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HISTORY (1981-1987) of (the present) RHONDDA LAWN TENNIS CLUB Although a Rhondda tennis club had existed at Ystradfechan, Treorchy for many decades (including some grass courts), by the early 1970s it had effectively disbanded. The article that follows is kindly provided by Jeff Richards (ex-member of Rhondda LTC and currently playing for Llantrisant LTC).

 

In the summer of 1981 a small group of tennis enthusiasts headed by Keith Gillard formed Pentwyn Tennis Club (PTC).  At the end of the ’82 season the first club championships were held at Pentwyn Park. Keith Gillard who went on to win it again in 1983, won the singles.

No -  they were not auditioning for parts in 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' - but just having a 'squad' photograph - at Pentwyn Park 1981

Behind the net (left to right): John Davies, Jeff Richards, Phil Smith, John Denton and Alun Tomkinson

Front of net (left to right): Keith Gillard, Ken Davies, Tony Gaspar and Bryan Meredith

In 1983 Pentwyn Tennis Club entered the SWLTA League Division 5 with a team comprising:- Phillip Smith, Jeffrey Richards, Anthony Gaspar, John Davies, Bryan Meredith and the unbeatable Keith Gillard (of that team John Davies and Bryan Meredith are still representing the club - 30 years on - in 2013). In that first year of league tennis the team cruised through the league without losing a match. It was not until a year later when in division 4 did PTC suffer their first league defeat. PTC went down 6-3 at home to Morriston after earlier in the season beating them 5-4 away. That loss cost PTC the league but promotion was still gained.

The first doubles tournament was held in the club championships in 1983 with Phillip Smith of Gelli and Jeffrey Richards of Ton Pentre running convincing winners over Anthony Gaspar of Tylorstown and John Davies of Cwmparc 6-1 in the final.

Keith Gillard lost his singles crown in 1984 to Viv Brown of Creigiau in a hard fought tussle, 6-3. Keith was not to be outdone though; he went on to win the doubles with Phillip Smith in a one sided final. The first ladies singles championship was held in this year with Allison Parmee of Tylorstown taking the honours over Suzanne Jones of Ton Pentre in the final 6-0 6-1.

A giant step in the club’s history came in 1984 with the introduction of the Rhondda Open Men’s Doubles Championship, a tournament open to players from all over south Wales, with prize money and trophies for the winners, runners up and losing semi finalists. The mastermind behind the project was Ceri Davies. The tournament went very well with two of the best players in South Wales taking the £30 cheque and winners’ trophies. Chris Hill and Phil Collins of Six Bells beat Ray Mapp of Six Bells and Gareth Lewis of Cardiff in the final.

By 1985 Pentwyn Tennis Club had changed its name to Rhondda Lawn Tennis Club in order to attract more players to the club. Membership increased sufficiently and therefore a second team was introduced to the league captained by Ceri Davies of Ton Pentre.

In division three the first team suffered two more losses at the hands of, once again, Morriston 5-4 and Llanelli 7-2, Rhondda’s worst ever defeat. Morriston and Llanelli also lost two more matches therefore the league went to the Rhondda. There was also success for the second team in 1985; they were promoted but sadly not as champions.

Another new singles champion was crowned in 1985. Anthony Gaspar beat the old master Keith Gillard 6-1 in the final. Two up-and-coming stars in Paul Davies of Treherbert and Andrew Howells of Ton Pentre won the doubles in a bitterly fought match 6-4 against Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Gaspar. Allison Parmee retained her singles title this time over Margaret Biggs 6-3 in the final. The mixed doubles which was being held for the first time, was won by Anthony Gaspar and Margaret Biggs beating Keith Gillard and Christine Williams 7-5 in a nail biting final.

The Rhondda open tournament of ’85 included, for the first time, Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles and once again it was a great success. David Sutton of Six Bells won the singles beating Andrew Jenkins of Morriston in a very one-sided final 6-0 6-1. The doubles also went to David Sutton and Gareth Lewis of Cardiff beating Ray Mapp and Phil Collins in the final by two sets to one. The Mixed Doubles was won by Mark Evans and Myfanwy Richards of Bridgend beating Gareth Lewis and Hilary Floyd also of Bridgend 10-6 in the final. Simon Lake of Llantrisant took the Rhondda Open Under 18 Boys title, which was also held for the first time, 6-4 7-6 over his team mate Andrew Dunn.

Rhondda, now with a good stable side, were in the second division, playing sides which had, in Rhondda’s earlier days, given them a sound beating. All the initial fears had soon vanished as Rhondda won all of their first five matches very comfortably, they had therefore beaten every team in the league. The second half of the season proved to be more difficult but Rhondda once again won all of their matches. The first team had now brought first division tennis back to the Rhondda for the first time in over 30 years. In 1986 the second team were also joining in the celebrations, they too won the league. Ladies tennis took a boost in 1986 with the inclusion of a team in the Ladies Division 2. Sadly they missed out on promotion in their first year by two points. Freda Biggs the ladies’ non playing captain was very disappointed at not gaining promotion but was quick to praise the performance of her team in their first year of competitive tennis, which included: Christine Williams of Blaenrhondda, Meryl Davies of Treherbert, Suzanne Jones of Ton Pentre, Margaret Biggs of Treherbert, Vicky Dixon of Gelli and Claire Williams of Ynyswen.

Anthony Gaspar once again won the men’s singles beating Andrew Howells in the final 6-3. Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Gaspar won the doubles with an easy win over ex-champions Keith Gillard and Phil Smith. Anthony therefore being the first person to take the double. With Allison Parmee unable to attempt to retain her title the way was left clear for Margaret Biggs to sweep the board and she did! She beat Juliet Murphy in the singles final 6-1; she beat Meryl Davies and Victoria Dixon with her partner Suzanne Jones in the ladies doubles becoming the first ever winners of that event and she won the mixed doubles with Andrew Howells beating Juliet Murphy and Paul Davies.

The Rhondda Open 1986 saw an increased number of entries in every tournament. David Sutton lost both his singles and doubles titles, the singles going to Mark Evans of Bridgend and the doubles going to Ray Mapp and Robert Wallace of Six Bells. Robert Wallace along with his wife Karen took the mixed doubles title from defending champions Myfanwy Richards and Mark Evans. Paul Duggan of Rhondda became the first Rhondda player to win a Rhondda open title when he won the Boys Under 18s Singles.

1987 was the most eagerly awaited season of all. The question everyone was asking was whether the Rhondda could cope with first division tennis. They started the league with three straight wins over Swansea (away) Glynneath (home) and Neath II (home) but then came the might of Neath I and Bridgend. Neath I beat Rhondda 7-2 (away) and Bridgend beat Rhondda 8-1 (away) being the worst ever defeat. That left Rhondda in 2nd place in the league as Bridgend had lost to Swansea, Glynneath and Neath I. The second half of the season started well as first Rhondda beat Swansea, Neath II and Bridgend which put them at the top of the league along with Glynneath and Neath I as they had all lost 3 matches running. However, Rhondda lost their last two matches to Neath I and Glynneath which gave Bridgend the league on aggregate over Glynneath, Rhondda had the 4th spot behind Neath 1. This was Rhondda’s lowest ever placing in the league. Although disappointed, captain Jeffrey Richards was very sure that Rhondda had the ability to win the league in the following season. The second team had a tough battle against relegation all season. The ladies won their division very easily and had now reached first division ladies tennis for the Rhondda.

The club championships of ’87 saw once again the crowning of a new singles champion – Jeffrey Richards the youngest champion to date. In the final he faced Andrew Howells and came off the winner by two sets to one. Andrew Howells and Paul Davies won the doubles title for the second time beating Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Gaspar very easily in the final. The mixed doubles went to Jeffrey Richards and Christine Williams in a very close match beating Andrew Howells and Barbara Oram 7-5 2-6 9-7. The ladies singles champion went to Juliet Murphy of Merthyr beating Meryl Davies 6-3 6-3 in a hard and long fought final. The ladies doubles went to Margaret Biggs and Meryl Davies with an exhibition of consistent and well controlled tennis beating Suzanne Jones and Juliet Murphy out of sight in a very one sided final 6-1 6-1.

The Rhondda Open Championship of 1987 was greeted with wind and rain. The men’s singles was abandoned until a later date but the other three championships carried on between rain showers. The men’s doubles was won by Chris Hill and Tony Scarffi beating defending champions Ray Mapp and Robert Wallace. The mixed went to last year’s winners Robert and Karen Wallace beating three times finalist Myfanwy Richards and David Reed 11-9 in a tight and exciting final. The men’s under 18s was won by David Reed of Bridgend beating Martin Timbrell also of Bridgend in a very one sided final, due to the might, power and immense racquet control of David Reed. The men’s singles were rearranged by Ceri Davies (tournament controller) for 18 October.

With membership increasing every year Rhondda look certain to gain in strength with the vast amount of young talent being produced by short tennis coach Phil Smith and prudential organiser Mrs Freda Biggs. This along with the general enthusiasm for tennis in the club should see Rhondda achieve even more glory in the near future.

JD Richards
August 1987

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