Monday 4th July was arguably the second team’s most eagerly anticipated match for two reasons. Firstly it was against the team’s main rivals – Totteridge III – who are currently lying in second position in the league. Secondly, but more significantly, it was the team’s only opportunity to play on the grass, with the previous two home matches having been relocated; one to the hard courts and the other to the opposition’s club.
Two of the team’s regular players were missing with James calling the lines at Wimbledon and Philip recovering from a mysterious operation. James therefore drafted in two of West Heath’s more experienced players, both former captains of the second team, Jeff Fine and Mark Webb. The puzzle of the pairings however caused James a bit of a headache as most of the team were nervous about the prospect of a friendly summer evening of tennis turning into an inevitable series of squabbles over line calls. So James wisely decided to partner Jeff with the Sam, the only person that had never met him. That left the undefeated Greg to partner the always steady Mark Webb in the second pairing. The first pair consisted of Marcio partnering Tim, a previously untested partnership (some suspect that James is keen to prevent them from having too much practice together in advance of the summer tournament).
In a match that seemed to last for well over an hour Greg and Mark narrowly lost out 5-7 to Totteridge’s strong first pair. Jeff was cool calm and collected in their first set against the Totteridge second pair and with Sam serving nicely they managed to pick up 2 points for West Heath. Despite some nervy play at times, Marcio and Tim managed to hold things together to win their first set 6-1; a scoreline that was flattering with all things considered.
In the second round of matches Greg and Mark picked up 2 points for WH winning 6-3. Jeff and Sam played some good tennis but lost to the first pair and Marcio and Tim started to find their game, winning 6-2.
In the final round Mark was playing very consistent groundstrokes and Greg demonstrated why he’s currently the MVP in Middlesex Men’s NE Division 5. They easily won 6-0, 6-3. Marcio and Tim saved the best till last and pulled out 2 sets of glorious tennis, much to the delight of the growing crowd, 6-2, 6-2 the result. The most intriguing match up however was between the 3rd pairs: a pair that Jeff had previous history with. Having already played 2 sets on his best behaviour it was only a matter of time before Jeff’s patience would begin to wane. No-one quite knows what happened but line calls were challenged, an offer to play a let was refused and at one point Totteridge were even called up for foot faulting (on a serve that was out anyway). After a sustained period of arguing heard by most of Hampstead it felt like the tennis may get in the way of a good old fashioned punch up. In the end the first set was shared 6-6 after Jeff managed to get under his own skin and serve 3 double faults. However the emotions were channelled more effectively in the final set and West Heath sealed the final set with another 2 points to wrap up the tie 19-5 and all but guarantee themselves promotion for next season.
Marjan once again pulled out all the stops, cooking a delicious feast that was enjoyed by both teams in what somehow turned out to be a very good natured post match meal, despite the on court shenanigans.