The new school term begins on Wednesday 6th September. As such, the hard courts are made available to St Margaret’s School between the hours of 12 – 4pm, along with certain other hours. Further details can be found here. The grass courts remain available during the day as long as they are playable.
The mixed doubles final is normally scheduled for Thursday of the second week of the tournament, and indeed all the required players were present. However, Greg Lim was involved in a lengthy men’s singles match against Graeme Pearson which he eventually won 7-6 [8-6] 3-6 6-3. However, by the time that had finished there were fewer than 30 minutes of daylight left, which ruled out completion of the mixed doubles final that evening. It was decided to postpone the final until Wednesday 9th August – the next date all players could make..
Those who can remember Wednesday 9th August will note that the heavens opened for most of the day, and that the rain was not just drizzle, but downpour for most of that time. Fortunately the weather forecast identified this some time in advance, and, wisely, the final was moved back a week to Wednesday 16 August. Lasagna and pizza were promised to draw in the spectators. The weather this time was fine.
The mixed doubles final was between Greg Lim & Marjan Denis, the second seeds, and Tim Simpson & Ana, the third seeds who beat the champions and top seeds Lesley South & James McKenzie on their way to the final. Barbara Thomas was the umpire. The match itself was a bit of a nervy affair, and victory seemed most likely to go to the side who made the fewer mistakes, rather than being decided by outright winners. Even the ever-consistent Greg was affected, on a couple of occasions . Tim’s serve is of the “go-for-it” type, likely to beat Marjan and end up embedded half way up the back fence on the occasions when it went in, but it didn’t always.
In the first set Tim was broken in the second game, but he and Ana immediately broke Marjan back. Then Marjan was broken again at 3 all followed by Greg a couple of games later to give Tim and Ana the first set 6-3. In the second set Greg and Marjan played more consistently and brought sufficient winners and errors from the opponents to take the set 6-1, paving the way for the champions tie break (first to 10 points).
At first Greg and Marjan appeared to have a slight edge in the tie break, but Tim and Ana held their nerve to get even, then zoomed into an 8-5 lead with the help of a couple of errors from the opposition. At this point Sultan Gangji was giving odds of 4:1 on a victory by Tim and Ana, who immediately managed to lose the next 3 points to bring the champions tie break score to 8 all. Sultan’s view then was that Greg and Marjan would take it and confidently predicted that the next point would be a match point. If you think about it, 9-8 in a champions tie break always is match point. With the curse of the commentator upon them Marjan and Greg lost the last two points to give Tim and Ana victory by 6-3 1-6 [10-8].
Congratulations to both Tim and Ana, for both of whom it is their first West Heath title. Greg has the well deserved distinction of getting to three finals, unfortunately with nothing to show for it (and is now hoping his friends will buy him drinks to console him). Marjan has also made 3 finals, winning the ladies’ doubles with Elena Valarche. Ana is a relative newcomer and acquitted herself well and we hope will stick around next season to defend her title.
Marjan made the lasagna, Greg provided pizza, and Barbara Thomas made summer pudding, which was enjoyed by the two dozen spectators and competitors. All in all a very enjoyable evening watching an interesting match which had the spectators on the edge of their seats. And now the tournament really is over. Enjoy the rest of the season!
There was some confusion about the start time of both singles finals, and the weather forecast was far from good. In fact it suggested a huge downpour starting at 2 pm and continuing for at least a couple of hours.
Men’s Singles Final
Greg played solidly throughout, with his flat fast groundstrokes, but the even and slow court bounce somewhat played into the hands of Cedric who has a very good eye, solid topspin strokes and, as he warms to his task, can hit the ball very close to the lines without making too many errors. And hit good topspin lobs too, when he has to.
Greg played well, but even his lowish error rate was too much compared with that of Cedric who not only put pressure on but also hit accurate winning shots where necessary, such as passing shots if Greg came in, or shots close to the baseline to leave Greg with little time to react and get on balance to make an effective response. Cedric made errors too, but somehow they almost never added up to the games Greg needed to make an impact.
In the first set Greg got one game. During the second set the drizzle became a little more pronounced and at one point Greg slipped. But by this time he was 3 games to love down and gamely carried on but perhaps without risking a further slip by chasing almost hopeless balls. Cedric lost no games in the second set and won 6-1 6-0 to give us the very satisfying champion’s sequence over the last four years of : Graeme Pearson, Cedric de la Chaise, Graeme, Cedric!
Ladies’ Singles Final
This was umpired by James McKenzie (replaced towards the end by Barbara Thomas so James could finish his men’s doubles semi-final) and took place between Marjan Denis, the reigning champion, and Elena Valarche, the 3rd seed who has unsuccessfully challenged Marjan for at least two of the last four finals (the record for 2015 having gone missing temporarily!) Marjan had been champion from 2013 through 2016.
Elena was clearly up for it, but it wasn’t the best performance from Marjan, maybe because she was nervous of slipping on the slightly damp porous Macadam. From a distant vantage point it looked as if Elena came in a lot in the first set, but not in the second. Elena says this was because it is less of an advantage coming in on a slow hard court where your opponent has much more time to line up for a passing shot.
Elena won the match 6-2 6-2 to give her her second singles title.
Men’s Doubles Semi-Final Champions Tie Break Decider
Due to late play and very poor light earlier in the week the men’s doubles semi-final between Sultan Gangji & Graeme Pearson (reigning champions and top seeds) and the third seeds Greg Lim & James McKenzie had to be halted at one set all – 6-4 5-7 on Wednesday night. The deciding champions tie break (first to 10 point) was decided on a slippery hard court in front of the enthusiastic but slightly damp set of spectators.
At first it looked like Sultan and Graeme had the upper hand, but towards the end of the breaker James and Greg tightened up their game and were able to put their opponents under pressure, forcing a win 10-7 for a 4-6 7-5 [10-7] victory overall.
Tea, Presentation of Trophies and Relocation
At this point the rain started to get heavier. Not only would the spectators have got drenched, but there would probably have been a revolution if the players had been asked to play on the now-lethal hard courts. So everyone retired inside to finish preparing tea.
And what a tea it was! Some expressed an opinion that it was the best Finals Day tea they had ever seen. Decide for yourself. Once the kettle had boiled everyone tucked in. Once hunger and some of the dampness had been dispersed, Sultan Gangji thanked those who had given time to help run the club over the previous 12 months and called on Bill Clark (a member from 30 years ago) to present the prizes to the men’s and ladies’ champions. Bill commented that very little had changed, including the bar area which he and Sultan had spent some time constructing.
With the hard courts rapidly turning into a duck pond despite their fast-draining powers, Sultan organised a couple of indoor courts at David Lloyd Finchley on which to play the outstanding doubles matches, and 15 people accompanied the finalists. Play started at 6 pm.
Men’s Doubles Final
This took place between the second seeds Cedric de la Chaise & Logan Mair and third seeds Greg Lim & James McKenzie who had earlier knocked out the title holders Sultan Gangji and Graeme Peason. At first it seemed like it might be an easy ride as Cedric and Logan quickly accumulated a 3-0 then 4-1 lead. But Greg and James dug in and forced various errors from their opponents. Not only from Logan, but also from Cedric who missed one or two difficult low vollies / half volleys from around the service line. In particular Greg was commanding the net and any loose shot that Logan played that was in reach got put away. But after leveling at 5 all, Greg and James could not stop Cedric from winning his service game, and then James struggled with his, eventually conceding the set 7-5 to Cedric and Logan.
In the second set Cedric and Logan again got off to a fast start, only to be pegged back by Greg and James. For a while it looked like the final might be decided by a champions tie break. But at 4 all with Logan serving Cedric in particular seemed to be putting the ball closer and closer to the lines to make it more difficult for the opponents. Logan held his serve and James was under pressure once more, as he had been at the end of the first set. Three balls from Cedric and Logan seemed to hit the lines in this game making it all but impossible for James to hold, and Cedric and Logan took the title 7-5 6-4.
Ladies’ Doubles Final
The second seeds Elena Valarche & Marjan Denis played the top seeds and 2016 champios Ros Norkett & Vandana Talwar indoors at David Lloyd, Finchley. Three of the four players are members but Elena took a while to get used to the different conditions. Perhaps as a result Ros and Vandana got off to a flying start and raced into 3-0 and 4-1 leads. Ros’s strong groundstrokes and Vandana’s net play worked well and proved a tricky combination to for their opponents to break down. But Elena and Marjan stuck at it, fought back to 5-5 and then took the first set 7-5.
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.
(Photo suggestion by Susan Grossman.)
The weather was unkind enough to make the grass unplayable, so all matches had to be played on the two hard courts. A group of determined spectators drew up chairs on the grass courts to view proceedings and nibble the various starters which were handed around.
On the near court was the resumption of the men’s singles quarter final between Logan Mair vs Marcio Sugui. On Tuesday evening Marcio had just broken Logan to lead 3-2 in the final set (see yesterday’s tournament report) when the grass got too slippery to continue, Logan took a tumble, and the match was halted. On the resumption Marcio won his own serve to lead 4-2, final set. Logan put in a determined stint to break back to reach 6 all and force the tie break. At this point Logan made a couple of mistakes on smashes to give Marcio momentum and Marcio took full advantage to win the breaker 7-1 and the match 6-3 5-7 7-6[7-1].
[James writes:] Whilst the singles battle was raging, on the other court a mixed doubles semi final was taking place, between Lesley South and James McKenzie, against Tim Simpson and Ana. Tim served first, and held to love. A feat not entirely matched by James who managed to hold, just about, after a series of deuces. The strong play and hard hitting from the Anglo-Belgian alliance proved difficult for the defending champions to deal with, as James’ shouting testified to, and the Alliance won the first set 6-3. Starting off the second set, James again made a meal of holding serve, but managed just about. After a few more games, the match was moved to the vacant court, much to the delight of the crowd. It was difficult to adjust to the brighter court; Lesley remarked that she preferred the gloom of the far court. Alas, the second set followed much the same pattern as the first, with strong play from the Belgo-English pairing. At 5-2 Ana served for the match but could only manage a double fault. Choke. However, undeterred, she mustered full serving and power mode and held serve to seal a deserved 6-3 6-2 victory. If she had served more double faults, one could say that she made a moule out of it… Notwithstanding, they progress to Thursday’s final to face former finalists Marjan and Greg.
There were also two men’s doubles semi-finals.
On the far court James McKenzie and Greg Lim were pitting their wits against Sultan Gangji and Graeme Pearson. I leave it to James to describe what happened….
[James writes:] This semifinal match was a rerun of last year’s final, although this year the fixture was played on the far hard court. Having won the toss and elected to serve, Greg started emphatically, with a deliberate serve and volley game. A few smashed volleys later and the game was taken. Graeme served from the same end, but he and Sultan were less emphatic, as they gifted Greg and James some break points. However, none were taken, with Graeme and Sultan eventually holding. They turned the screw on James’ service game, to take an early break. Despite opportunities to break back on both Graeme’s and Sultan’s service games later on in the set, the set went the way of the defending champions, winning it 6-4. The second set began after a lengthy break whilst James acquired more lime squash. This didn’t do much for Greg’s now cold shoulders as he started the second set. Quite what the precise order of games was, but Graeme and Sultan found themselves 4-1 up with Graeme serving. Always a keen observer, Sultan sensed from Greg’s and James’ body language that the set was up. However, five points later, Graeme’s serve was ‘broken to 15’. James served, and held to take the score at the change of ends to 4-3. And so began Sultan’s Game of Twenty Deuces. Back and forth went the momentum, pendulously, as neither pairing could secure two points in a row. The Enormity of the Game was lost on nobody, with all four players choking just a little bit. But in the end, it was Greg and James who prevailed to level the score on the proverbial board. Greg served, and held, in perfunctory fashion to take a 5-4 lead and win 4 in a row. Graeme stopped the rot for the defending champions to level it at 5-5. James managed the same, to leave Sultan serving to stay in the set. Two set points materialised for Greg and James, with the first going begging in the encroaching gloom. The next point, at 30-40 was a long rally with all four players in at the net. Dinky placement volleys were very much in vogue; James pushed one down Graeme’s line who, at full-ish stretch returned it gamely enough; thankfully it was pushed into the Sultan/Graeme mini-chasm and the set was taken 7-5. With the score at 6-4 5-7, the match was suspended. The deciding match tiebreak will be played on Saturday.
Following on from adopting a psychological plan in the 2016 tournament to win a difficult singles match against a top seed, Tim Simpson was working on a new approach to his men’s double match with Marcio Sugui against Logan Mair and Cedric de la Chaise (at least according to James’ post). The plan was not spectacularly successful in the first set, which Tim and Marcio lost 6-0, but came into its own in the second set which was more fiercely contested. But one difference between the pairs in the second set was the quality of the lobs from Logan and Cedric and the final result was that Cedric and Logan won 6-0 6-4.
The court was then taken over by the ladies’ doubles match of Barbara Thomas and Jane Boyle vs Marjan Denis and Elena Valarche, the match resuming at 6-3 3 all after stopping for dew and bad light late on Tuesday evening. On the resumption, Barbara and Jane played well to break and hold twice to give them the second set 6-3. In the increasing gloom it looked like the champions tie break in lieu of a final set would go to those who had always eaten their carrots. Elena and Marjan seemed to develop early momentum as Jane and Barbara made a few mistakes and took the tier break 10-5 for a 6-3 4-6 [10-5] victory.
Moira Duncan provided a delicious lamb tagine and cous-cous with sufficient for the inevitable second helping from perhaps most people. Barbara Thomas provided summer pudding and toblerone-based Tia Maria-laced semifreddo which went down rather well too. The usual suspects had a good dance towards the end of the evening (see “It’s Raining Men“), and a group around the table looked set to make it a late-night session when we left just after 11 pm……
In addition to the summer puddings and semifreddi, Bruna (of Bruna and Marcio fame) provided an exceptional, and exquisitely decorated, chocolate cake. It went down a storm, and we hope to see more of Bruna – perhaps when Marcio plays Cedric in the semi final on Thursday! Or perhaps on The Great British Bake Off.
In contrast to the night before, it felt like a different country on Tuesday evening at West Heath. The sun was shining and it could almost have been described as ‘warm’.
Getting the action started was a mixed doubles semi final, between second seeds Marjan Denis and Greg Lim and seed-slayers Barbara Thomas and Peter Davies. Could the unseeded challengers continue their progress through the draw, or would they come unstuck?
[Report from Peter.] Marjan and Greg both played very well and made few unforced errors. Marjan hit one or two beautiful low volleys. Their strategy was to target Barbara as much as possible and although Barbara hit her groundstrokes and volleys well she could not get past the two seeds and was feeling the pressure. She said she could have been more aggressive and taken the game more to the seeds. Peter generally served well and ran for everything, but the seeds were generally too strong. The challengers’ only games came from Peter’s serving and breaking Greg’s serve during a lapse in his concentration. Marjan and Greg won 6-2 6-1. They were finalists last year, and will be this year too. My money is on them to win this year, at least if they can play as they did during this match.
On the adjacent court, the second seed Cedric de la Chaise was taking on new West Heathen Lajos Szucs. Whilst little of the match was observed, it seemed that Lajos’ touch was a little off (Susanna said as much), whilst Cedric was returning shots that would otherwise have been winners. Cedric advances to the semi final, with a score of 6-2 6-0, to face either Marcio or Logan, who were due on court afterwards. One day Peter will get a picture of Cedric smiling!
Over on the far court, a ladies’ doubles semi final was taking place. Lucky shoes/pants/shirts or not, Lesley South and Moira Duncan took the first set off the defending champions Ros Norkett and Vandana Talwar, to win it 7-5. Whilst the ‘heat rule’ was not in place, a 10-minute break was taken nonetheless to tend to the Gourmet dinner (the lesser known ‘can’t stand the heat rule’). What Ros and Vandana did in the interval is anyone’s guess, but they rallied in the second to win it 6-2. The match tiebreak went with the all-important momentum, with the first seeds winning 5-7 6-2 [10-4].
Back on court 1, Graeme Pearson had changed out of his work clothes for his match with James McKenzie. With the sun shining down on court 1, the non-Clubhouse end was a bit of an evolving lottery throughout the match. As the sun swung further round, various parts of the court became more treacherous, whilst others became positively hospitable. The first game was a nervy affair, with James regretting having elected to serve, which duly went to the first seed. Alas, it wasn’t all bad, as the score was pegged back to 3-3. Graeme’s tried and tested strategy is typically to get every ball back, which is highly infuriating. However, with the slippy courts a few points were hoovered up by James and his shorter balls. Nevertheless, Graeme continued to win the first set 6-3. At this point the court was becoming exceedingly slippy, with James dancing around like Bambi at times (another Zinger from Moira™). Graeme’s shoes seemed better suited to the task. The second got underway, much like all sets do, with some serving, returning and rallies. Somehow James found himself 3-1 ahead, with break points to go 4-1 ahead. Alas Graeme showed his true mettle to hold, and pegged the score back (familiar story) to 4-4. The next few games went with serve to 6-5, with James having to serve to stay in the match. Clearly the pressure got to James, as Graeme ‘broke to 15’ to take the match 6-3 7-5.
Logan Mair played Marcio Sugui. [Report from Peter.] For a change Logan had to serve and play as if he meant it, abandoning his normal laid-back style. Marcio took full advantage of having brilliant topspin strokes. These have the advantage he can put the ball near to the sidelines closer to the net. Where possible he used this to manoeuver Logan about the court until there was a chance to hit a winner into the open court. Marcio took the first set 6-3. The second set saw Logan stepping up a gear to put more pressure on Marcio, thumping down first serves, though Marcio’s game plan was still in effect. All of this cancelled each other out and the score reached 6 all to force a tie break. Again, this was pretty even, but Logan just got the upper hand at the end to win it 7-5 to even up the match.
The light was starting to fade, but the match was only suspended when Logan slipped on the dewy grass and they gave up at 3-2 to Marcio. The match was due for completion Wednesday morning.
And in the ladies doubles, Elena Valarche and Marjan Denis took on Jane Boyle and Barbara Thomas. This match was also suspended due to poor light and a slippy court and is due for completion Wednesday evening.
In charge of the food tonight was Lesley, who served up a range of Persian cuisine. Truly a night for the epicureans among us, it was lapped up by all. Many of us learnt some new words, but there was still a mystery around what kuku actually is…
Whilst a gargantuan battle was raging on the adjacent hard court, Stan, the club’s very own Marcos Baghdatis, was engaging in a battle of wits with a rather stubborn chair.
However, I am pleased to report that where the rest of the club members had failed, Stan persevered and eventually managed to contort the chair into its intended position. Bravo!
Many thanks to Jane for capturing the moment for posterity.
The wet weather during the weekend and during the day prevented tonight’s matches being on the grass. The first match to get going was the first of the men’s quarter finals. Fourth seed Philip Reid took on sixth seed Gregory Lim. The first set went to Greg 6-3, with the reporter having missed all of the action. Cue instant summary: it must have been a close one, with either one or two breaks of serve.
The score in the second set ticked over with regularity, not even disturbed by Logan taking the door off the hinges on the hard courts. Singularly failing to return it to its swinging state, he just leant it against the fence. Elena squeezed through later, by pivoting the door on its bottom. Serving at 5-3 Philip missed a set point and double faulted at deuce. First serve missed and a dolly second serve lead to a duff point to concede the break. Greg served at 4-5 to stay in the set. An easy hold, 5-5. Philip steps over a ball, 15-15, but continues nonchalantly. He continues and wins the game to stop the rot and edges 6-5 ahead. Greg serves and falls to 15-40. He brings it back to deuce with tentative play from Philip. Greg hits the deuce ball out wide, has it returned by Reid and belts it back with a scowl. Philip hits a high ball on set point and comes in for a dolly volley, which Greg can only scrape into the net. Philip wins the second set 7-5 to take it to a decider.
The final set report was disrupted by a high level committee meeting (see photo), but Greg took an early break. This was pegged back in a bit of a slug fest as tempers frayed and nerves became taut (perhaps). Plenty of solid shots, long rallies and disapproving glances towards the spectators later, Greg took the final set, and the match, 6-4. It was a hard fought match, which provided excellent viewing for the appreciative spectators.
As the match finished, Tim choked hard during his mixed doubles with Ana, as they took on Logan and Elena. The first set went semi comfortably to Tim and Ana. The second set inched towards a tiebreak, probably a few breaks exchanged (Tim’s serve?) and the match found itself in a second set tiebreak. To and fro it went, but taken by the jubilant Scottish/Russian coalition.
A 10-point match tie break followed with some solid volleys, ground strokes and smashes from all. At three all, with Ana serving, it seemed like the nerves got the better of the West Heath debutante. To and fro yet again up until 7-8 on Logan’s serve. 8-8 and Logan did a bit of choking of his own. Tim had a chance for glory to serve for a place in the semi, and duly delivering he sealed the deal to win 6-2 6-7 [10-8]. In a post match analysis, Tim attributed Greg and Philip finishing their match for a slight wobble, but professed himself “very pleased to have overcome a near choking”.
The evening’s post-tennis entertainment was provided by Ros, with a guest performance as pudding chef by Jill. Ros served up spring rolls, peri peri chicken wings and pork ribs for starter. This was followed by delicious Teriyaki chicken, rice and bok choi, alongside, a tasty stew of butterbeans, chickpeas and butternut squashes. Jill’s pudding was a much-feted creme caramel with fruit salad. Many thanks to our first Gourmet Chefs of the year!
Tim Simpson is so looking forward to his doubles match with Marcio, against Logan and Cedric. He has been losing sleep about how to pull off a Shock Victory, or as he describes it, a match that is ‘highly winnable’.
He regaled all with his secret master plan (see image).
The weather forecast for today looked distinctly bleak, with various Android forecasting apps predicting two hours of heavy rain, but each app predicting it at different times in the afternoon. The best plan seemed to be for everyone to turn up and see what could be played. In the event it turned into a lovely sunny afternoon and all the scheduled matches got played. Porous macadam (for the faint hearted) and grass courts 1 and 3 were used. Though the muddy patches on the baselines of court 1 could have been a problem there were no reports of anyone slipping.
In the ladies’ singles Soo Teng Lee played Ros Norkett. Soo Teng has a good heavy serve when it went in, but Ros can produce strong groundstrokes and effective volleys when she gets a clean hit at the ball. In the end Ros was too strong for Soo Teng. One sequence in which Ros came out on top more than once was when Ros hit a high deep ball to Soo Teng, who returned it high and a little short, enabling Ros to hit a strong groundstroke return out of Soo Teng’s reach for a winner. Ros won the match 6-1 6-2.
In the first men’s doubles match Stan Vasilyev & Paul O’Flynn played James McKenzie & Greg Lim. James and Greg won 6-1 6-4. James has promised to give details of the way the match went. You are left to guess whose racket actually suffered at the end of the match, but it shouldn’t be difficult if you know the characters concerned.
Having decided that the grass court was a little to soggy for play, Greg, James and Stan decamped onto a hard court. Paul arrived eventually, but realised that he couldn’t play on the hard court in his sandals, so hot-footed it back to his car for his hard court shoes. He and Stan won the toss and elected to serve, with Stan getting us under way. The first four games went to Greg and James as Stan and Paul found their respective un-be-sandalled feet. Words were certainly exchanged between them; no doubt at least some of them were tactical, whilst others may have been related to the use of some of the fruitier vocabulary exhaled during the set. Perhaps such words worked, as Stan and Paul won the 5th game. Alas, it was their last in the set, as the third seeds won the set 6-1. Further ‘discussions’ ensued between chalk-and-cheese temperaments of Paul and Stan, which enabled them to break James in the first game of the second set. Breaks were traded, with the scoreboard creaking towards 4-4. With James serving, he found himself in a mini-0-30-shaped hole. But thanks to a couple of rare first serves and crucial interceptions from Greg, the hole became a hold. Stan served to stay in the match, but a few too many errors saw the game, and the match, taken. The final result was 6-1 6-4. Following handshakes and smiles at the net, Stan decided to do what has come so naturally before. Having apparently played much of the set with a cracked frame in his racquet, he well and truly finished it off (as shown in the photo). Had the match been played on the grass courts, he might have be facing a Heather Watson-sized fine; no doubt the tournament referees will be in touch…
In a second men’s doubles match, Philippe Mouly & Eugene Belin took on the top seeds Graeme Pearson & Sultan Gangji. Apparently Philippe held his serve in the first set and hit some good passing shots, but it was not enough to stop the top seeds taking it 6-2. In the second set Graeme and Sultan turned up the pressure and won it in straight games 6-0.
Another mixed doubles match, providing the entertainment for the evening, involved the mother and son team Vandana & Dhananjay Talwar playing the champions James McKenzie & Lesley South. It was clear that Vandana’s serve has improved considerably over the last year though she though she could have served better and her net play looked sharp. Dhananjay looked a little out of practice though he has good movement, a long reach and a good serve. Lesley hit consistently everything within reach and found some of her trademark winning angles. There was a lot of good court coverage from James, though on one occasion he also ran to a ball that Lesley had covered and the opponents hit the ball into the space for a winner. On balance Lesley and James were just a little too consistent for the Talwars and the champions took the match 6-4 6-3.
In yet another mixed doubles match Barbara Thomas & Peter Davies faced the fourth seeds Ros Norkett & Sultan Gangji. The word on the street was that Sultan had turned his ankle a few days earlier in Thursday’s men’s match against the Cumberland and would only be hobbling around court. Not to mention the post-match early-morning drinking session in Greg Lim’s flat from which Sultan had to walk home. Although Barbara and Peter had been relying on Sultan doing less moving than normal, once the match started it became clear that he was as mobile as he ever has been, so they had to come up with a plan B in a hurry.
The first set was desperately tight. Given a clean hit Ros can hit you off the court and her serves are hard and well place. Sultan’s anticipation and placement are usually legendary and he made some great interceptions. Barbara hit some great shots, Peter served well and both challengers showed good court coverage. They adopted a strategy of giving Ros as few clean hits as possible and ensuring Sultan was given as little indication as possible of where serves were going. The first set was desperately tight with breaks and break backs, and led to a tie break at 6 all. A couple of poor points at the start of the tie break from Sultan and Ros gave momentum to their opponents who raced into a 5-1 lead, ultimately taking it 7-4. At the start of the second set Sultan and Ros switched sides to give Peter something to think about on his serve. Sultan and Ros broke but were in turn broken back as the score reached 4 all. Then Sultan lost his serve to leave Peter serving for the match, but he and Barbara then lost the next three points. A mistake from the opponents and a couple of good serves brought the first of a few deuces and the match was finally settled when Sultan put the ball a couple of inches out on match point for a surprise 7-57-4 6-4 victory to Barbara and Peter. It was a match of tight margins in which you could not afford to switch off for even a second.
In the ladies’ doubles Anna Ganev & Soo Teng Lee played the fourth seeds Moira Duncan & Lesley South. Although Anna and Soo Teng returned most balls and hit some good shots the better placement and consistency of the seeds eventually led them to a 6-0 6-1 victory.
Thanks to the lucky weather today, the draw is more or less at the stage it should be and we look forward to the remaining rounds in the second week and the Gourmet Dinners Monday through Thursday with great anticipation. Most days are now full, but check the menus here and phone Sultan if you fancy your chances as there is always the occasional drop out.
The weather forecast was clearly inauspicious, and a number of matches were hastily re-arranged to be played earlier. Some of the matches reported may have been played on Friday night.
Sally Tornow & Sue Latimer played the third seeds, Jane Boyle & Barbara Thomas, in the ladies’ doubles. It looks like Jane’s lefty slice and cunning combined with Barbara’s aggression paid dividends as the seeds won 6-1 6-2.
There were a number of men’s singles matches played.
Ben Torns kicked off his first service game against Cedric de la Chaise with an ace, but can’t yet live with Cedric’s pace and placement. Cedric thought Ben had good shots but should stop relying on his father for shot selection tips. The match was a 6-0 6-0 victory to Cedric.
Ed Fitzgerald played Philip Reid, the fourth seed, in the men’s singles. From the score it looks like a good ding-dong battle. Ed took the first set 6-3, Philip equalised with a 6-2, and with the momentum going his way Philip took the final set 6-2 for a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory.
Dudley Leigh put in an infrequent appearance at the club to play against Greg Lim, the sixth seed. Greg thought Dudley might have been lacking in grass court practice, though Dudley did appear a few weekends ago to play a single set of men’s doubles during social tennis. Apparently the match was played in a good spirit and Greg won it 6-2 6-1.
Lajos Szucs had to play the eighth seed Tim Simpson. In his match against Peter Davies Lajos seemed to be able to put the ball on a sixpence and generally nothing on a grass court phased him. Apparently the same was true of the match against Tim and, as a result, it looks like Lajos will be joining the seeded players next year. Lajos won 6-3 6-1.
Probably the final match played on Saturday was Rachel Savin against Elena Valarche, the third seed in the ladies’ singles. Apparently Elena can’t help herself and just has to come in on every shot. Rachel kept hitting the ball ball down the centre of the court, possibly a recent of a weakness in her right leg which had been injured earlier on in the season. She feels she cannot push off against it properly to change the direction of hit. Clearly this played to Elena’s strength and Elena won the first set 6-3. The second set went a similar way except that it started raining shortly before the score reached 5-3 to Elena, and the pair retired at this score. Since a resumption looked unlikely Rachel graciously conceded the match. Hopefully they will schedule a tight return match some time soon when Rachel is fully fit.
Keep your fingers crossed for the weather tomorrow as there are quite a few matches scheduled.
The 3rd seed and last year’s finalist Marcio Sugui took on club perennial stalwart Paul O’Flynn. Marcio is known the world over for his consistency (and for being a great left hander) so Paul was always facing an up hill battle. What little of the match was observed, it appeared that Marcio’s ability to get the ball back was Paul’s undoing as some of his commanding court positions were scuppered by the other West Heath stalwart, the bounce. Frustration played over Paul’s face as good opportunities to ‘seal the deal’ fell by the wayside. The 6-3 6-1 score line is possibly a little unfair, but Marcio just has a knack of doing that to people. He progresses to face either Tim Simpson (8th seed) or Lajos Szucs in the quarter finals.
The seventh seed and recent West Heath re-joiner Tim Allan took on James McKenzie on the furthest grass court. Starting at approx 6.15pm, the match went the full distance and completed some time around 8.40pm. The first set saw James rush to a three game lead, which he just about managed to keep to take the first set 6-3. There were some exceptionally nice rallies as both players adjusted to the game and style of the other. But Tim’s undoing in the first set was his serve which faulted at key points in the set. In the second set many of Tim’s service problems disappeared and he took the crucial break to go 5-3 ahead. James somehow pulled it back to 5-5 but Tim rallied to hold serve and then break to avoid the tiebreak, winning the second set 7-5. The third set was neck-and-neck until 3-3, with both players returning better than they were serving. James pounced in the (vital) seventh game to break, and pushed through to take the set, recording a 6-3 5-7 6-3 win. The match was played in exceedingly good spirits, with credit given were credit was due.
Perhaps the most anticipated showdown was between Simpson/Sugui and Reid/Reid, which promised to be a cracker. Reid Junior was heard exhorting Reid Senior to the net on multiple occasions, with youthful petulance boiling over (at least) once resulting in a racket thrown into the net in apparent disgust (although the author is unsure if the two things are connected). Anyway, the score was a relatively comfortable one for the 4th seeds. However, the final word must go to Walter and his blaze of glory; a long rally with plenty of volleys, eventually pushed Walter back towards the rear corner of the court. Some not inconsiderable flexibility allowed him to scoop a seemingly unreturnable shot from somewhere near his feet, over Marcio’s head, into the opposite corner. Not even Marcio’s famous hotdog could cut the mustard. Easily the shot of the evening, if not the tournament. Despite Reid Senior’s heroics, he and his son could not overcome Tim and Marcio who progress into the semi finals with a 6-2 6-3 victory.
Two matches were played this evening.
David Cohen played Paul O’Flynn. It looks like David struggled in the first set against Paul’s approach of hitting the ball as hard as he can, and Paul took the first set 6-0. In the second either David got his eye in, or Paul made more errors, and David got a couple of games. Paul won 6-0 6-2.
Eugene Belin & Soo Teng Lee played Barbara Thomas & Peter Davies. In the first set Barbara and Peter broke Eugene and leapt into a 3-0 lead, but Eugene and Soo Teng got their eye in and pegged them back to 4 all, with a combination of Eugene’s winning ground strokes and some good serving by Soo Teng, including acing Peter. Barbara and Peter modified the tactics to avoid playing to Eugene’s strengths. As a result Barbara held serve and Eugene was broken in a marathon service game to give Barbara and Peter the first set 6-4. In the second set the same tactics continued to give results for Barbara and Peter who won it 6-1 for a 6-4 6-1 victory.
Three men’s singles matches along with one men’s doubles were played today.
In the men’s doubles match Geoff Isaacs & Gideon Stone took on Walter & Philip Reid. Geoff is a generally accurate and strong player but Gideon’s play is unknown, at least to me. Walter is defensively solid with a wide wing span. His son, Philip can hit the ball rather harder. Apparently the tactic of Geoff and Gideon was to keep the ball away from Philip as much as possible, but, according to Philip, they were caught off guard by Walter’s consistent play, volleying and occasional strategic slice backhand lobs. The Reids won 6-2 6-1 and now face the fourth seeds Marcio Sugui & Tim Simpson.
There had been various rumours floating around that my co-webmaster James McKenzie was injured, was saving himself for doubles matches scheduled later, and would withdraw from the singles. This was despite the fact the match between him and Alberto Zanatta had been clearly marked on the draw sheet as scheduled for the evening of Monday 17th almost ever since the draw went up. Imagine everyone’s surprise then when James not only turned up to play the match, but also won it 6-1 6-0. James might like to contribute some words on how it went……
In homage to Huckleberry Finn’s creator, I can avow that reports of my injury were greatly exaggerated. Admittedly I was fearful of a torn leg muscle, but three days of solid rest was enough to ensure that my limb had limbered up sufficiently. Alberto and I had a lovely match, with plenty of long rallies, occasional ventures to the net and a few cheeky drop shots. As many of the games went to multiple deuces, the score makes it look more comfortable that it was.
Whilst James and Alberto were playing on the first grass court, Logan Mair and Stan Vasiliev were playing their singles match on the middle court. Whilst this was initially billed as a total slug fest between two of the hardest hitters on the West Heath circuit, such a tour de brute force only appeared for the first few games. Logan’s wisdom eventually realised that he was not capable of outhitting Stan the Man, so adopted a more consistent, and less pacy, style. Clearly the strategy worked, and it seems that Stan’s fast-paced game was undone by having to generate all of his own power. Logan came through to win 6-2 6-2.
In action before all these matches was the contest between Matt Wasser and Leo Colle. Taking place on the third grass court, Leo triumphed 6-1 6-1 in a surprisingly long fixture. Leo progresses to play the defending champion in the round of 16.
The men’s singles draw is the largest and is progressing well, with all but two first round matches played, with one of these scheduled for the today (Tuesday).
There was no rain today, so the scheduled matches went ahead smoothly.
Rather surprisingly, Ana beat Lesley South 6-0 6-1.
The eighth seed, Tim Simpson, beat Walter Reid 6-2 6-2.
Ed Fitzgerald beat Eugen Belin 6-1 6-1, and faces the fourth seed, Philip Reid next.
The late evening’s entertainment consisted of a mixed doubles between Elena Valarche & Logan Mair, and Moira Duncan & Lajos Szucs. Lajos apparently had not played mixed before. The game was played in a spirit of fun rather then being deadly serious, and there were some entertaining rallies. Lajos and Logan intercepted as much as they could, Elena hit some great volleys, and Moira played some exceptional cross-court service returns. Elena and Logan just had the slight edge and took the match 6-4 6-3.
Apologies to our avid readers in the USA, Japan and elsewhere for the late appearance of the first tournament match reports. Unfortunately it has been a year since I have written anything on the web site, and I have completely forgotten my ID and password. (James has now fixed this for me)!
The 2017 West Heath tournament started on Thursday and one or two matches were played before the weekend. It rained a little Saturday morning and the grass wasn’t playable until after the Wimbledon Ladies’ Final had finished.
It’s not quite clear when Richard Nightingale played Logan Mair in the singles, but Richard did much better in the first set than the second. Logon won the match 6-3 6-0.
The porous macadam courts supposedly dried a little faster and the day’s matches kicked off with a mixed doubles. Richard Nightingale and Sally Tornow took on the third seeds, Tim Simpson and Ana on a hard court, with the seeds coming out on top 6-0 6-1. Richard commented that he was now out of all the events, and it was only the first Saturday.
Ben Torns is only 11 but is already playing at a respectable club adult standard. He is very keen to play, and it almost seems even more keen to play and win if his father Roger is on the other side of the net. Ben kicked off his tournament with a match against Steve Gordon. This had to be on a hard court as the grass had not dried out. It sounds like a good match. Ben won the first set 6-4, but said his energy dipped in the second set in spite of the pancakes and whipped cream among other items on his breakfast menu. Steve took that one 6-2, setting the scene for an exciting finale. Maybe the pancakes finally came through with the energy because Ben took the final set 6-4 for a 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory. Bring on Cedric de la Chaise, who had better watch out in 3 or 4 year’s time.
Later Ben and Roger Torns played together against Stan Vasilyev and Paul O’Flynn. There were some comments by the Torns that it was difficult to get to the net. Probably Stan and Paul were hitting the ball too hard to enable net approaches, but normally you would bank on some inconsistency from this pair to pick up a few points. On this occasion Stan and Paul won 6-0 6-0. Ben may be looking for a new partner next year…….
Peter Davies and Lazos Szucs played the first singles match on grass. Lazos is a new member and very keen to play singles, especially during the day. He’s played a match for both the first and second team so far. Peter struggled as Lazos seemed to be able to put the ball on a sixpence at will, and his chopped forehand is very effective on grass. Lazos took the match 6-1 6-1.
Anna Ganev took on Marjan Denis, the defending champion and first seed. Apparently Anna has improved a lot since last year and in the first game Marjan felt the pressure was on her to win convincingly and she was a little nervous generating pace from Anna’s consistent but slower balls. However, it looks like Marjan soon found the winning formula and won 6-0 6-0.
Jason Maratos played Greg Lim in the singles. Greg typically has very accurate ground strokes which serve him well on grass. His ground-stroke technique starts with a short, late take-back followed by a very fast forward stroke. Not quite a slap, but perhaps a little reminiscent of Sultan Gangji’s style. This usually enables Greg to cope with the “West Heath bounce” well. On this occasion he was too much for Jason. Greg took the match 6-0 6-0.
Sunday match reports to follow.