The new school term begins on Wednesday 6th September. As such, the hard courts are made available to St Margaret’s School between the hours of 12 – 4pm, along with certain other hours. Further details can be found here. The grass courts remain available during the day as long as they are playable.
In contrast to the night before, it felt like a different country on Tuesday evening at West Heath. The sun was shining and it could almost have been described as ‘warm’.
Getting the action started was a mixed doubles semi final, between second seeds Marjan Denis and Greg Lim and seed-slayers Barbara Thomas and Peter Davies. Could the unseeded challengers continue their progress through the draw, or would they come unstuck?
[Report from Peter.] Marjan and Greg both played very well and made few unforced errors. Marjan hit one or two beautiful low volleys. Their strategy was to target Barbara as much as possible and although Barbara hit her groundstrokes and volleys well she could not get past the two seeds and was feeling the pressure. She said she could have been more aggressive and taken the game more to the seeds. Peter generally served well and ran for everything, but the seeds were generally too strong. The challengers’ only games came from Peter’s serving and breaking Greg’s serve during a lapse in his concentration. Marjan and Greg won 6-2 6-1. They were finalists last year, and will be this year too. My money is on them to win this year, at least if they can play as they did during this match.
On the adjacent court, the second seed Cedric de la Chaise was taking on new West Heathen Lajos Szucs. Whilst little of the match was observed, it seemed that Lajos’ touch was a little off (Susanna said as much), whilst Cedric was returning shots that would otherwise have been winners. Cedric advances to the semi final, with a score of 6-2 6-0, to face either Marcio or Logan, who were due on court afterwards. One day Peter will get a picture of Cedric smiling!
Over on the far court, a ladies’ doubles semi final was taking place. Lucky shoes/pants/shirts or not, Lesley South and Moira Duncan took the first set off the defending champions Ros Norkett and Vandana Talwar, to win it 7-5. Whilst the ‘heat rule’ was not in place, a 10-minute break was taken nonetheless to tend to the Gourmet dinner (the lesser known ‘can’t stand the heat rule’). What Ros and Vandana did in the interval is anyone’s guess, but they rallied in the second to win it 6-2. The match tiebreak went with the all-important momentum, with the first seeds winning 5-7 6-2 [10-4].
Back on court 1, Graeme Pearson had changed out of his work clothes for his match with James McKenzie. With the sun shining down on court 1, the non-Clubhouse end was a bit of an evolving lottery throughout the match. As the sun swung further round, various parts of the court became more treacherous, whilst others became positively hospitable. The first game was a nervy affair, with James regretting having elected to serve, which duly went to the first seed. Alas, it wasn’t all bad, as the score was pegged back to 3-3. Graeme’s tried and tested strategy is typically to get every ball back, which is highly infuriating. However, with the slippy courts a few points were hoovered up by James and his shorter balls. Nevertheless, Graeme continued to win the first set 6-3. At this point the court was becoming exceedingly slippy, with James dancing around like Bambi at times (another Zinger from Moira™). Graeme’s shoes seemed better suited to the task. The second got underway, much like all sets do, with some serving, returning and rallies. Somehow James found himself 3-1 ahead, with break points to go 4-1 ahead. Alas Graeme showed his true mettle to hold, and pegged the score back (familiar story) to 4-4. The next few games went with serve to 6-5, with James having to serve to stay in the match. Clearly the pressure got to James, as Graeme ‘broke to 15’ to take the match 6-3 7-5.
Logan Mair played Marcio Sugui. [Report from Peter.] For a change Logan had to serve and play as if he meant it, abandoning his normal laid-back style. Marcio took full advantage of having brilliant topspin strokes. These have the advantage he can put the ball near to the sidelines closer to the net. Where possible he used this to manoeuver Logan about the court until there was a chance to hit a winner into the open court. Marcio took the first set 6-3. The second set saw Logan stepping up a gear to put more pressure on Marcio, thumping down first serves, though Marcio’s game plan was still in effect. All of this cancelled each other out and the score reached 6 all to force a tie break. Again, this was pretty even, but Logan just got the upper hand at the end to win it 7-5 to even up the match.
The light was starting to fade, but the match was only suspended when Logan slipped on the dewy grass and they gave up at 3-2 to Marcio. The match was due for completion Wednesday morning.
And in the ladies doubles, Elena Valarche and Marjan Denis took on Jane Boyle and Barbara Thomas. This match was also suspended due to poor light and a slippy court and is due for completion Wednesday evening.
In charge of the food tonight was Lesley, who served up a range of Persian cuisine. Truly a night for the epicureans among us, it was lapped up by all. Many of us learnt some new words, but there was still a mystery around what kuku actually is…
Whilst a gargantuan battle was raging on the adjacent hard court, Stan, the club’s very own Marcos Baghdatis, was engaging in a battle of wits with a rather stubborn chair.
However, I am pleased to report that where the rest of the club members had failed, Stan persevered and eventually managed to contort the chair into its intended position. Bravo!
Many thanks to Jane for capturing the moment for posterity.
The wet weather during the weekend and during the day prevented tonight’s matches being on the grass. The first match to get going was the first of the men’s quarter finals. Fourth seed Philip Reid took on sixth seed Gregory Lim. The first set went to Greg 6-3, with the reporter having missed all of the action. Cue instant summary: it must have been a close one, with either one or two breaks of serve.
The score in the second set ticked over with regularity, not even disturbed by Logan taking the door off the hinges on the hard courts. Singularly failing to return it to its swinging state, he just leant it against the fence. Elena squeezed through later, by pivoting the door on its bottom. Serving at 5-3 Philip missed a set point and double faulted at deuce. First serve missed and a dolly second serve lead to a duff point to concede the break. Greg served at 4-5 to stay in the set. An easy hold, 5-5. Philip steps over a ball, 15-15, but continues nonchalantly. He continues and wins the game to stop the rot and edges 6-5 ahead. Greg serves and falls to 15-40. He brings it back to deuce with tentative play from Philip. Greg hits the deuce ball out wide, has it returned by Reid and belts it back with a scowl. Philip hits a high ball on set point and comes in for a dolly volley, which Greg can only scrape into the net. Philip wins the second set 7-5 to take it to a decider.
The final set report was disrupted by a high level committee meeting (see photo), but Greg took an early break. This was pegged back in a bit of a slug fest as tempers frayed and nerves became taut (perhaps). Plenty of solid shots, long rallies and disapproving glances towards the spectators later, Greg took the final set, and the match, 6-4. It was a hard fought match, which provided excellent viewing for the appreciative spectators.
As the match finished, Tim choked hard during his mixed doubles with Anais, as they took on Logan and Elena. The first set went semi comfortably to Tim and Anais. The second set inched towards a tiebreak, probably a few breaks exchanged (Tim’s serve?) and the match found itself in a second set tiebreak. To and fro it went, but taken by the jubilant Scottish/Russian coalition.
A 10-point match tie break followed with some solid volleys, ground strokes and smashes from all. At three all, with Anais serving, it seemed like the nerves got the better of the West Heath debutante. To and fro yet again up until 7-8 on Logan’s serve. 8-8 and Logan did a bit of choking of his own. Tim had a chance for glory to serve for a place in the semi, and duly delivering he sealed the deal to win 6-2 6-7 [10-8]. In a post match analysis, Tim attributed Greg and Philip finishing their match for a slight wobble, but professed himself “very pleased to have overcome a near choking”.
The evening’s post-tennis entertainment was provided by Ros, with a guest performance as pudding chef by Jill. Ros served up spring rolls, peri peri chicken wings and pork ribs for starter. This was followed by delicious Teriyaki chicken, rice and bok choi, alongside, a tasty stew of butterbeans, chickpeas and butternut squashes. Jill’s pudding was a much-feted creme caramel with fruit salad. Many thanks to our first Gourmet Chefs of the year!
Tim Simpson is so looking forward to his doubles match with Marcio, against Logan and Cedric. He has been losing sleep about how to pull off a Shock Victory, or as he describes it, a match that is ‘highly winnable’.
He regaled all with his secret master plan (see image).
The 3rd seed and last year’s finalist Marcio Sugui took on club perennial stalwart Paul O’Flynn. Marcio is known the world over for his consistency (and for being a great left hander) so Paul was always facing an up hill battle. What little of the match was observed, it appeared that Marcio’s ability to get the ball back was Paul’s undoing as some of his commanding court positions were scuppered by the other West Heath stalwart, the bounce. Frustration played over Paul’s face as good opportunities to ‘seal the deal’ fell by the wayside. The 6-3 6-1 score line is possibly a little unfair, but Marcio just has a knack of doing that to people. He progresses to face either Tim Simpson (8th seed) or Lajos Szucs in the quarter finals.
The seventh seed and recent West Heath re-joiner Tim Allan took on James McKenzie on the furthest grass court. Starting at approx 6.15pm, the match went the full distance and completed some time around 8.40pm. The first set saw James rush to a three game lead, which he just about managed to keep to take the first set 6-3. There were some exceptionally nice rallies as both players adjusted to the game and style of the other. But Tim’s undoing in the first set was his serve which faulted at key points in the set. In the second set many of Tim’s service problems disappeared and he took the crucial break to go 5-3 ahead. James somehow pulled it back to 5-5 but Tim rallied to hold serve and then break to avoid the tiebreak, winning the second set 7-5. The third set was neck-and-neck until 3-3, with both players returning better than they were serving. James pounced in the (vital) seventh game to break, and pushed through to take the set, recording a 6-3 5-7 6-3 win. The match was played in exceedingly good spirits, with credit given were credit was due.
Perhaps the most anticipated showdown was between Simpson/Sugui and Reid/Reid, which promised to be a cracker. Reid Junior was heard exhorting Reid Senior to the net on multiple occasions, with youthful petulance boiling over (at least) once resulting in a racket thrown into the net in apparent disgust (although the author is unsure if the two things are connected). Anyway, the score was a relatively comfortable one for the 4th seeds. However, the final word must go to Walter and his blaze of glory; a long rally with plenty of volleys, eventually pushed Walter back towards the rear corner of the court. Some not inconsiderable flexibility allowed him to scoop a seemingly unreturnable shot from somewhere near his feet, over Marcio’s head, into the opposite corner. Not even Marcio’s famous hotdog could cut the mustard. Easily the shot of the evening, if not the tournament. Despite Reid Senior’s heroics, he and his son could not overcome Tim and Marcio who progress into the semi finals with a 6-2 6-3 victory.