Tonight Marjan Denis cooked a variety of tasty lasagnas designed for all West Heath dietary requirements (including regular, soya-free, and wheat-free also suitable for lactose intolerance), followed by a rapidly-disappearing tiramisu. However, she was also scheduled to play throughout the evening, so Lesley South and Moira Duncan stepped in to complete the cooking, which did not stop Marjan fretting over it. Perhaps this takes her mind off the tennis, enabling her to play better (just a theory, Marjan).
There were six matches on the schedule for the evening. The first was the men’s quarter final between Tim Simpson, the 8th seed, and Graeme Pearson who is the top seed in the absence of Cedric de la Chaise who beat him in the final last year. Tim was rather hoping to catch Graeme on the hop – Atlantic hopping to be precise, as Graeme had just had to make a business trip to Canada and so was presumably suffering from some form of jet lag. Tim’s serve has improved considerably over the last year, as have some of his ground strokes, and Graeme is often a slow starter in the singles matches in the later stages of a tournament. So Tim did quite well in the first set with a heavy serve and volley featuring regularly. However, Graeme not playing full tilt is still a major force to be reckoned with, and Tim made a few more errors than Graeme resulting in Graeme winning the first set 6-4.
In the second set Graeme warmed up and got his eye in. Typically this meant that if Tim was at the net and Graham had a chance to prepare his passing shot, he would generally pass Tim on either side at random (at least as far as Tim was concerned). This put more pressure on Tim who tried to force his second serves, resulting in a few more double faults – enough to give Graeme the edge. The result was that Graeme won the second set more easily – 6-1 for a 6-4 6-1 victory. And as matters turned out later, it was just as well that Tim’s match plan did not achieve ultimate success.
The ladies’ singles semi-final match started up alongside the men’s singles and seemed to be a permanent fixture for the evening. Lesley South, the second seed, was playing Ros Norkett. Ros started slowly wheres Lesley’s game is one of placement and accuracy, rather than necessarily pace, so possibly needs less warming up. Lesley took the first set 6-1. With Ros now warmed up, the second set was rather closer, still allowing Lesley to reach match point at 5-4 up. However, this time she forgot her lines and Ros used her better pace to take the game and the next two to win the set 7-5.
Remember that the singles events are still three tie-break sets – no Champions Tie Break. In the third set Lesley never quite achieved the dominance and lower error rate of the first set and most of the second set, and Ros hit some good serves and excellent placed winners just out of reach to put Lesley on the defensive, though Ros’s service game at 1-2 down seemed to last for ever (or at least considerably longer than the Champions Tie-Break described below) . In the end Ros took the set 6-4 for a 1-6 7-6 6-4 victory in a match that must have lasted for over 2 hours.
Rachel Savin was a little delayed for her mixed doubles match and her partner, Philip Reid, had to pick her up. Meanwhile, their opponents, the second seeds Marjan Denis & Greg Lim, were well warmed up by the time Rachel appeared on court and went straight into the match with no obvious warm-up. You might think this would be highly disadvantageous for Rachel and Philip. However, Greg later admitted to being a little nervy in the first set. Certainly Rachel and Philip had the upper hand, and Philip was putting away at the net anything which came even vaguely with reach, intercepting to great effect. Rachel and Philip won the first set 6-2. Greg played a little better in the second set, which Marjan and Denis won 6-2, but they did not both play their best until the Champions Tie Break. They pulled ahead in this, but Philip and Rachel hauled them back to 9 all. If memories are correct, Greg then won his serve and Philip put Marjan’s return from Rachel’s serve out to give Greg and Marjan a 2-6 6-2 [11-9] victory and a place in Thursday’s final.
Perhaps a little chastened by his defeat at the hands of Greame Pearson, Tim Simpson now partnered Marcio Sugui in an all second team men’s doubles match against second seeds James McKenzie & Greg Lim. If you remember, playing as a pair James and Greg have not lost a Middlesex League match in two years, so it was expected to be an uphill struggle for Tim and Marcio. And so it proved, with James and Greg winning the first set 6-2 despite Tim’s booming serve and Marcio’s leftie slice. James and Greg then reached 2-0 in the second set. At this point, in Tim’s words, on one shot he launched himself [at the ball] and felt something in his calf pop. There was no question of carrying on, and he limped to the benches for ice, sympathy and beer. “No question of carrying on” means, of course, no question of Tim carrying on. The other second-team players could see no reason not to draft in Philip Reid to complete the set. The score was not revealed but Philip did later complain that Tim had not left his side in a good state to take the second set.
Tim used an ice pack, got a lot of advice as to what to do, and had a few beers which put him in a better frame of mind, but still could not hobble far unaided so Sam Evans gave him a lift home. We all wish him well.
In the other men’s doubles semi-final the top seeds, Graeme Pearson & Sultan Gangji, were in action against the third seeds Logan Mair & Sam Evans. Graeme and Sam were generally making few mistakes, Logan made a few errors but was serving pretty hard. There were some good net-play reaction points which had the spectators in rapturous applause. But in general Graeme’s accurate placement (nothing spectacular but often just out of reach ) made it difficult for the opposition to gain an advantage in the point. Sultan did his bit, slapping the ball away where possible and chasing down some balls in the tram lines with a speed that would have been impossible a few years ago before his hip operation. The slight advantage to the top seeds translated into a 6-2 score line in both sets, allowing Sultan and Graeme to march into Saturday’s final 6-2 6-2.
The final match of the evening was the resumption of the ladies’ singles semi-final between Marjan Denis and Rachel Savin. This had to be abandoned late on Monday evening as the court became increasingly slippery. Rachel was leading 6-4 3 all. On the resumption a distinct pattern of play was noticeable, with Marjan aiming the ball into the corner (with an appropriate margin) whereas was trying to play it safe and hit the ball down the middle of the court. Rachel also tended to be at a disadvantage when Marjan played a short low ball. Nevertheless, the score reached 6 all, forcing a second set tie-break which Marjan won. In the third set (full set with tie-break), Marjan gained the upper hand and was leading 4-2 when it became slippery and difficult to see the ball. At this point Rachel graciously conceded the match to Marjan as it was not clear otherwise when the match could be completed prior to the final, as Rachel had booked tickets for the theatre for Thursday evening.