By Owen Morgan
Wales tennis number one Evan Hoyt provided the fairytale finish to the first LTA British Tour Penarth Windsor event when he beat his former coach Chris Lewis in an all-Welsh men’s singles final.
The home win was the perfect end to the hugely successful week-long tournament at Penarth’s Windsor Lawn Tennis Club – the only LTA British Tour event to be held in Wales.
The two Welsh players had fought their way through a top class field which featured some of Britain’s top ranked tennis players along with a number of world-ranked professionals.
Lewis, now 36-years-old, rolled back the years with wins in the early rounds against Erik Wilson (6-0, 6-1), Kyle Fellows (6-4,7-6) and Samm Butler (6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
The head coach for performance tennis at Cardiff Met then beat number three seed and world ranked player Sean Hodkin 6-7, 6-3 in the semi-final to set up the all-Welsh final against his former charge.
Hoyt, who is hoping to climb back up with world rankings following a long-term injury, cruised through to the final thanks to a first round bye and wins against Sebastian Tong (6-0, 6-2) and Lamar Bartley (6-3, 6-3) and Mason Recci (6-4, 7-6).
A large crowd gathered in perfect conditions for what promised to be a high class final between two players with impressive credentials.
Lewis, who represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games and competed at Wimbledon, reached a high of 457 in the ATP World Rankings in 2003.
While 23-year-old Hoyt helped Great Britain win the Junior Davies Cup for the first time, reached the doubles semi-finals at Junior Wimbledon and reached an ATP ranking of 542 before suffering a serious shoulder injury.
The first set was fiercely contested but played in a fantastic spirit with both players sportingly conceding points which had been awarded to them in error.
There was little to chose between the two as the set moved into a tie break. However, Hoyt stamped his authority on the match winning the decider 7-1.
The Llanelli product continued to dominate as the match moved into the second set. Despite Lewis’ best efforts and some fantastic winners, Hoyt proved too strong, clinching the second set 6-2 in order to take the title in straight sets.
After being presented with the trophy, Hoyt praised the organisation of the tournament.
“It’s been a great week, it’s such a well organised tournament, they’ve put so much effort into it,” he said.
“I’ve played in Tier One British tour events where there’s been one man and his dog watching the final, so it’s great to have a big home crowd and it’s the best result for Tennis Wales could have had having Chris, one of the national coaches, and myself in the final today.
“I worked with Chris for a couple of years and I only recently moved to Spain last September, so we know each other’s game so well. I was definitely nervous playing against him today. We both performed well and it was a good match.
“I know they’ve had a bunch of LTA people down at the tournament this week to see how it’s gone and it’s been a top notch event. The courts have held up well , it’s a relatively new surface. There’s been spectators, host families, massage facilities . . . there’s been everything here for the players.”
Hoyt was delighted to get a tournament win under his belt as he tries to return to the form he enjoyed before his injury setbacks.
The right-hander said: “It’s always good to win three, four, five matches in a row because that’s when you get your confidence up.
“It’s not always easy when you’re on the tour and you win one or two matches here and there, you can go three or four months without winning a string of matches like I’ve done this week, so it’s definitely a confidence boost.”
“I’ve got a couple of weeks training out in Spain now and then I’ll probably play a Futures event in Barcelona.”
Runner-up Lewis, from Neath, said it was good to be back competing in an LTA tour event – especially on Welsh soil.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Lewis. “I haven’t played a British tour event for a long time. But when this one came to Wales it was a great chance to get out and play and I probably did better than I expected.
“I thought I’d win a couple of matches, but I got two good wins yesterday against guys who are playing a lot of tennis. But Ev was too tough in the final and deserved to win.”
Lewis said the tournament had been an excellent advertisement for Welsh tennis. “Hopefully we’ll get a bit of a reputation that it’s tough to come across the bridge and beat us in Wales.
“It would be nice next year if a few more world ranked players came across to really strengthen the draw.
“But Ev would have a great chance of winning this tournament no matter how strong it was. It’s a great ending for Wales.”
The best performance by a Welsh player in the Ladies Singles came from Swansea’s Kimberly Alinafe Mpukusa.
The former asylum seeker, who had to stop playing at the age of 13 as the family fought their case to stay in Wales, reached the semi-finals thanks to wins over Eloise Saraty (7-6, 7-6) and number four seed Taro Keens (6-4, 6-2).
In the last four she was beaten 7-5, 6-4 by Tiffany William, from Middlesex, who went on to win Saturday’s Ladies Singles final against Norfolk’s Katherine Barnes in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.
William, who will next be playing in an ITF tournament in Barcelona, was delighted with the win and eager to praise the organisation of the Penarth event.
The 23-year-old said: “I’ve been saying it a hundred times through the week, it’s the best organised British tour event that I’ve ever been to. They’ve really catered for the players and made it fun for us.
“The beginning of the season wasn’t too good for me because I was injured for two or three months, so that wasn’t a good start. But now I’m getting a little more momentum and confidence.”