On the centre court there was a showdown between the third seed, Marcio Sugui and the second seed Cedric de la Chaise. Marcio approached the match confident he would be able to break Cedric’s serve on occasions, but not so confident he could hold his own serve. In the first set the French noises coming from Cedric would have led you to suppose that he was losing heavily. Certainly Cedric felt his movement was constrained by the moisture on the court. But the reality was that Cedric’s ability to reach wide balls and do something aggressive with them made it difficult for Marcio to get as clean a hit with his topspin placed shots as he had against Logan Mair in the quarters. Marcio was unable to prevent Cedric taking the first set 6-1.
In the second set Marcio was indeed able to break Cedric more than once, but had difficulty holding serve and the net was that Cedric’s powerful shots were still just too strong for him. Cedric won the match 6-1 6-4.
The second semi-final featured sixth seed Greg Lim against top seed Graeme Pearson and turned into an encounter you just could not take your eyes off. The consensus seems to be that all the second team men have improved considerably over the last twelve months as a result of regular play. Greg has been playing two or three times a week over winter on fast and often wet artificial courts and had already disposed of the fourth seed Philip Reid in a tight three-setter so could also be described as match tight. One summer a few years ago Graeme had been between jobs for a few months leading up to the tournament, had taken the opportunity to play most days and had been on top form during the tournament. By contrast, Graeme has had a lot happening in his life recently, including a house move, and tennis has very much had to take a back seat, so the tournament came as a welcome chance to enjoy some play.
Both Greg and Graeme tended to play safe, hitting the ball down the middle of the court from the baseline unless there was a clear opportunity to come in or to hit a winner or the situation required a passing shot. There is a huge difference in the strokes though. Greg has a very late take back and a lengthy follow through which is ideally suited to the often erratic bounces on the grass at present. His strokes are generally very flat and thus fast but predictable (apart from the grass bounce). By contrast, on the forehand Graeme usually winds up with a huge looped take back in preparation for heavy topspin, and the increased difficulty of adjustments makes the bad bounces more disruptive to his stroke. He also seemed to use exclusively sliced backhands.
The first set was a very tight affair which went to 6 all. The tie-break was equally tight, and equally went to 6 all, but Greg managed to take the last two points to win it 8-6. Graeme was playing more tentatively than usual, taking fewer risks, and often starting rallies with a shorter returned ball then extending the depth. By contrast Greg was trying to hit closer to the baseline and putting heavy pace on the ball. In the second set Graeme stepped up his game somewhat and broke early, and at this point it became clear that the mixed doubles final involving Greg was at least likely to be delayed for a third set and at worst delayed to another date. Although the rest of the set was close, Graeme managed to preserve the break and won the set 6-3 to equalise. It was then that Greg’s mixed doubles partner, Marjan Denis, gave up and changed out of her tennis outfit!
In the third set Greg stepped up his game, going for the lines more and hitting a little harder, thought Graeme was still a little tentative, spurning the chance to go for a side line or drop shot winner on occasions. The bad bounces also left their mark a little as Greg coped slightly better with them. Greg broke around three games in, and despite Graeme’s efforts he could never break Greg back to rescue matters, leaving Greg to take the match 7-6[8-6] 3-6 6-3. Thus Greg the giant killer has disposed of the sixth and second seed in his progression to meeting Cedric de la Chaise in the final.
The match finished at 8:15 pm so there was no hope of playing the mixed final. Graeme said he very much enjoyed the match, despite having lost, and certainly he looks happier in the picture above than Cedric generally does in his photos when he has won!
On the face of it Cedric will be the strong favourite for the final. Greg will be facing someone who does not know the meaning of the word “tentative” and can reach a lot of balls to hit winners that most of the rest of us might give up on. But there’s no doubt Greg is playing well and confidently, so if Cedric falters it may be another matter. Despite the weather, we have had some super matches to watch this tournament, and the men’s final will be another fascinating encounter. Book your seat early by turning up at 2 pm on Saturday to watch it!
While all this was going on, Elena Valarche and Ros Norkett, the third and second seeds, were playing out their ladies’ singles semi-final. Despite the seeding it appears that Elena had the upper hand and despatched Ros 6-0 6-1.
It now looks as if the mixed doubles final will be played on Wednesday 9 August.
Rachael Gangji prepared the annual delicious fish pie and Lara provided the famous pavlova and cheesecake. Thanks to the two chefs for a delicious meal.