Finals Day 2015

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After some heavy rain during the night, the day was clear, but not particularly warm. The courts were still slightly moist when the singles matches began, though there was no risk of rain for the spectators. These included our international social member, Blake Fillion, who is now working in San Francisco but came to visit us for the second week of the tournament.

The Finals Day Tea was as sumptuous as the occasion demands, and everyone is still finishing off various cakes.

Congratulations to Cedric de la Chaise on a clean sweep of events, repeating his performances or 2005, 2006 and 2011.

 

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Ladies’ Doubles Final 2015

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Ladies’ Doubles Final – Marjan Denis & Elena Valarche (1) vs Carine & Margaux Valarche (2)

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Umpired by Julia Abbot, this match involved no less than three Valarches for a needle contest of mother, Elena, vs daughters Carine (18 and off to Cambridge if she gets her A*, A*, A) and Margaux (16). Marjan and Carine brought some heavy ground strokes to the table, while Elena and Margaux are both very comfortable at the net. Carine has less experience of match-play doubles than the others as she is the one who does not spend all available leisure time playing tennis. On the other hand, returning on the backhand, she has a heavy cross-court return which can set up the point for Margaux to win at the net. The youngsters had the edge in the first set, which they took 6-3.

The second set was a much closer affair, reaching 6 all to give the youngsters a target of winning one of the two tie-breaks (set tie break and champions tie break) to take the match. However, they only needed the first tie-break which they won 7-3 for a 6-3 7-67-3 victory. Hopefully Carine and Margaux will defend their title next year.

The more perceptive among you will already have realised, but in any case Elena would want me to point out the change of outfit between the singles (turquoise) and doubles (white top with blue pleated skirt) finals. That’s to make her feel a little better after losing both finals – to her doubles partner and her children respectively.

Men’s Doubles Final 2015

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Cedric de la Chaise & Peter Fitzgerald (1) vs Sultan Gangji & Graeme Pearson (2)

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Again, under the eagle eye of LTA umpire James McKenzie this year’s final was also the third final in a row that these pairs had contested, Cedric and Peter getting the upper hand in 2013 and 2014.  The courts must have dried out considerably by the time of the doubles final, because Peter seemed to have no qualms about throwing himself around the courts with customary abandon when putting his all into getting a shot which might have otherwise been out of reach.  From the perspective of Sultan and Graeme, the fact Graeme had clocked up his first loss in the West Heath singles final in the immediately preceding match might have been a little dispiriting.
Another factor may be that Graeme’s solid topspin baseline game has less impact in a doubles match.  And while Sultan played very well in the doubles semi-final, he was not on top form right at the start of this match.  These factors combined with great play by Cedric and Peter, and some bad bounces, allowed the title holders, Cedric and Peter to increase their winning margin from last year to win the match 6-1 6-1 (last year was 6-4 6-1)

Peter is unlikely to compete and win with Cedric in next year’s tournament, as his company has asked him to go on a prestigious two-year assignment to Japan in early August.  We wish him all the best in his new role, and hope he will be returning to play at West Heath at the conclusion.

Ladies’ Singles Final 2015

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Marjan Denis (1) vs Elena Valarche (2)

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In a repeat of the 2013 and 2014 ladies’ singles finals, Marjan Denis and Elena Valarche squared off to each other for the third year in a row, umpired by Greg Lim. The match tactics went pretty much as you would expect. Elena would chip and charge the net at every opportunity, and the outcome of the point depended mainly on whether Marjan could withstand the pressure and hit the ball cleanly and precisely on the first passing shot.

In the first set, Marjan executed very well, allowing Elena very few winning vollies, and resulting in Marjan taking the set to love. However, in the second set Marjan started missing, allowing Elena into the match for the first time. At one point it looked like the match might go to a third set. But Marjan regained her concentration, starting to hit the passing-shot winners once more, and winning the second set 6-4 for a 6-0 6-4 victory.

Men’s Singles Final 2015

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Graeme Pearson (1) vs Cedric de la Chaise (2)

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Regrettably the fact the court was slippery from the overnight rain, and the occasional poor bounce had an impact on this match which was umpired by our very own LTA umpire, James McKenzie. Cedric was reluctant to run full-tilt for balls at first. Graeme has been a slow starter in previous round matches this year, and in the 2014 singles final (which he won). However, in this final he came out of the blocks like an express train, steamrollering a reluctant Cedric, unsure of his footing, into conceding the first set 1-6.

In the second set, perhaps the court was drier, or maybe Cedric now knew what acceleration it would take, because Cedric started competing more vigorously. Aided and abetted by one or two favourable bounces he leapt into the lead and maintained it to win the set 6-3.

In the third set the momentum remained with Cedric. He kept the pressure on Graeme, who made a few unforced errors, whereas Cedric hit the ball like a man on a mission, and chased everything down. Cedric took the final set 6-1 for a 1-6 6-3 6-1 victory – the mirror image in terms of sets won of the 2014 singles final. This is the first time Graeme has been outplayed by Cedric in the three year history of meeting him in the final.

An interesting child’s perspective on this result emerged later at the prize giving. Julia Abbot has very kindly donated two singles runners-up trophies for the West Heath Tournament. After the prize giving Graeme’s daughter exclaimed it was excellent that Graeme had been presented with a shiny brand-new [runners up] trophy instead of the older, battered 1905 [winners] one!!!

Now wouldn’t you think, having won, Cedric would be looking happier than Graeme? Not a chance!

Mixed Doubles Final 2015

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Leslie South & James McKenzie versus Margaux Valarche & Cedric de la Chaise (2)

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The mixed doubles final was contested by the unseeded James McKenzie and Lesley South and the second seeds Cedric de la Chaise and Margaux Valarche. Marjan Denis umpired. The match started on court 3 pending the finish of the men’s singles semi-final between Logan Mair and Graeme Pearson, whereupon it moved to court 2 which was much more convenient for the vast majority of spectators.

Although the second seeds had stronger, more powerful strokes and a greater level of consistency than the challengers, there was no doubt that the crowd’s favourite in the match was Lesley, because of her underdog status, uncanny tactical understanding and the ability, while at the net, to place an unexpected winner in places where the more mobile Margaux and Cedric just could not get to in time. This winner was invariably greeted by raucous applause and shouting from an unashamedly partisan crowd who always believed they knew the inevitable outcome of the match and were determined to encourage the underdogs.

As often seems to be the case in matches where the opponents are not evenly matched, Lesley and James put up a good defence in the first set, losing it only 6-3. However, either Cedric and Margaux worked out how to win faster, or James in particular could not keep the required level of intensity up into the second set, which Margaux and Cedric won 6-0 for a 6-3 6-0 title.

Thursday 23rd July 2015

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Thursday 23 July

Rachael Gangji baked fish pie, which, by common consent, gets more excellent every year (unless memories just fade), plus lemon tort and cheesecake which maybe provided too much in the way of temptation.

The resumption of the ladies’ singles semi-final between Lesley South and the second seed Elena Valarche started from 2 all in the final set. Although Lesley provided resistance, Elena was the more determined and closed out the match for a 7-5 2-6 6-3 victory.

On court 1, the sixth seed Gabor Felsen hoped to make a dent in the final appearance record of the second seed Cedric de la Chaise. To allow Gabor more convenient seated banana breaks, the officials were now providing on-court chairs for courts 1 and 2 – just like the hard courts really. Cedric generally had a look of grim determination on his face, and generally played the more accurate and penetrating tennis, evincing various expressions in Hungarian and English from Gabor, particular when losing a point had been due to Gabor’s unforced error. Gabor claims the Hungarian translates into phrases such as “Come on! Your grandmother plays better tennis than this”. Certainly the English phrases, though loud, did not seem likely to solicit a penalty for a verbal obscenity. Cedric took all this in his stride, though at a certain point you could see him trying unsuccessfully not to laugh.

Cedric’s accurate and mobile tennis in the first set proved too much for Gabor, who did clock up one game, but nothing he tried was able to staunch the flow of points and games to Cedric. Perhaps in the second set Gabor became more resigned to his fate, because the exclamations all but disappeared. The outcome was the same, for a 6-1 6-1 victory to Cedric.

The other men’s semi-final had the potential to be a much closer affair, as Logan Mair has a penetrating and almost unreturnable serve at its best, whereas Graeme Pearson’s strengths are accuracy and consistency. Graeme also seems to be a slow starter, and Logan broke him to get the opportunity to go 3-1 up which would have given him a sporting chance of the first set, but did not take it. It was fascinating tennis, because you could not determine the outcome of each point from the start. Logan tended to come to the net and use angled volleys in alternate directions to try to get the ball out of Graeme’s reach. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes Graeme produced a stunning passing shot from a full stretch. Graeme won the first set 6-3. The second set was similar, but Graeme was well warmed up by now and Logan could not quite keep up the pressure from the first set, so Graeme took the match 6-3 6-2.

If Logan really has not been playing much over the past year or so then he is only going to get better with more practice and play. If he devotes more time to his tennis over the next year then expect to see him put in a serious challenge in the 2016 tournament.

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

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Moira Duncan provided a tasty Moroccan lamb tagine, with complementary yoghurt dessert, which went down well.

In the ladies’ semi-final, Julia Abbot played Marjan Denis, the title holder. Julia is a consistent player with decent speed about the court, but Marjan has the stronger strokes, as well as being fast about court, though she may not always be as steady. Although it was a good game to watch, Marjan always had the slight edge, including more aggressive placement, and won the match 6-2 6-2.   The photo has incredible contrasts with black storm clouds looming in the background while the club courts are in brilliant sunshine!

One of the two men’s doubles semi-finals played featured Greg Lim and James McKenzie, the third seeds, against title holders Cedric de la Chaise and Peter Fitzgerald. For those that don’t already know, Peter and his family are soon off to Japan for a two year assignment.

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In the first set matters were relatively even, with Greg and James playing somewhere near their potential, the difference usually being Cedric’s ability to make the correct placement with plenty of disguise to hit a winner, often at close quarters. This enabled the holders to win the first set 6-4. In the second set Greg and James could not sustain the level required to compete fully for every game, and their error rate went up, enabling Cedric and Peter to register a 6-4 6-1 win. It would have been good to capture the body language and expressions on Greg and James’ face after one of their unforced errors, because such a picture might have summed up their view of the second set very well.

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The other men’s doubles semi-final took place on court 3, to the disappointment of spectators who had selected seats giving a good view over courts 1 and 2. Marcio Sugui and Ed Fitzgerald took on the second seeds Sultan Gangji and Graeme Pearson. Although there was some good tennis played, and some good serving from Ed, Sultan and Graeme were playing well, unlike a previous match in which Sultan appeared to make a number of unforced error, and the result was a 6-1 6-0 win to Sultan and Graeme.