As cars pulled in by the dozen to the parking lot at the Mercer County Tennis Center, Jim Cryan and Virginia Armstrong White sat behind the tournament desk, signing players in and calling out match times.
Throughout the night, as new matches began, Cryan picked up his camera, walked outside and weaved through the crowds lining the fences. Stopping at each court, he took photos of the players on the court while talking with the hundreds of fans who came to show their support.
During yet another year, the atmosphere was one of a kind for the Cryan Tournament, and those involved wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been helping to run this tournament for 13 years now, and this was probably the best year,” Cryan said. “I’ve seen it in a lot of ways from different angles. This year, with the fans, the support, and the players we had, it was special.”
Established in 1965, the James E. Cryan Memorial Tennis Tournament has plenty of history. It began after James E. Cryan, just 42 years old at the time, passed away from Hodgkin’s disease in 1964. At that point, Jim Cryan – James’ son and a current tournament co-director – was only 6.
Cryan currently runs the tournament alongside Virginia Armstrong Whyte, also a local tennis supporter and volunteer. The duo has seen the tournament evolve into one of the most popular in all of Middle States.
“We’re lucky to have it here in such a nice area, and we get so much support from the people who come out to watch,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but lots of fun.”
If attendance was officially recorded for the week, the 2013 Cryan Tournament may have set records. Described as the “US Open” of New Jersey, tennis enthusiasts from New York to Philadelphia and beyond lined the fences to watch the 317 unique entrants compete in a number of categories. Many nights, matches stretched to midnight, and the crowds stayed strong. Cars would park in parking lots up to a mile away and walk to see the action, and the free, fan-friendly environment kept groups coming back night after night.
Highlights of the week always seem to be men’s and women’s singles, which consistently draw some of the area’s top talent. This year was no different, with Punch Maleka coming out on top of the men’s side, and Neha Uberoi taking the women’s title.
Draws also included doubles, mixed doubles, and various other levels of men’s and women’s singles and doubles.
“The play, all-around, was very impressive,” Cryan said. “That’s why I think people like to come out every year. And when they do come out, they usually come back, because the atmosphere is so nice here.”
“I also have to thank the weather,” he added. “It was perfect out there for a lot of the tournament. We were lucky.”