The men’s Middlesex Winter League got off to a flying start against Totteridge’s fourth team on Tuesday 25th October. The awesome foursome on court were Tim, Sam and Greg and James. The four traveled to Totteridge with a week of clay court tennis behind them; some benefitted from the practice, whilst others found that their shoulders made noises that weren’t there before.
Either way, the West Heath pairings got off to comfortable starts after gradually adjusting to the Totteridge tarmac. Messrs Luscious and Leftover started with a 6-0 6-0 double bagel, which was matched by Messrs Leftie and Languid. With the travelling contingent of fans staying for a while to shake a few pompoms, there was an appreciable rise in standards from both pairings (and even a successful interception at the net from James).
The second rotation of pairings was a little less comfortable for Greg and James, with a few more deuces than they would have cared for. However, they still managed to win all the games and in doing so recorded a quadruple bagel. Sam and Tim struggled perhaps a little more with adjusting to the dropping temperatures. They ended the evening well, in spite of a mini-blip at the beginning; nonetheless they triumphed 6-3 6-0 in the end. That wrapped up a 16-0 victory for the Heathens.
Thanks must be extended to our opponents, who were most graceful in the absence of any charitable play. The evening’s refreshments and chit chat were excellent and enjoyable. The nether reaches of northern Middlesex were highly hospitable; our next fixture takes us slightly further nether-wards to Ravenscroft in 5 weeks.
The second team’s last fixture of the season was an away match against Finchley Manor IV. With WHII already confirmed as league winners, the pressure was somewhat reduced amongst the ranks. We were delighted to introduce two new players of the game we love to play into the team for our final match. Salve! to young Joseph and salve! to Paul, an erstwhile second team captain himself. So whilst specifically not new this year, Paul was making his 2016 debut. He was paired with the steady, and reliably late, Marcio for the evening, whilst Philip was tasked with guiding Joseph through the travails of the fifth division. The pairings were completed by Greg and James, both still somewhat smarting since their poor showing in the WH men’s doubles final.
All three pairings got off to, quite frankly, terrible starts*. Joseph and Philip were up against the difficult first pair. They performed valiantly, and a little nervously, but lost 6-4. Meanwhile, Paul and Marcio were also struggling against the third pair who were dogged and troublesome. Both had good ground strokes but also some excellent and clinical volleying. The clay surface favours longer rallies, so their third pair’s ability to intercept and volley the ball to safety was a potent weapon. Finally, Greg and James were going toe-to-toe against the second pair. Suffering from the well-documented macaroni cheese withdrawal symptoms, James was carried quite considerably by Greg. With the score line marching inexorably towards a tie break, it was at 4-5 on the FM serve that server’s and partner’s game went off frequency. After a series of deuces, a smash was delivered with considerable gusto to James’s feet. Getting a racket to the ball, the backspin-laden ball rose like some kind of a bird into the air. Coming down, the ball bounced on the other side of the net right next to the FM player. Due to the backspin, the ball leapt up and crossed back to the WH side. Seemingly a simple reach-over-and-put-away-kind-of-a-shot, the FM player came over all static. Gifting the point to Greg and James, it is somewhat an understatement to say that his partner was not best pleased. With a request to replay the point falling on deaf/incredulous ears, the Heathens took the next point and the set 6-4.
The second round of matches was as difficult for the Heathens as the first. The FM first pair were just too strong for Paul and Marcio, although they were certainly warming to the task. The same was true for Joseph and Philip. And as Greg was enforcing maltloaf rations at each change of ends, James was finally beginning to work a little better. By talking the second set 6-3, The Lovely Samantha informed the masses that the half-way aggregate score was 8-4 in favour of Finchley Manor. As they needed only 10 points to ensure a second place league finish and promotion, they certainly seemed on course as the minute waltz of the second round faded into the background.
But West Heath are a force to be reckoned with; it is not for no reason that league victory was secured with a match to spare. A fight back was inevitable, as the Heathens take nothing but beer and grapes lying down.
Talking about beer, James’s and Greg’s minds were finally focussed. With the maltloaf and banana deficits destroyed (and hesitation removed), it must be said that the first pair were performing unequivocally quite well. Greg is known for his pithy one-liners (to say nothing of his innuendo), and his favourite of the night was about “it being much easier to lead from the front”. Much like The Lovely Samantha had done the night before, Greg was bashing balls around with pin-point abandon. It left the first seeds on the right side of a 6-2 6-1 tour de Finchley. From a personal perspective, it left the pairing unbeaten in Middlesex for two years.
On the spectators’ benches there was a vociferous contingent from West Heath, and much of their attention was, perhaps quite rightly, directed to Joseph’s and Philip’s efforts on the far court. Having got off to a nervy start in the first two rubbers, they put their troubles behind them and were entirely relentless in their play. The FM 3rd pair, after the match, were full of praise for their serving, volleying, and ability to put the ball out of reach. To the sound of applause and whooping from the bench of travelling WH supporters, Philip and Joseph did a demolition job to win 6-2 6-0.
Paul’s and Marcio’s collective fortunes were also on the up. Tim had taken it upon himself to, from the side-lines, give them a talking to, and for once it may actually have worked. The second pair’s play improved a lot, and whilst it would be injudicious (and incorrect) to attribute the performance increase to Tim’s pep talk, it might be noted that perhaps we have found a use for WHII’s Mr Petulant as a motivational speaker. Those at the club’s tournament week must certainly be aware of his storytelling prowess in relation to the curious incident of the brother and the beard. Tim’s intervention notwithstanding, the second pair took their sets 6-2 6-1 in the kind of form reminiscent of last year’s season ending match when they were cohabiting a court in blissful harmony.
With all of the final round sets going the West Heath way, Samantha choked back, amongst other stuff, her surprise that the score had flipped from 4-8 to 16-8. The final round performance had sealed FM to a third successive third place finish in Division 5; in their stead Brondesbury take second place (by a single point) in the Division and, with it, promotion next year. The Lovely Samantha is looking forward to playing with their balls next year!
The post-match friendlies were taken in good sprits, in spite of FM’s understandable rueful disappointment at being so close to securing promotion. To their exceptional credit, they put it behind them (only mentioning it once or twice more) and hosted a most marvellous end of season meal. Their chef served up some excellent and plenteous Thai food, which was supplemented with a bit of beer and plenty of “banter”.
So as the tennis ball of destiny slams into the clay court ball mark inspection of inevitability, the 2016 summer league draws to a close. It has been a rip-roaring encounter, and a pleasure to organise such an august body (careful, Samantha) into another league-topping performance. Many thanks to all of you for playing, for reading, for cooking (Marjan!), and for supporting. So, until next year and the heady heights of the Middlesex Summer League North East Division 4! Hurrah!
* Some of this may be attributable to the not so sterling team talk delivered by the captain. For the first time this season, a pre-match team talk was requested. As there was no pressure for results, the captain told his team to go and have fun. Clearly this wasn’t sufficiently motivating.
The lines were freshly painted. The umpire’s chairs were out and the umpires arms had been twisted. The sandwiches and cakes for tea had all been made. All that remained was to watch the on-court entertainment provided.
Men’s Singles Final
In the 2015 final Graeme Pearson was beaten by Cedric de la Chaise for the first time in four years, achieving a clean sweep of men’s titles, but Cedric did not play in this year’s tournament. So Graeme was the top seed this year. In the bottom half of the draw Marcio Sugui, the 4th seed emerged after beating Philip Reid who, in turn, knocked out the second seed Logan Mair. The match was umpired by Kevin Ryan after a break of a few years.
In the first set Marcio was caught a little cold by Graeme. Marcio’s topspin forehands were not going in consistently, and these and his leftie spin serve are his major weapons. Graeme was able to play pretty safely and did not need to take chances – the points kept rolling in. It could have been a bagel (6-0), but Marcio stopped the rot to claim his only game, giving the set to Graeme 6-1.
In the second set Marcio raised his level considerably and cut out most of the errors. It took Graeme a while to twig that this had happened, as he found himself 1-3 down – a break which Marcio retained until the score reached 5-3. In particular in the first set Graeme had been able to get away with putting the ball on Marcio’s (leftie) forehand (i.e. Marcio’s left) half the time or more, but in the second set this tactic stopped producing a steady stream of points and instead allowed Marcio to hit a number of winners past him. So around 5-3 Graeme switched tactics and started hitting the ball more to Marcio’s backhand (i.e. right), denying Marcio the winners and points which had come more easily earlier in the set. Further, Graeme started hitting the ball a little harder and taking more risks with placement (deeper and closer to the lines). These changes affected the points won ratios, and Graeme took the next four games to wrap the match up in two sets 6-1 7-5.
Being challenged to raise your game and respond is what serious tennis is all about. At this level it is about playing one’s best (if you wanted just to win all the time you could play only weaker opponents). See the book “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Galwey for more details.
If you want to know about the duck then ask Barbara.
Ladies’ Singles Final
The Ladies Singles Final this year was between Marjan Denis, the 2015 Champion and top seed, and Ros Norkett who beat the second seed, Lesley South, in three sets. I do feel a little guilty about this after certain information came to light. Lesley had three match points in the second set at 5-6 when I asked someone to go and find out what the score in the match was. Apparently the question was popped immediately to Lesley who says it destroyed her concentration at that critical time, allowing Ros to save the game. Ros then went on to take that set and the next.
Since both Ros and Marjan have strong games when on form, the result of the final was likely to be decided in favour of whoever played closest to their potential. In the first set Ros had the edge, with Marjan making more errors. Ros won it 6-4. This momentum carried over into the second set with Ros 2-1 up with a break, but on her serve Ros double faulted a couple of times which seemed to change the balance of the match, with Marjan now starting to believe she could win it and Ros becoming less certain. The momentum swung – Marjan pulled the break back and created one of her own to take the second set 6-4. In the third set the momentum shift continued as Marjan’s game improved, and Ros had no response. Marjan won 4-6 6-4 6-0.
Men’s Doubles Final
This final was contested between the first and second seeded pairs, Sultan Gangji & Graeme Pearson vs James McKenzie & Greg Lim, also representing a men’s first team pair vs the first pair in the men’s second team. Playing together, James and Greg are unbeated in the Middlesex League for the last 2 years. When it came to the play, Sultan and Graeme had the edge because of their lower error rates and ability to put shots away, but James has a big advantage with his leftie serve with Greg stationed at the net to put away any loose returns, and Greg’s flat shots have a lot of pace. Sultan and Graeme won the first set 6-3, and the second set was only marginally less close at 6-2 for a 6-3 6-2 championship win for Sultan and Graeme.
Ladies’ Doubles Final
This final was also contested between the first seeds, Marjan Denis & Rachel Savin, and second seeds, Ros Norkett & Vandana Talwar. The first set was very one sided as Marjan and Rachel bagelled it (winning 6-0). But the second set proved to be a much tighter and more nervy affair for Marjan and Rachel. The score reached 5 all, but, contrary to expectations, Ros and Vandana won the next two games to take the match to a champions tie-break. Ros and Vandana dug in at this point, making few errors, but Marjan and Rachel made a few mistakes which resulted in a 0-6 7-5 [10-5] championship win to Ros and Vandana.
The Finals’ Day Tea came in between the Men’s and Ladies’ doubles finals and was the usual resplendent event. This was followed by the Presentation of the Trophies, for which the celebrity guest this year was Jane Boyle, with some assistance from Sultan Gangji.
The tasty evening barbecue was attended by thirty people. It is on occasions like this that we all notice the absence of the huge old reservoir valve cover, which has been replaced with a very discreet cover on the ground. This allows the outdoor eating area to spread out as far as the tables will allow. Anna Ganev started some enthusiastic dancing with which various others joined in.
Thanks to the many volunteers who provided or cooked food or helped in many other ways. And thanks to Sultan and Marjan as the tournament organisers / referees. Looking forward to next year (after a suitably lengthy rest from the pressure of daily posts).
Rachael Gangji provided the evening’s fish pie, with Lara’s cheesecake and strawberry pavlova proffered as the sumptuous climax to this year’s Gourmet Dinner season.
Three matches were played on the last mid-week evening of Finals Week. The weather, whilst still kind, had conspired to bring cloud cover to West Heath for the first time this week. The matches were played with perfect visibility for all, so there was no need to shift courts to avoid the sun or take up a defensive position behind a tree.
The first of the two men’s singles semi-finals to begin was Sam Evans against Graeme Pearson. In the absence of Cedric de la Chaise (2015 champion), Graeme is the top seed. Tim Simpson had taken 4 games off Graeme in the first set in the quarter final match, and the question was whether jet lag from Graeme’s trip to Canada earlier this week had featured in this minor delay in Graeme’s swift progress to the final; we got the answer today. Sam played well, but Graeme made very few errors, even under pressure and was almost always able to hit the ball with pace to the exact spot required. Sam hit hard balls and serves at Graeme, but Graeme typically returned them to his chosen spot as if it was the 100th ball he had drilled to that point in the last 5 minutes. Sam could not apply sufficient pressure to stop Graeme from hitting balls he had only just got to, to the most inconvenient place on the court for Sam, whereas Sam usually lost the point immediately when in the same situation. So the match was short and sweet (at least as far as Graeme was concerned) and Sam got raucous cheers from the crowd when, in the second set, he won his only game. Graeme won 6-0 6-1. Come back Cedric de la Chaise, because it is difficult to see anyone else present that Graeme will not take apart in the final on Saturday, such seemed the gulf in this semi-final.
Starting slightly after them on Court 2 was the hotly anticipated fixture between Marcio Sugui and Philip Reid. Whereas everyone knew the result of the first semi-final in advance, this one was expected to be very close indeed. The first set started with 3rd seed Marcio, the left hander, a bit cold. A lot of his topspin shots, normally hooked in, went wide, meaning that 7th seed Philip usually won the point when Marcio had to hit an angle or lose the point. Philip made errors too though, including the occasional double fault. Philip is very tall, and, considering the speed at which he can hit the serve, he should be getting huge penetration, but his service is flawed because he hits the ball when his upper body is on the way down, rather than at the peak of its extension. So the penetration and margin for error is reduced compared to what it could be. The net of all these effects is that the first set was very tight and reached 6-6, with Philip winning the resulting tie-break.
Marcio was much better warmed-up for the second set and typically succeeded in passing Philip when he came to the net, and also had the upper hand in baseline rallies whose winner depended on hitting accurate angles. Marcio won this set 6-1. At the beginning of the third set it looked like it could have gone either way, but Marcio gained the upper hand and did not let up, eventually winning 6-7 6-1 6-3.
Mixed Doubles Final
The last match was the mixed doubles final between first and second seeds, Lesley South and James McKenzie (last year’s runners up)playing Marjan Denis and Greg Lim. Not only had the seeding committee got it right but there was also a fair amount of money being exchanged on the bank regarding this match’s outcome. The new pairing of Marjan and Greg had come through a difficult semi-final encounter whilst Lesley and James were yet to drop a set. In traditional fashion, Lesley won the toss and put James in to bat. After Marjan and Greg gave their opponents ‘one in the sun’, James served and did not do so as convincingly as desired. Nonetheless, he held his serve after a deuce or two and much the more relieved for it. Greg’s service game was remarkable for pin-point accuracy in the deuce court; Lesley could do nothing with the wide serves and Greg secured points with two aces and an unreturned serve. However, the story in the ad’ court was almost the reverse, with all returns being made and then made good. Lesley and James unexpectedly secured the break after a couple of deuces and started Lesley’s service game at 2-0. Lesley’s serve is not rapid, but is exceptionally well placed. Hit consistently to both backhands, it gives an opportunity for interceptions at the net. Some of these were put away whilst others hit the back fence. After much too-ing and fro-ing, the game was held for a 3-0 lead. After replenishments at the change of ends (for one of the players, it should be noted that the half-life of macaroni cheese is notoriously short), it was Marjan’s turn to serve. With some good placement and lengthy rallies, Marjan and Greg held the game. James’s second service game was a little more comfortable, as also was Greg’s. The score reached 5-3 leaving lefty James to serve for the set. Whilst not entirely straightforward, the top seeds hung on to clinch the first set 6-3.
Perhaps in a slight daze, James, the only professional umpire on the court, claimed that the players should “change for one”. Er, not so, said Marjan whilst bananas were bolted down and Lucozade lapped up during the set break. Back in their previous positions, the second set continued with a couple of service holds and a service break to the second seeds. It seemed likely that the match was heading to a match tie-break. However, the break was quickly returned and the score after Greg’s service game was 5-4. James served to stay in the set [no pressure] and it looked like he and Lesley might have escaped. However, Harry Houdini himself would have struggled [no exaggeration – tennis wasn’t his forte] to escape. James and Lesley saved the first set point, but not the second. Marjan’s hefty returning of serve and Greg’s flat groundstrokes in that game allowed them snatch the second set 6-4.
Match tie-breaks are neither James’s nor Greg’s favourite thing [beer? – Peter]. Although not explicitly discussed, it is probably the case that Marjan favours raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, whilst Lesley has been known to be keener on bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens than match tie breaks. Alas, the final came down to the wire with a first-to-ten-with-a-margin-of-two format. After some solid play, cheeky angles and crucial net interceptions, the 1st seeds inched towards a 4-2 lead at the first change of ends and 8-4 by the second. At 9-4 Lesley served for the title and delivered a low dippy angled serve to Greg’s backhand. James pounced on the return with a decisive down-the-middle volley very fitting to winning a final, securing the title 6-3 4-6 [10-4].
Marjan and Greg played solidly throughout, with little between the four players throughout much of the match. There was some heavy hitting in all quarters, no quarter was spared, and some delicate touch shots to boot. During the deciding match tie-break it was James and Lesley who better mastered their nerves: Lesley calmly delivered angled put-aways and James was dogged at the net, perhaps due to Lesley’s faultless attention to his carbohydrate levels. Whilst Novak reached the top with a gluten-free diet, James’s path was paved with macaroni cheese supplemented mid-match with two bananas and a bottle of Lucozade. In spite of this carb-loading, there was still room for Rachael’s much anticipated – and as it turned out delicious – fish pie.
As an experiment, Sam Evans brought along a drone to take some aerial pictures. Unfortunately it was just a little too noisy (even at 50m height) to use to video sequences from the second men’s semi-final in progress, but he did take some shots of everyone and we look forward to including them in this post when available. They include a shot of Sultan ‘B. DeMille’ Gangji’s attempted choreography of the entire massed attendees at West Heath, who can be seen ‘directing’ in the photo below. Don’t give up the day job Sultan.
We are all looking forward to the four remaining finals at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon. First up on courts 1 and 2 will be the ladies’ and men’s singles finals. These will be followed by the two doubles finals, a delicious tea and an evening BBQ. See you there…
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.
The Gourmet Dinner chef this evening was Lesley South, who provided an appetizing Far-Eastern themed barbecue meal. Unfortunately the lighting of the (new club) barbecue caused consternation among the spectators as the wind was blowing exactly towards the clubhouse carrying smoke towards the entire crowd, most of whom rapidly dispersed. Fortunately it did not interfere with the match in play.
The evening’s first match was a mixed doubles quarter final tie between the first and third seeds. Top seeds James and Lesley – also the evening’s Gourmet Chef – were up against Ros and Sultan on a sunny Court 3. Both pairs had recorded convincing wins in the previous round (Anna described Sultan’s and Ros’s victory over her and Jasper as like being run over by a tractor) and this was a fixture that had the potential to go either way. James and Lesley decided to start serving into the sun and in true form (see previous reports ad nauseum), James struggled to serve well and just about clung on to his own service game in spite of facing a few break points. Sultan and Ros returned well to keep the top seeds under pressure, and Sultan, in the second game, showed us how to hold a service game with ease. Lesley, like her partner, got off to a slow service start, but pulled it back with some trademark angles and delicate placement. James and Lesley pulled away to a 2-1 lead and broke Ros and dutifully held the subsequent game to rack up a 4-1 scoreline. Sultan again held his own in the sunshine, and Lesley held her own in the shady end. The first set point for the first seeds came and went, but they grasped the first set on the next attempt, to win 6-2. The second set followed the exact same service hold/break pattern until 5-2 when Ros served to stay in the match. James and Lesley won the next game to record a 6-2 6-3 victory and advance to Thursday’s final. Who they will meet is to be decided on Wednesday. After a quick costume change, Lesley was straight back in the kitchen to organise the evening’s delicious Gourmet Dinner.
The subsequent men’s singles match between between the second seed, Logan Mair, and the seventh, Philip Reid, was expected to be close. However, Logan got off to a slow start in the first set in a match that started off more about placement and not losing points than about hitting winners. Philip took the first set 6-2. In the second set Logan reduced his error rate somewhat and just got the upper hand to take it 6-4. The third set started fairly evenly, but Philip put huge pressure on Logan’s service game which Logan eventually won to take the score to 2 all. But after that Logan was never quite on top, with Philip continuing to apply pressure and Logan making just a few more errors. The inevitable break allowed Philip victory 6-2 4-6 6-3.
The opinion of the crowd is that the result of the semi-final match between Philip and Marcio Sugui will be dependent on how closely each performs to their respective capabilities. If both play as well as they are capable of it should be another cracking match. Tim Simpson is still confidently predicting that he will win his quarter final with Graeme Simpson as Graeme is flying back from 24 hours in Canada, but Sultan Gangji doesn’t think Tim stands much chance. However Graeme can often be a slow starter in the club final, so it is entirely possible Tim could take the first set if he surprises Graeme (and the rest of us) with some solid early play.
Tomorrows schedule is jam-packed, with six matches to complete. So be sure to get there early so as not to miss any of your chosen action. You will be doing well if you can follow all three matches at the same time.
On a fantastic warm day Moira Duncan cooked a tasty Moroccan lamb tagine for 25 people and Jill Elek made delightful creme caramel for dessert. We went home just after 11 pm but those more determined and with more stamina were still drinking the wine provided by Sultan, especially his special Rose (click on picture to examine it closely). With the full moon out and the West Heath fairy lights sporting some new coloured bulbs who knows what time socialising finished, but the West Heath Tournament Gourmet Dinners week is a marathon rather than a sprint, and few have the stamina to burn the midnight oil four nights on the trot (although, it should be admitted, some of them have had plenty of practice).
The first two matches to go on court were ladies’ doubles semi-finals. On court two Jane Boyle & Barbara Thomas were taking on the second seeds Ros Norkett & Vandana Talwar. The first set did not go at all according to the seeding as Jane’s leftie slice shots and Barbara’s determination to get to balls put them on the ascendancy in a hard-fought set which they won 6-3. However, in what seemed like a faster second set Ros and Vandana’s better consistency allowed them to impose their game on the challengers. Ros and Vandana took the set 6-2, setting up a grand finale of a Champions Tie Break. This was a pretty tight affair which maybe could have gone either way, but Ros and Vandana made just slightly fewer errors to take it 10-8 for an overall 3-6 6-2 [10-8] victory. At the request of the participants Vince Sudbery agreed to take the photo beforehand.
In the second ladies’ doubles semi Lesley South & Moira Duncan were attempting to upset the first seeds, Marjan Denis & Rachel Savin. You would expect that Moira’s pacy forehand would see her playing on the right, while Lesley’s understanding of the angles would let her hit winners from either side, and this is the way they started the match. But in the first set this configuration did not seem to work very well as Marjan and Rachel took the set 6-2. Perhaps they had worked out a way to nullify Moira’s forehand, or perhaps Lesley was worried about Oscar who has not been well the last few days and could not concentrate as well as normal. Going with the first theory, Lesley and Moira swapped sides in the second set, with Moira unusually playing on the backhand, and this yielded a better result, but Marjan and Rachel’s superior pace still enabled them to win it 6-4 for a 6-2 6-4 place in the final.
The evening’s men’s singles quarter-final match started on court 1. Sam Evans and Jason Traub were battling it out to see who would face either Graeme Pearson (top seed) or Tim Simpson in the semi-final. Throughout the match Tim kept assuring us that the winner would be facing him, but then maybe he was overcompensating for his loss in the mixed doubles to Anna Ganev and Jason Tressider. Sam and Jason played some good tennis. Sam was hitting consistent ground strokes and Jason sent down some pretty hard and high-bouncing serves. In the first set, after reaching 5 all, Sam broke Jason to take the set 7-5. The second set was even closer, as the score got to 6 all and they played the first point of the tie-break. At this point the wishes of the spectators became paramount and the match was moved to court 2 to provide the main entertainment to replace the ladies doubles. Again, the tie-break was pretty close, and, to the delight of the crowd who wanted more (since dinner was not yet ready), Jason took it 8-6. In the third set, despite Jason’s booming servers, Sam just had the edge and won it 6-3.
In the final match of the evening the winning doubles pairing of Marjan Denis and Rachel Savin split up to compete against each other for a place in the ladies’ singles final. Rachel surprised the seeding committee by taking the first set 6-4, and the second set reached 3 all. However, despite the heat of the day, the temperature was dropping and the dew point approaching. Marjan had slipped a few times already, and the contestants decided discretion was the better part of valour, so they postponed the climax of the contest until Wednesday evening.
Although Monday was warm, Tuesday will be even warmer and temperatures are expected to exceed 30 C on Wednesday, though it will cool off on Thursday. If you haven’t already booked your place at the Gourmet dinners then put your name down or phone the chefs. Thursday is already up to 34 people and it may be difficult to fit many more in.
Come and watch the later rounds of the tournament and stay for an excellent meal. Sign the lists on the wall near the kitchen to reserve your place for the Gourmet dinners. The chefs and matches this year are :-