WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Team Lenny captured the Southern Junior Team Tennis Championship in Cayce, South Carolina this weekend. In the finals they beat South Carolina. The Wilmington based tennis team is a 10 and under squad. They competed in the advanced division representing the state of North Carolina. The children are too young to be eligible to compete in a national title for team tennis; therefore, their journey ends with the Southern Junior Team Tennis Championship.
Shark Baynard, Augie Ballentine, Jack Snyder, Hayes Gilbert, Peyton Philemon, Sloane Woolwine, Elena Berg, and Lucy Dimock comprise the Team Lenny team. The team is named after Wilmington tennis legend and head coach Lenny Simpson.
“These kids really support each other, they love each other,” Lenny Simpson said after the championship week ended. “I had one playing with stitches in his foot from an oyster shell. They are regular kids off the court being normal 9 and 10 year olds. When they step onto this court they give it everything they have, for themselves and for each other. They are a real team. They pull each other along when they need to and hold each other up. Peyton Philemon is a phenomenal player winning huge tournaments outright on her own. It takes a different kind of kid to be able to then be a great team player at this level, it says a lot about them. We practice hard to work together.”Altogether more than 500 tennis players from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee competed at the championships. It was played in four age divisions: 10 and under, 12 and under, 14 and under and 18 and under.
Wilmington resident Lenny Simpson doesn’t have long to celebrate the championship as he heads to the US Open soon. The Althea Gibson protege will be a featured speaker this year at the US Open in New York. As part of a special pre-tournament “Althea Gibson Week,” when the legendary Wilmington champion will be memorialized, the documentary film Althea will be screened at a sunset reception at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, August 28 on the grass courts of the West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, site of her historic appearance there in 1956.
If you can’t get to New York for the screening of Althea, tune in to your local PBS television station (WUNC in Wilmington) to see it featured on the award-winning series, American Masters, on Friday, September 4 at 9:00 p.m. This is the same film that was showcased at the One Love Tennis event at Thalian Hall this summer. It’s a special documentation on the life of an American heroine and a Wilmington icon, Althea Gibson.
Lenny Simpson was coached by Wilmington’s own Dr. Eaton before joining the ATA Junior Development team traveling and rooming with Arthur Ashe. Simpson played in the US Open Championships in 1964, 1965,1966, Wimbledon in 1974, and was a 4 time winner of the ATA National Mixed doubles title. He is currently the founder and director of One Love Tennis, a year round tennis program for at risk kids in Wilmington.