Saturday is an unusual time for a winter league match. But a welcome one, as it meant we played in the glorious, if not blazing, sunshine. Mercury were our opponents, who had very hospitably provided hot beverages to those members of the travelling team who arrived at the designated hour. The captain, as usual, was a few minutes late so missed out on a cuppa.
But to the tennis. The sunglasses were deployed, in conjunction with multiple layers and even pants. Tim, however, hard man that he is, has no pants, so shuddered his way through the warmup until his springy legs had stoked his own internal flames.
Greg and James got off to a flying start, by winning the first 6 games and the set. The Classic Wobble at the beginning of the second set materialised, and combined with some spirited play from Mercury, the score got to 2-2 in the second set. Then probably 3-3 before the wobble was dispatched for the final 3 games, to record a 6-0 6-3 result. Tim and Sam were exceedingly clinical in their match on the neighbouring court. They romped through both sets dropping only a single game, to win 6-0 6-1.
The second rubber for Greg and James was a little more comfortable than the first. No games were dropped for a double bagel serving up 6-0 6-0. Tim and Sam started their match strongly, winning the first 6-3. The second could have been as simple, but there is always room for a Classic Wobble. Trailing by 4 games in the second (I think), they produced an exceedingly dogged fightback to win 6-4.
Many thanks to Mercury for your hosting, graciousness and post-match refreshments. It was a charming way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The men’s Middlesex Winter League got off to a flying start against Totteridge’s fourth team on Tuesday 25th October. The awesome foursome on court were Tim, Sam and Greg and James. The four traveled to Totteridge with a week of clay court tennis behind them; some benefitted from the practice, whilst others found that their shoulders made noises that weren’t there before.
Either way, the West Heath pairings got off to comfortable starts after gradually adjusting to the Totteridge tarmac. Messrs Luscious and Leftover started with a 6-0 6-0 double bagel, which was matched by Messrs Leftie and Languid. With the travelling contingent of fans staying for a while to shake a few pompoms, there was an appreciable rise in standards from both pairings (and even a successful interception at the net from James).
The second rotation of pairings was a little less comfortable for Greg and James, with a few more deuces than they would have cared for. However, they still managed to win all the games and in doing so recorded a quadruple bagel. Sam and Tim struggled perhaps a little more with adjusting to the dropping temperatures. They ended the evening well, in spite of a mini-blip at the beginning; nonetheless they triumphed 6-3 6-0 in the end. That wrapped up a 16-0 victory for the Heathens.
Thanks must be extended to our opponents, who were most graceful in the absence of any charitable play. The evening’s refreshments and chit chat were excellent and enjoyable. The nether reaches of northern Middlesex were highly hospitable; our next fixture takes us slightly further nether-wards to Ravenscroft in 5 weeks.
The second team’s last fixture of the season was an away match against Finchley Manor IV. With WHII already confirmed as league winners, the pressure was somewhat reduced amongst the ranks. We were delighted to introduce two new players of the game we love to play into the team for our final match. Salve! to young Joseph and salve! to Paul, an erstwhile second team captain himself. So whilst specifically not new this year, Paul was making his 2016 debut. He was paired with the steady, and reliably late, Marcio for the evening, whilst Philip was tasked with guiding Joseph through the travails of the fifth division. The pairings were completed by Greg and James, both still somewhat smarting since their poor showing in the WH men’s doubles final.
All three pairings got off to, quite frankly, terrible starts*. Joseph and Philip were up against the difficult first pair. They performed valiantly, and a little nervously, but lost 6-4. Meanwhile, Paul and Marcio were also struggling against the third pair who were dogged and troublesome. Both had good ground strokes but also some excellent and clinical volleying. The clay surface favours longer rallies, so their third pair’s ability to intercept and volley the ball to safety was a potent weapon. Finally, Greg and James were going toe-to-toe against the second pair. Suffering from the well-documented macaroni cheese withdrawal symptoms, James was carried quite considerably by Greg. With the score line marching inexorably towards a tie break, it was at 4-5 on the FM serve that server’s and partner’s game went off frequency. After a series of deuces, a smash was delivered with considerable gusto to James’s feet. Getting a racket to the ball, the backspin-laden ball rose like some kind of a bird into the air. Coming down, the ball bounced on the other side of the net right next to the FM player. Due to the backspin, the ball leapt up and crossed back to the WH side. Seemingly a simple reach-over-and-put-away-kind-of-a-shot, the FM player came over all static. Gifting the point to Greg and James, it is somewhat an understatement to say that his partner was not best pleased. With a request to replay the point falling on deaf/incredulous ears, the Heathens took the next point and the set 6-4.
The second round of matches was as difficult for the Heathens as the first. The FM first pair were just too strong for Paul and Marcio, although they were certainly warming to the task. The same was true for Joseph and Philip. And as Greg was enforcing maltloaf rations at each change of ends, James was finally beginning to work a little better. By talking the second set 6-3, The Lovely Samantha informed the masses that the half-way aggregate score was 8-4 in favour of Finchley Manor. As they needed only 10 points to ensure a second place league finish and promotion, they certainly seemed on course as the minute waltz of the second round faded into the background.
But West Heath are a force to be reckoned with; it is not for no reason that league victory was secured with a match to spare. A fight back was inevitable, as the Heathens take nothing but beer and grapes lying down.
Talking about beer, James’s and Greg’s minds were finally focussed. With the maltloaf and banana deficits destroyed (and hesitation removed), it must be said that the first pair were performing unequivocally quite well. Greg is known for his pithy one-liners (to say nothing of his innuendo), and his favourite of the night was about “it being much easier to lead from the front”. Much like The Lovely Samantha had done the night before, Greg was bashing balls around with pin-point abandon. It left the first seeds on the right side of a 6-2 6-1 tour de Finchley. From a personal perspective, it left the pairing unbeaten in Middlesex for two years.
On the spectators’ benches there was a vociferous contingent from West Heath, and much of their attention was, perhaps quite rightly, directed to Joseph’s and Philip’s efforts on the far court. Having got off to a nervy start in the first two rubbers, they put their troubles behind them and were entirely relentless in their play. The FM 3rd pair, after the match, were full of praise for their serving, volleying, and ability to put the ball out of reach. To the sound of applause and whooping from the bench of travelling WH supporters, Philip and Joseph did a demolition job to win 6-2 6-0.
Paul’s and Marcio’s collective fortunes were also on the up. Tim had taken it upon himself to, from the side-lines, give them a talking to, and for once it may actually have worked. The second pair’s play improved a lot, and whilst it would be injudicious (and incorrect) to attribute the performance increase to Tim’s pep talk, it might be noted that perhaps we have found a use for WHII’s Mr Petulant as a motivational speaker. Those at the club’s tournament week must certainly be aware of his storytelling prowess in relation to the curious incident of the brother and the beard. Tim’s intervention notwithstanding, the second pair took their sets 6-2 6-1 in the kind of form reminiscent of last year’s season ending match when they were cohabiting a court in blissful harmony.
With all of the final round sets going the West Heath way, Samantha choked back, amongst other stuff, her surprise that the score had flipped from 4-8 to 16-8. The final round performance had sealed FM to a third successive third place finish in Division 5; in their stead Brondesbury take second place (by a single point) in the Division and, with it, promotion next year. The Lovely Samantha is looking forward to playing with their balls next year!
The post-match friendlies were taken in good sprits, in spite of FM’s understandable rueful disappointment at being so close to securing promotion. To their exceptional credit, they put it behind them (only mentioning it once or twice more) and hosted a most marvellous end of season meal. Their chef served up some excellent and plenteous Thai food, which was supplemented with a bit of beer and plenty of “banter”.
So as the tennis ball of destiny slams into the clay court ball mark inspection of inevitability, the 2016 summer league draws to a close. It has been a rip-roaring encounter, and a pleasure to organise such an august body (careful, Samantha) into another league-topping performance. Many thanks to all of you for playing, for reading, for cooking (Marjan!), and for supporting. So, until next year and the heady heights of the Middlesex Summer League North East Division 4! Hurrah!
* Some of this may be attributable to the not so sterling team talk delivered by the captain. For the first time this season, a pre-match team talk was requested. As there was no pressure for results, the captain told his team to go and have fun. Clearly this wasn’t sufficiently motivating.
Rachael Gangji provided the evening’s fish pie, with Lara’s cheesecake and strawberry pavlova proffered as the sumptuous climax to this year’s Gourmet Dinner season.
Three matches were played on the last mid-week evening of Finals Week. The weather, whilst still kind, had conspired to bring cloud cover to West Heath for the first time this week. The matches were played with perfect visibility for all, so there was no need to shift courts to avoid the sun or take up a defensive position behind a tree.
The first of the two men’s singles semi-finals to begin was Sam Evans against Graeme Pearson. In the absence of Cedric de la Chaise (2015 champion), Graeme is the top seed. Tim Simpson had taken 4 games off Graeme in the first set in the quarter final match, and the question was whether jet lag from Graeme’s trip to Canada earlier this week had featured in this minor delay in Graeme’s swift progress to the final; we got the answer today. Sam played well, but Graeme made very few errors, even under pressure and was almost always able to hit the ball with pace to the exact spot required. Sam hit hard balls and serves at Graeme, but Graeme typically returned them to his chosen spot as if it was the 100th ball he had drilled to that point in the last 5 minutes. Sam could not apply sufficient pressure to stop Graeme from hitting balls he had only just got to, to the most inconvenient place on the court for Sam, whereas Sam usually lost the point immediately when in the same situation. So the match was short and sweet (at least as far as Graeme was concerned) and Sam got raucous cheers from the crowd when, in the second set, he won his only game. Graeme won 6-0 6-1. Come back Cedric de la Chaise, because it is difficult to see anyone else present that Graeme will not take apart in the final on Saturday, such seemed the gulf in this semi-final.
Starting slightly after them on Court 2 was the hotly anticipated fixture between Marcio Sugui and Philip Reid. Whereas everyone knew the result of the first semi-final in advance, this one was expected to be very close indeed. The first set started with 3rd seed Marcio, the left hander, a bit cold. A lot of his topspin shots, normally hooked in, went wide, meaning that 7th seed Philip usually won the point when Marcio had to hit an angle or lose the point. Philip made errors too though, including the occasional double fault. Philip is very tall, and, considering the speed at which he can hit the serve, he should be getting huge penetration, but his service is flawed because he hits the ball when his upper body is on the way down, rather than at the peak of its extension. So the penetration and margin for error is reduced compared to what it could be. The net of all these effects is that the first set was very tight and reached 6-6, with Philip winning the resulting tie-break.
Marcio was much better warmed-up for the second set and typically succeeded in passing Philip when he came to the net, and also had the upper hand in baseline rallies whose winner depended on hitting accurate angles. Marcio won this set 6-1. At the beginning of the third set it looked like it could have gone either way, but Marcio gained the upper hand and did not let up, eventually winning 6-7 6-1 6-3.
Mixed Doubles Final
The last match was the mixed doubles final between first and second seeds, Lesley South and James McKenzie (last year’s runners up)playing Marjan Denis and Greg Lim. Not only had the seeding committee got it right but there was also a fair amount of money being exchanged on the bank regarding this match’s outcome. The new pairing of Marjan and Greg had come through a difficult semi-final encounter whilst Lesley and James were yet to drop a set. In traditional fashion, Lesley won the toss and put James in to bat. After Marjan and Greg gave their opponents ‘one in the sun’, James served and did not do so as convincingly as desired. Nonetheless, he held his serve after a deuce or two and much the more relieved for it. Greg’s service game was remarkable for pin-point accuracy in the deuce court; Lesley could do nothing with the wide serves and Greg secured points with two aces and an unreturned serve. However, the story in the ad’ court was almost the reverse, with all returns being made and then made good. Lesley and James unexpectedly secured the break after a couple of deuces and started Lesley’s service game at 2-0. Lesley’s serve is not rapid, but is exceptionally well placed. Hit consistently to both backhands, it gives an opportunity for interceptions at the net. Some of these were put away whilst others hit the back fence. After much too-ing and fro-ing, the game was held for a 3-0 lead. After replenishments at the change of ends (for one of the players, it should be noted that the half-life of macaroni cheese is notoriously short), it was Marjan’s turn to serve. With some good placement and lengthy rallies, Marjan and Greg held the game. James’s second service game was a little more comfortable, as also was Greg’s. The score reached 5-3 leaving lefty James to serve for the set. Whilst not entirely straightforward, the top seeds hung on to clinch the first set 6-3.
Perhaps in a slight daze, James, the only professional umpire on the court, claimed that the players should “change for one”. Er, not so, said Marjan whilst bananas were bolted down and Lucozade lapped up during the set break. Back in their previous positions, the second set continued with a couple of service holds and a service break to the second seeds. It seemed likely that the match was heading to a match tie-break. However, the break was quickly returned and the score after Greg’s service game was 5-4. James served to stay in the set [no pressure] and it looked like he and Lesley might have escaped. However, Harry Houdini himself would have struggled [no exaggeration – tennis wasn’t his forte] to escape. James and Lesley saved the first set point, but not the second. Marjan’s hefty returning of serve and Greg’s flat groundstrokes in that game allowed them snatch the second set 6-4.
Match tie-breaks are neither James’s nor Greg’s favourite thing [beer? – Peter]. Although not explicitly discussed, it is probably the case that Marjan favours raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, whilst Lesley has been known to be keener on bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens than match tie breaks. Alas, the final came down to the wire with a first-to-ten-with-a-margin-of-two format. After some solid play, cheeky angles and crucial net interceptions, the 1st seeds inched towards a 4-2 lead at the first change of ends and 8-4 by the second. At 9-4 Lesley served for the title and delivered a low dippy angled serve to Greg’s backhand. James pounced on the return with a decisive down-the-middle volley very fitting to winning a final, securing the title 6-3 4-6 [10-4].
Marjan and Greg played solidly throughout, with little between the four players throughout much of the match. There was some heavy hitting in all quarters, no quarter was spared, and some delicate touch shots to boot. During the deciding match tie-break it was James and Lesley who better mastered their nerves: Lesley calmly delivered angled put-aways and James was dogged at the net, perhaps due to Lesley’s faultless attention to his carbohydrate levels. Whilst Novak reached the top with a gluten-free diet, James’s path was paved with macaroni cheese supplemented mid-match with two bananas and a bottle of Lucozade. In spite of this carb-loading, there was still room for Rachael’s much anticipated – and as it turned out delicious – fish pie.
As an experiment, Sam Evans brought along a drone to take some aerial pictures. Unfortunately it was just a little too noisy (even at 50m height) to use to video sequences from the second men’s semi-final in progress, but he did take some shots of everyone and we look forward to including them in this post when available. They include a shot of Sultan ‘B. DeMille’ Gangji’s attempted choreography of the entire massed attendees at West Heath, who can be seen ‘directing’ in the photo below. Don’t give up the day job Sultan.
We are all looking forward to the four remaining finals at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon. First up on courts 1 and 2 will be the ladies’ and men’s singles finals. These will be followed by the two doubles finals, a delicious tea and an evening BBQ. See you there…
Up first on the West Heath turf were Julia Abbott and Ros Norkett in their quarter final match-up. The first loomed towards a tie-break but Ros clinically saw this off, to snatch the first set 7-5. There were some long rallies and well placed balls in the second set as well. Julia just couldn’t quite get her nose in front, and lost the second set 6-4 in a tight contest. The post-match media obligations were significantly delayed, however, due to hair malfunctions. Thankfully these were ironed out in the end!
The evening’s second fixture was a mixed doubles quarter finals scheduled for Court 3. Moira Duncan and Bruce Rigall, after their epic victory in the previous round, were pitted against Lesley South and James McKenzie. Bruce was vociferously supported by his son, Joseph, who had been knocking up with his father on Court 2 in preparation for the tie. Lesley, continuing her form from last year, arrived with a portion of macaroni cheese and a malt loaf. She is well aware of what happens to James when his carbohydrate quotient is depleted.
Having won the toss and elected to serve, Lesley put James into bat first. It was almost a bad move as James struggled to get his serve and ground strokes firing; plenty were splayed into the net. Throwing (figuratively, that is) a few serves out wide saved a couple of break points and finally the service game was held. Lesley and James repelled all that Bruce and Moira could throw at them, and recorded a 6-0 victory in the first set. They raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set before some determined returning from Moira and Bruce got them a game on the board. Thankfully for the first seeds it was just a minor stutter, and they continued unfazed to a 6-1 second set score.
Marcio and Jasper played out the evening’s last fixture*. From the spectators’ perspective it looked a close match with Jasper going toe-to-toe against the much-fancied 3rd seed. The scoreline, however, did not bare this out with Marcio ruthlessly securing a 6-0 6-1 victory.
*Another match did take place, but this is currently under embargo.
Anna Ganev and Susan Grossman played Moira Duncan and Lesley South in the ladies doubles. Anna and Susan got off to a flying start and broke Moira’s serve to storm to a 3-1 lead. Sources reveal that Susan was clinical at the net during this period, and put many volleys away. This was a team effort, my source reveals, and Anna was no slouch. She put in solid ground strokes and made effective use of the lob to leave their opponents shaking their collective head. 3-1 is a precarious score line as the psychological difference between 4-1 and 3-2 is enormous. Lesley and Moira were not phased by this and cooly restored parity to the scoreline and clawed their way back to 4-4. These games no doubt contained some hard hitting and long rallies with the occasional volley interception by the net players. Once they had got all four of their eyes in, the more experienced pair of Moira and Lesley were in no mood for hanging around. They became more clinical, taking the first set 6-4 and got off to a flying start in the second. In spite of the efforts of Susan and Anna in the second set, they could not combine as effectively as they had done at the beginning. Plaudits must go to the second place team in this fixture for their steely determination and a convincing first set performance. Congratulations also to Moira and Lesley for their spirited comeback, and they march into the semi finals.
Jane and Barbara took on Jo and Julia in the evening’s early fixture. It was a close run match, from what was observed from the embankment. There were plenty of good shots from all protagonists, which were sportingly applauding by partners and opponents alike. In the end, Jane and Barbara prevailed 6-4 in the first set and won 7-6 in the second.
James and Greg, the second seeds took on the highly experienced Mark and Peter [though they can’t remember having played together competitively before – Peter] in the men’s doubles quarter finals. The tone of the match was set during the first point when, in a single swing, Peter managed to hit the ball at least 3 times and place it delicately away for a winner.
After James’s opening, and troublesome, service game in the sun, James and Greg slowly pulled away from their opponents. There were some hefty rallies and delicate volleys throughout the first set. Peter managed some lovely angles and a few more framed shots whilst Greg became alarmingly consistent by double faulting in each game. He should however be heartily applauded for intercepting skilfully at the net and saving James’s back. Mark was no slouch either, and delivered some hefty ground strokes and was pin-point accurate in his service games. A highly enjoyable fixture, with a second seeds prevailing 6-2 6-3. [More critical analysis required!]
Here is Peter’s version of events though you could form your own opinion from the time-lapse video at the top of the match from a rather low position! It might have helped to know beforehand that Greg and James have lost zero sets in two years while playing together for the West Heath second team which must have helped considerably in getting promotion before playing all their matches this season (congratulations guys). In the first three games of the match Peter and Mark were not well warmed up, ceding a 3-0 lead before Peter held his serve. Thereafter the more aggressive net play of Greg and James allowed only one more game to the challengers. In the second set Peter and Mark had their eye in, but Greg and James swapped service ends, which was effective. Greg seems to know exactly where the dead spots are on the clubhouse end service box of court 3 and hit them consistently, allowing no chance on the return. Meanwhile James’ “leftie” slice serves away from the clubhouse were enhanced by a little wind and the downhill slope at that end, making it very difficult to keep the returns away from the lethal Greg at the net. Peter hit a couple of winning lobs and one great reaction shot and Greg double faulted twice in one game to get broken, but Peter and Mark could not hold consistently, and Mark’s hard-hit groundstrokes were well fielded by the opposition when at the net, which allowed for a 6-2 6-3 victory for the seeds.
Another men’s doubles fixture brought together The Two Reids (Walter and Philip), who were pitted against Sam and Logan. The Reids had got the better of the Rigals in a close fought battle on the Wednesday, but (according to Philip) this had left his father somewhat exhausted. Logan brought a large cadre of his family to the fixture, for what he no doubt promised to be a rip-roaring display from Logie Bear*. Reids Junior and Senior fought the good fight, but ultimately were outclassed. Sam and Logan took the spoils with a 6-2 6-3 victory. For the Father and Son this refrain from Cat Stevens has never rung more true
It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Prior to this match, Philip had been in male/female on male/female action in a tie in the mixed doubles round of 16. His partner, (new) Rachel is a recent addition to the club and has been readily adopted into the Ladies’ first team. They were pitted against Mark, another new member, and Jill, a West Heath stalwart. Philip and Rachel got off to a good start with a break to love which Rachel consolidated with the loss of just a single point. Another break to Philip and Rachel left Philip serving at 3-0. Philip is known for his range yet somehow couldn’t put that convincingly into play; he found himself facing a break point and the panic on his face was palpable. This was snuffed out with a ruthless serve, and it was his last jitter to speak of. Mark and Jill fought valiantly but couldn’t deny Philip and Rachel a 6-0 6-2 victory.
* Whether Logie Bear lived up to his billing is, as yet, unknown.
The Tuesday evening fixture against Templars was always going to be interesting. At not quite the last minute, Philip, the team’s Templar’s bête noire, decided that his physical fitness wasn’t high enough to compete at Templars. Instead, the eminent Takuya was drafted in as his highly capable replacement. He was paired for the evening with Sam in the third pairing; perhaps an oddity that both are full time Templars members themselves. Marcio and Tim, the latter of whom causes the Captain such headaches with his “who’s with who” petulance, made up the first pair to give them much needed tournament practice and also the desired challenge against the tough Templars first pair. Greg and James were happy to cede the first pairing due to their not insignificant dislike of the Templars courts.
The weather itself has become a continuous theme this year. The heavy rains during the day resulted in watery courts, but the evening thankfully brought no further showers. Greg ensured himself an early win by gambling with Edward (a former WHII denizen) that the match would go ahead; Greg knows perfectly well that the captain does not favour rearrangements.
With the first, second and third WH pairs lined up and ready to face the opposition, the first job was to get the opponents in right place as well. Having finally succeeded in a new game of Musical Courts, Greg and James got off to a quick start and provided their third pair with nothing but a bagel. Upon asking Tim how the first pair were progressing (against their 2nd), to not inconsiderable surprise, Tim stated that the score was a mere 2-1 due to rather an epic game. Just as an FYI, 18-deuce games are not encouraged; thankfully for Tim and Marcio they came out on the right side of the advantages to win the game and then the set 6-2. Meanwhile, Sam and Takuya were making a good meal from their efforts against Templar’s first pair. Some excellent shots, from both pairs, were easily observed during James’ and Greg’s lengthy observation round. The Heathens put in a good effort, but ultimately succumbed to the strong pair recording a 3-6 loss.
The second round saw Tim and Marcio take on the third pair. They demonstrated that Greg and James were provided with no fluke score line, serving up a bagel themselves. It gave them plenty of opportunity for them to watch James and Greg take on the strong Templars first pair. Keen observers of the Middlesex Tennis Summer League North East Division 5 would have noted that this was an important rubber as both pairs had won every set that they played together. There was a lot riding on this match, and there could only be one winner. That’s the way the scoring in tennis works.
Greg and James got off to a good start by breaking the Templars coach, with the first point of the game setting the tone. Greg returned excellently to stun the opponents with a perfectly crafted point. As the Heathens changed ends they were pumped up and ready for a fight back. The second game was a protracted affair with many deuces on the Greg serve; the Heathens prevailed to consolidate the break. Templars put their feet down in the next two games and the Heathens found themselves back at 2-2 with the coach serving. He made no mistakes during his second service game and they took a 3-2 lead. The change of ends brought the best out in Greg and he dutifully held the game to level the set. Another break for West Heath against the (slightly) weaker Templars serve gave James the opportunity to serve for a 5-3 lead. With some skidding serves, fabulous forehands and versed volleys James and Greg conspired to hold the game and leave the Templars pair to opportunity to serve to stay in the rubber. At 15-30, James got the rub of the net with a thick net cord to set up two set points. Duly taken, the Heathens came out on top with a 6-3 victory. It was a highly enjoyable fixture to play, with plenty of solid rallies, and good sportsmanship.
Whilst all that was going on, Sam and Takuya faced off against the tricky second pair. They traded games all the way through but unfortunately couldn’t hang on to a 6-5 lead at the bitter end. The fixture was tied at 6-6; with no tie break, the protagonistic pairs claimed a single point each.
The final round of rubbers saw Sam and Takuya take on the third Templars pair. In the first of two sets they came out on the other side of a 6-5 lead and avoided the draw with a 7-5 score line. In the second set they put their feet down (carefully though, to avoid slipping) and made easier work of it. A 6-3 score meant that the third pair contributed a hefty 5 points to the WH total. This is a strong showing for a third pair, as a season can be made or broken by their results.
Tim and Marcio took up the baton against the first pair. Clearly spurred on by the tour de force of Greg and James, with a proven lefty/righty combination, they advanced the scoreboard to 5-5. A bizarre interlude followed, where the Heathens confirmed that tie breaks are neither played at 5-5 nor 6-6 in this league. WH were not deterred by this incident and cooly claimed a point with a 6-6 first set score line. The second set had the potential to be another proper ding-donging humdinger; Templars had other ideas. They were the Murray to West Heath’s Tsonga in the 2016 Wimbledon Quarter Finals. No mistakes in the final set resulted in a perhaps unfair 1-6 score on the door.
Greg and James were making hard work of their final match, and from a dominant position in the first set their backs were up against the wall. James was missing volleys and Greg took a fall on the courts. With a badly twisted ankle, the prospects were not good. Greg, however, continued gamely on, and found himself serving at 4-5. Having drastically adapted his service motion to feature exactly no jumping (and the painful landing), he was not helped by some wayward volleying from James. Serving at 30-40, this was the first set point that they’d been on the wrong side of in two years. Having come so far without losing, Greg and James dug deep to see out the service game and level the set. A break against the Templars serve spun the set back around, and with Greg’s ankle limbering up a little, James had the opportunity to serve for the set. Duly taken to win the first set 7-5, they were in no mood for falling at this particular hurdle. In the second set at 3-1 they managed to break again for a hopefully decisive three-game margin. Greg served with his feet firmly on the floor for a 5-1 lead, and Templars held the subsequent game to give James the opportunity once more to serve for the set. A mercifully straightforward game, topped off beautifully at 40-0 with an ace out wide. A highly enjoyable way to win a set, and maintain the unbeaten streak with a 6-2 victory.
It was a tough evening of tennis, from which West Heath emerged 18-6 victors. Congratulations to both teams for a hard-fought contest and an enjoyable evening with perhaps two of the largest pizzas available in north west London. Philip’s persona non grata status was discussed just a couple of times, as was the impending (or not) predicament facing the Templars members in the near-ish future.
The result leaves WH guaranteed a top-two finish this season (unless the Captain’s done the maths wrong), and only 3 points required for a mathematically certain 1st place (ditto). The team’s final match against Finchley Manor is an away fixture on July 25th, against the only other team with a prospect of winning the league (and promotion hopes of their own no doubt).
We are looking forward to the season finale!
With Finchley Manor only achieving a 15-9 victory over Brampton III this week, this leaves them unable to top the division as they have two games to play and are more than 48 points behind. It confirms that West Heath II are, for the second year in a row, the Divisional Champions. The race is very much on for second place: Brondesbury, Totteridge and Finchley Manor could all scoop the second spot and with it promotion to Division 4.
The draws for the tournament have been made and can be found here or on the clubhouse door. The rules for the tournament, such as the schedule and the match format are shown below.
The Tournament officially begins on THURSDAY 8th JULY and the FINALS will be played on SATURDAY 23rd JULY. If rain prevents play, the FINALS will be played on SUNDAY 24th JULY. The Draw will be up by TUESDAY 6th JULY to allow competitors to arrange matches during the week. First round matches must be played before or on SATURDAY 9th JULY.
A chart of available court times is drawn up and competitors are asked to book the courts they intend to play on.
The players whose name appears in the top half of the bracket are initially responsible for challenging their opponents.
The tournament is to be played on all the courts, apart from the semi-finals and the Finals, which will be played on grass, unless the weather does not permit. In the event of disagreement between the opponents on the surface to be chosen, this will be decided by the spin of the racket.
New Balls will be provided for the FINALS.
All rounds are to be played within the scheduled time indicated at the top of each draw sheet in order to allow smooth progress. Extensions will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and with permission from the joint Referees.
All matches will be the best of 3 Tie-Break Sets except the DOUBLES EVENTS which will have the 3rd set as a MATCH TIE-BREAK (i.e. Champions T/B with a Team reaching 10 points with a margin of 2). The rules of the Tiebreak are displayed.
All matches must be continuous and appeal for bad light will be considered after 9.00pm.
Please give your Entry Fees £3/£5 to Moira or Marjan.
Competitors are expected to volunteer to be lines persons on Finals day.
Mixed Doubles Final will be scheduled for Thursday 21th July
The schedule for 2nd week is fixed with Gourmet Dinners.
The Joint Referees are Marjan and Sultan whose decisions will remain final.
The original fixture was cancelled pre-emptively due to impending weather. The rearranged fixture was moved to Farm Walk to take advantage of their more-weather courts. Their hospitality and welcome was well received by all of the West Heath team.
However, the weather wasn’t quite what was planned. The optimists among us (i.e. the two captains) were adamant that the fixture could start at 7pm prompt. After all, that was what the weather forecasts forecasted. However, à la Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic in 2001, the stop-start nature of the match (“why are we playing in this!”) was doing little to keep toys in prams and tempers unfrayed. Some rain later, the actors returned to their courts’ centres and managed to complete the full four sets before the impending darkness swallowed man and ball to the NW11 night.
The rain and delays clearly caused some trouble to The Heathens. James and Greg struggled to a 3-3 position in the first set against the third pair before the last of the rain delays. Upon resumption, they got their act together to win the next triumvirate of games and take the set 6-3. The first pair of Philip and Marcio struggled against the tough FW 2nd pairing, losing it 2-6. Equally struggling to find their feet were Sam and Tim whose loaf just didn’t rise enough in the end; they went valiantly down 4-6.
For the second round the visitors found their feet with the conditions and produced a performance much more reminiscent of their previous matches. Philip and Marcio baked the first of the evening’s two bagels whilst the other pairings each took their set with a two-to-one game ratio, i.e. 6-3. Crumbs!
Philip and Marcio put in a good effort against the first pair of Theo and John. They took the first set 6-2 but unfortunately could not capitalise on it and succumbed 4-6 in their final set. No such problems for James and Greg who managed a flattering 6-2 6-1 victory, whilst Sam and Tim let slip one game for a 6-1 6-0 bagel-baked finish.
Post match refreshments of beer and pizza went down a treat, and the 18-6 scoreline was just what was kneaded (why not continue the bakery theme). It puts the Men’s II team in a comfortable position at the top of the division. With a cushion of 23 points, the next fixture against the division’s second-placed team may make or break the season for both teams.
Roll on July 4th. Aha!
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