Only one set was played on Tuesday before rain washed everything out. Five matches were thus played on Wednesday.
During Wednesday afternoon, Moira Duncan & Lesley South played Jane Boyle & Margaux Valarche, the fourth seeds, on grass. Margaux was a late replacement as Jane’s original partner had to withdraw, resulting in a revoke of a previously awarded walkover for Moira and Lesley, who would otherwise have ended up in the final without playing a match. This would probably not be within the spirit of the West Heath tournament!
Although Jane regarded Moira and Lesley as tricky opponents, after a short knock up, Lesley and Moira got off to a very poor start, losing the first four games, but then holding and breaking Margaux to win the next three games. The see saw then swung again and the seeds took the next two games to take the set 6-3. In the second set, Jane and Margaux were rather steadier than the challengers, and Margaux distinguished herself at the net with her trademark angled volleys, resulting in only one game for the challengers and a 6-3 6-1 victory for Jane and Margaux. As Becca Vaughan picked up an injury elsewhere, after she and Jen Ehr won their first match, Jane and Margaux are now through to the final.
In the first of the ladies singles semi finals, Emily played Marjan Denis on grass, fourth vs second seeds. Emily is a leftie, and has been getting better and better throughout the tournament. She has has a classical service technique and has been timing the serve well to take advantage of her height and get a decent pace. And she gives herself plenty of space on the groundstrokes. Both players played well, within the constraints of the frequent, poor, grass court bounces, and both made some mistakes, but Emily was able to create situations from which she could hit winners, and this proved key. Emily won 6-2 6-0.
In the men’s doubles on grass, the fourth seeds, Stephen Cooke & Steve Yoo were hoping to upset the top seeds, Sultan Gangji & Greg Lim. But in this match, Greg was playing particularly well, timing his serves and flatish groundstrokes to perfection. Sultan was playing a solid supporting role, and his mobility was pretty good, particularly compared with his pre-hip op days. Stephen and Steve hit some solid services, but seemed to lose out on the tactical battle for the net. Stephen and Steve were also hitting the ball very well, and the significant differences were probably tactical. I felt that Stephen could have gone for more passing shots down the lines, on service returns or during cross court rallies, to pick up a few cheap points and keep the opposing net players honest – there was quite a bit of edging towards the centre line going on from the opposition server’s net partner. This would have required the odd pressing short – low over the net with topspin to bring it down into the tram lines without giving the net player much leeway, even if he got there. Greg also feeds off pace with a bit of height, and Stephen’s deep accurate, topspin, crosscourt forehands might have given him more opportunities than having to scrabble around near the ground to pick up more low, short balls.
In the first set the score reach 3 all, but then Sultan and Greg won the last three games to take the first set 6-3. They went on to win the first three games of the second set, thus winning six games in a row. The Steve’s stopped the rot to hold twice, and Sultan served the vital seventh game at 4-2 up under a lot of pressure. This was a very tight game and probably a set decider. It must have had ten or a dozen deuces. Sultan and Greg finally managed to close it out and, with the next two games going with serve, win the set 6-3 for a 6-3 6-3 victory.
On Tuesday, the mixed doubles semi final started on hard court 4 between Logan Mair & Margaux Valarche and Marjan Denis & Greg Lim, the third and top seeds respectively. With perfect bounces for a change, matters went with serve until there was a short rain break. On the resumption, Margaux held her serve for 3 all, whereupon Margaux and Logan broke Greg and went on to take the first set. At this point the rain started tipping down and everyone ran for the shelter of the clubhouse and walkway. As water continued to accumulate on the court surface, it became apparent there was no prospect of any further play, and the completion of the match was postponed until the Wednesday.
On the Wednesday resumption, this time on grass, Greg continued his high standard of play from the preceding men’s doubles into the first game, but could not seem to sustain it thereafter. But it was a very different kind of match. Margaux struggled to get any pace on her serve, worked her magic at the net whenever possible, and stayed solid on the baseline. The bad bounces didn’t help anyone. In the end the top seeds couldn’t sustain enough pressure to win the second set, and Logan and Margaux won the match 6-3 6-3.
The second mixed doubles semi final was between fourth seeds, Stephen Cooke & Elena Valarche ,and second seeds, Sultan Gangji & Jen Ehr. Both Stephen and Sultan would have been well warmed up from their preceding men’s double semi. Stephen made good use of his long reach and rapid movement to dominate at the net, and seemed to be able to hit groundstrokes to within a foot of the corner at will if Sultan was the least bit out of position. Jen played well, but couldn’t always hit the ball past Stephen who seemed to be everywhere. Elena and Sultan played solid games.
Stephen and Elena won the first set 6-2, but the second set was an altogether tighter affair. The early momentum was with Stephen and Elena, but Sultan and Jen improved their game as the set went on. Elena concentrated on defending her sideline and left most of the movement and hitting to Stephen, who dominated most of the court. The strategy generally worked well, though Stephen, under pressure, missed a few shots towards the end. At 6 all the tie break kicked in. Mostly this went with serve , but Sultan and Jen lost a couple of crucial points when it mattered most to give Stephen and Elena a 6-2 7-6 [8-6] victory. Elena now meets her daughter Margaux, playing with Logan, in the final.