been groomed in the past 8-12 months, said Wayton. So, Wayton called a local dog groomer in order to pamper the poodle. The dog lover paid for the haircut with his own funds, no questions asked.
Wayton was able to give Debbie Maas and Danielle Boccher from Thank Dog Rescue a check for $2,200. However, Rathore’s younger sister, Lavanya, created a concession stand at the Wayton Open and she was able to donate an extra $185 to the charity.
“It’s a great event. The people are all wonderful with our dogs and they come and visit them,” Maas said. “The money goes to a good cause. We are able to pay for surgeries, food and rescue more dogs.”