Although a little rain was forecast, it held off until mid afternoon, after which all the courts were out of action for an hour or two. There were five matches played. The first two were played before the mini rain break.
Arjun Thawani took on Brian Coffey in the mens’ singles. Arjun won a tight first set 7-5, but Brian took an even tighter second set 7-6. The rules say singles matches should be best of three sets. But with rain looming, Arjun and Brian decided a little flexibility was called for, so played a champions tie break instead, which Brian won [10-7] to take the match 5-7 7-6 [10-7]. psst – don’t tell the match referees!
Despite the surnames, Dominic Green & Karina Wilsher are married to each other. They played Richard Nightingale & Sally Tornow, who have partnered in the mixed since 2010. Everyone enjoyed the game. Sally reported that Karina could hit the ball very hard, and Dominic did some good drop shots. Dominic and Karina won the match 6-3 6-2.
After the courts had mostly dried out, there was some social tennis played, followed by remaining three matches.
On the hard courts, Magnus Stuxberg took on the eighth seed, Joseph Rigal. It seemed to be quite a close match, though Joseph won 6-2 6-3. I failed to get a photo of the pair, so one of Joseph taken later will have to do! Joseph now has to play Brian Coffey, and then the winner takes on last year’s champion, Marcio Sugui.
Later, on grass court 1,Brian Coffey was in action again, this time partnered with Carmen Martinez in the mixed against Scott Palmer & Susan Grossman.Susan has improved quite a bit recently, especially on the volley and net position. Meanwhile Scott is always prepared to run and run and run, and very often gets shots back that you think he should have no right to return. The first set was very tight up to 5 all, but Brian and Carmen broke and held to win it 7-5. However, this seems to have been somewhat dispiriting for Scott and Susan, and the second set was a more one-sided affair. Brian and Carmen won 7-5 6-0, and have thus earned a match against Marjan Denis and Greg Lim, the second seeds.
On the hard court, Paul Rubie & Julia Abbot took on Bruce Rigal & Barbara Thomas in the mixed. After the match was over, Julia said she does take a couple of sets to warm up, and Paul said he’d already played a few sets earlier. Bruce and Barbara took the first set 6-0. The second set was a little more competitive, and Julia and Paul won 3 games (perhaps on single break), for a 6-0 6-3 victory to Bruce and Barbara. After the event, Julia produced a bottle of rose for the participants to share.
After Sultan Gangji promised a can of tennis balls as a prize to the winner of the first tournament match played, the tournament started in earnest with three matches on Thursday 29 July.
Bruce Rigal won the can of balls by beating Paul Rubie in a tight match 7-6 6-1. He also had competition from Logan Mair who beat Michael Siviter more easily 6-0 6-0 and Matt Wasser & Eugene Belin who beat Charles Rubinstein & Richard Nightingale 6-2 6-2.
On the Saturday the weather looked dodgy, but a couple of matches were played. Ed Fitzpatrick beat Charles Rubinstein 6-0 6-1 in the singles, and Bruce Rigal & Aaron Watkins beat Magnus Stuxberg & Pavel Markiewicz 6-3 6-2 in the doubles.
Does anyone have any pictures or more detail on the matches?
The club’s AGM will take place on Wednesday July 21st, at 2015. More information will be announced nearer the time.
The annual Club Tournament takes place over 2 weeks and culminates in Gourmet Dinners week (August 9th-12th) and Finals Day (August 14th).
There are also 3 one-day tournaments throughout the summer.
Bank Holiday American Tournament
Charity American Tournament
July 31st – August 14th
Bank Holiday American Tournament
Please note that matches played at home will use the grass courts where available, and the hard courts should usually be free for arranged matches. However, in the event of adverse weather, the matches may be moved to the hard courts.
All matches begin at 1830 unless otherwise indicated.
Sultan put out requests for help in shifting topsoil from Croftway, outside the club, firstly to inside the gate, then up near the shed, on Saturday 10th October. About a dozen able-bodied helpers of all ages and both sexes responded with assistance.
Here is the final result. Six tonnes of topsoil in 240 bags of 25kg each!
Many thanks to all who helped. If anyone took any photos of the helpers please WhatsApp me with them. Everyone who was there knows who you were! Sultan shouldn’t get all the photo credits.
On a day where the weather forecast predicted too much rain, all finals were completed on grass, viewed by a select, and hopefully legal, band of less than 30, including the players, all seated in a suitably socially distanced manner. Thanks to Lesley South, Moira Duncan and Marjan Denis for a COVID-19-free tea consisting of individually wrapped sandwiches and cakes and a cuppa!
Completion of ladies’ singles semi-final
In a ladies’ singles semi final match spanning Friday evening (on a hard court) and Saturday lunchtime (on grass), Mihika Joshi played Jen Ehr, the top seed. Mihika is now 15. Last year she won convincingly in the first rounds of the ladies singles, but then had to withdraw. She has been having regular coaching, has been playing in tournaments, and is improving rapidly, as predicted.
In the first set, after a lot of hanging around on the Friday evening, in the first set, Jen played well, but Mihika served well, with penetrating ground strokes, and was usually able to hit winners whenever she forced Jen out of position. Mihika won the set 6-4. In the increasing gloom, the players asked the referee whether they should continue. Although the initial answer was in the affirmative, the crowd soon persuaded the referee to change his mind, as it was obvious that the second set would not be completed. The following day, on grass, Mihika continued the second set in a similar vein, taking the match 6-4 6-2 for a place in the final.
Ladies’ singles final
This was played under the watchful eye of umpire Marjan Denis, between Mihika Joshi, unseeded (due to lack of data) and Emily, the fourth seed. In 2016 I wrote:
Mihika Joshi is a junior member with adult playing rights. She is only 11 and not that tall right now. Nevertheless she can play very good tennis as she proved against Rachel Savin, who joined West Heath this year and is playing team tennis. The match was very tight, with good rallies and net play. Mihika took the first set to 5-all but Rachel broke to take it 7-5. Mihika also forced 6-all in the second set to take it to a deserved tie break though Rachel won this for a 7-5 7-6 victory. If you would need a decent player to make up the fourth in your ladies, mixed or funny fours at social tennis then don’t forget to ask Mihika. And look out for her progress (which is likely to be rapid) in future years.
After playing for 3 days on the trot Emily had played excellently in her singles and ladies doubles semis, after a two day break, she just could not get going properly against Mihika. The serves weren’t going in, and the timing on the ground strokes wasn’t right. Matters weren’t helped much by the cold wet atmosphere in which the balls were flying slower and bouncing that bit less. By contrast, Mihika resumed where she left off an hour or so beforehand, in the completion of the semi final, hitting with both pace and consistency. Though Emily had her moments, Mihika took the match without dropping a game.
Men’s singles final
This was umpired by Kevin Ryan, keeping up a tradition over many years, and played between Greg Lim and Marcio Sugui, the third and top seeds respectively. Greg had been in fine form in a very tight three setter against Logan Mair in the semi the previous evening, though Marcio’s wins were more straightforward. Greg relies on pace on serve, and forehand, from flat shots, using a lot of wrist, while Marcio is a leftie with a typical leftie swinging slice serve (when he chooses to use it), and with the ability to use a lot of topspin on forehands. Marcio slipped once or twice both on baselines lacking grass, and also on the more grassy interior of the court. Subsequent inspection of the players tennis shoes showed that the soles had significant wear, whereas the soles of Greg’s very yellow shoes were in a much better state. Greg generally handled Marcio’s leftie slice serve well, was very quick about the court, as usual, and seemed to pick up all the low balls. Greg tended to serve to Marcio’s backhand (right hand side), and tried to manoeuver Marcio into creating a gap into which Greg could hit a forehand with pace for a winner.
The first set took quite a while, with breaks exchanged, and reached 6 all, whereupon Kevin called for the tie break. Marcio was up a mini break at one point, but Greg won it back and proceeded to take the set 7-6 7-5. In a similarly lengthy second set it appeared as if Greg had the momentum, and Marcio seemed to be playing into Greg’s hands by returning the ball down the centre of the court, not always obtaining the depth he wanted, and at times seeming tentative. A few slips on the grass cost Marcio a similar number of points, but he hung in there, and took the set to a tie break. This tie break was all Marcio, for a 7-67-1 set. In the third set Marcio started to play much more positively, going for cross court and other winners whenever there was a gap, and generally making them. As the match entered its third hour Greg was unable to match the step up in form, and Marcio finally emerged as Men’s Singles Champion 2020 to win 6-75-7. 7-67-1 6-1.
As Marcio put it before the match, in the unusual absence of Cedric, who was having to quarantine after a trip abroad, it is “now or never”, if Marcio ever wanted to be club singles champion. Marcio said afterwards, “I felt I was very close to losing today, for another year, but lockdown helped me to remain focused”. Meanwhile here’s a little counting exercise Marcio recommends to keep your mind clear and focussed.
Given that this match took nearly 2 hours 30 minutes, during which both the ladies singles and doubles finals had completed, Sultan Gangji then declared it to be tea time (no need to wait for the men’s doubles final to complete too).
Ladies’ doubles final
This event, umpired by Barbara Thomas, featured the first of two mother and daughter finals clashes. The last minute partnership of Margaux Valarche & Jane Boyle, were taking on Elena Valarche & Emily, the top seeds. Although Margaux’s serve wasn’t going that well, the rest of her game is on form, and particularly the “artistic” touch volleys, where feasible, which make such extreme use of the angles that no one reaches them, not to mention the good technique on the forehand in the picture. Meanwhile, Elena rarely double faults on serve, always keeps it low – difficult to pick up on a grass court, and generally comes to the net wherever possible, and sometimes, even when it isn’t! Emily was playing a little better than earlier in the day, and Jane was pretty solid on her sliced shots. Although Jane generally left most of the running to the more than fleet footed Margaux, she did do a bit of running herself – running back to cover a lob over Margaux’s head being one notable instance.
The first set was more competitive, but Jane and Margaux took it 6-4. The top seeds fared less well in the second, to give Jane and Margaux a 6-4 6-2 victory. So the daughter triumphed in the ladies’ doubles. What about the mixed? You’ll have to wait to see, unless you were there.
It is noteworthy that Jane Boyle has now been a tournament champion in at least one event at West Heath, in six decades – seventies (from 1974), eighties, nineties, noughties, tens and twenties (2020). See the Champions web page. And, you know what? She is not the only one!! More on that later.
Men’s double final
Umpired by James McKenzie, this featured the second seed, Logan Mair & Tim Simpson, against the top seeds Greg Lim & Sultan Gangji, and, having been dumped out of the men’s singles by Greg against the seedings, was an opportunity for Logan to set matters straight. However, generally Logan and Tim were making more errors that Sultan, and, in particular Greg. After one particular game in which Sultan won his serve in a straightforward way, often with returns which Greg found easy to put away at the net, Logan and Tim hatched a plot to use very wide, angled, cross court returns on his serve on both wings to force Sultan to stretch wide with little time to hit an accurate ball, allowing Logan and Tim to put away volleys. This worked well the first time, to break Sultan, but Tim and Logan didn’t keep it up the next time around. Generally Sultan poached around the net and Greg hit anything in sight as hard as he could into the most inconvenient place for Tim and Logan. The match was quite tight, but the top seeds always had a slight edge, and took it 6-4 6-4.
So Logan fell to Greg a second time, though Logan and Margaux Valarche did dump him and his partner out of the mixed.
Further, Sultan became the second player at West Heath, after Jane Boyle, mentioned above, to be a tournament champion at West Heath in at least one event over six decades – seventies (from 1976 – men’s singles champion), eighties, nineties, noughties tens, and now twenties! Congratulations to the pair of them. See the Champions web page. The late Joris Fletcher was the one that came up with this factoid, though relating to only five decades!
Mixed doubles final
Under the umpire, Jen Ehr, this was contested between the fourth seeds, Elena Valarche & Stephen Cooke, and the third seeds, Margaux Valarche & Logan Mair. This was round two of mother versus daughter, Margaux, the daughter, getting the upper hand in the ladies’ doubles. It ended up being very highly competitive and going to the wire. Sometimes the match seemed to be Stephen on one side versus Margaux and Logan on the other, though when Elena did intervene to hit the ball, she generally put it away for a winner, which helped considerably. In the first set, Margaux and Logan mainly had it all their own way, winning it 6-2. Matters weren’t so straightforward thereafter. In the second set, Margaux and Logan were a break up towards the end, and serving for the match, which looked like it would be theirs (since Elena and Stephen had to break, with the set tie break, and then the Champions tie break to prevail. Elena and Stephen did indeed break back to take the set to 6 all.
In the normal set tie break I believe Margaux and Logan had a mini break, but couldn’t hold on to it. Then at 5 all, Elena and Stephen won a crucial minibreak, and held a service point to take the tie break 7-5. In the ensuing Champions Tie Break (first to ten), Logan and Margaux were 8-3 up, but Elena and Stephen pulled it back to 10 all. Elena and Stephen then took the first point on serve. Then we had the point in this video where Logan unwisely let a deep lob bounce and couldn’t get his racket to the ball before it hit the back netting. Elena and Stephen won 2-6 7-67-5 [12-10], mother beating daughter to achieve “honours even” in the dual doubles finals clashes. Elena asked me to say that, when not playing tennis (seemingly most of the time), she is an NHS doctor. Hopefully she manages to fit in some time with her husband Antoine too.
We were very lucky to get a tournament at all, in this year of COVID-19. Let’s hope that a successful vaccine is produced and that, next year we don’t have to socially distance and the 2021 tournament can get back to normal. One aim of mine for next year will be to take at least one picture of Logan without his hands on his hips!
Thanks to Sultan for the organisation, to Sultan and Marjan for the tournament refereeing, to all those taking part (numbers were down a little, due to the timing and other factors but we still had a decent entry in each event), to the spectators (numerous, but fortunately not numerous enough to break any rules), and to Lesley, Moira and Marjan for the COVID-safe finals day tea. And, perhaps, to the weather, for holding off a few times when the forecast was predicting no tennis could be played.
Although the forecast was for more than a 50% chance of rain, the weather held off from 5 pm onwards. There were a set of determined and socially distanced (where necessary), if often freezing cold spectators watching.
The men’s singles semi final match between Logan Mair and Greg Lim was always going to be a humdinger. Matters kicked off at 5 pm when the tournament referee declared the grass court officially ‘playable’ even though the baselines were damp enough to cause a slip if a player tried to accelerate too fast off them. The matter was of some importance, because Greg’s play is based on accurate timing to generate pace on flat shots, and this isn’t so easy if the ball keeps low and frequent suspect bounces don’t position the ball where you are expecting it to be. Whereas you would expect Logan to be able to keep the ball low on grass to give Greg less to hit with his devastating flat forehand pace. After a short discussion Logan accepted the inevitable, which is that the semi was always going to be played on the hard courts.
On hard courts, Logan had to play a more tactical game. Because Greg was always going to get good bounces, and can return a pacy ball on the forehand with interest, Logan rarely used pace, though his shots weren’t moon balls. The disadvantage was he didn’t have his eye in to hit with pace if there was an opening to hit a winner. In any case, Greg is very fast about the court, with good anticipation, and it is difficult to put the ball out of his reach on the slower hard courts. Logan also mainly kept the ball on Greg’s weaker, though consistent, backhand. At first, Greg tried to circumvent this by running round a natural backhand to hit the ball on his forehand, but his error rate was much higher when he tried this, and he used it less as time went on. Logan’s errors came when Greg forced him to hit shots requiring pinpoint accuracy when on the run and under pressure.
The match thus turned into a war of attrition, with long rallies, since both players generally made few unforced errors and could often put the ball very close to the opponent’s baseline. A number of Greg’s points were from forehand, smash or volley winners, but he also made more errors, while Logan hit fewer winners while also making fewer errors. Generally he was trying to sap Greg’s patience and force Greg to take risks leading to errors.
Logan won the first set 7-5. In a very tight second set Logan fell behind, but had chances to break back. On fine margins Greg won it 6-4. The third set was more difficult, as the light was going, and matters were getting more tense. Greg’s pace on the forehand dropped off as it got more gloomy, and Logan eventually made a few mistakes in long rallies to allow Greg a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory. The match lasted for 2 hours 30 minutes.
On court 5 there was a men’s singles semi final between Stephen Cooke and Marcio Sugui. We were all hoping for a very interesting confrontation. Marcio’s swinging leftie serve and heavy spin shots were to be matched against Stephen’s height, reach, booming serves and forehands, and his generally crisp volleying.
Marcio won the first game on his serve. In the second game, at one point, it was clear to the onlookers that Stephen had pulled a muscle in his left leg. Although he carried on, this changed the strategy for the match quite considerably. Instead of running round the court at speed, as he had done in the mixed doubles semi final, Stephen now needed to shorten the points by hitting harder and hitting winners, while Marcio aimed to hit drop shots and get him to run wide. Stephen’s strategy worked to some extent. He won 3 games in the first set, but Marcio took it 6-3. Stephen then broke Marcio in the second game of the second set to establish a 3-0 lead, including some fine serving. But, with the injury, he often made errors on otherwise routine balls, while, sometimes deciding it wasn’t worth running for other balls he could normally have reached. Marcio not only played well, but also took advantage to take the next six games in a row for a 6-3 6-3 victory.
The last ladies single semi final between Mihika Joshi and Jen Ehr (top seed) was also started on the hard courts, but abandoned due to poor light after Mihika won the first set 6-4. More on this when it is completed as a preliminary game to the Finals.
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 å,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.
The three scheduled matches were played this evening.
On hard court 5 was the men’s singles quarter final between Tim Simpson and Greg Lim, sixth and third seeds respectively. Greg has a very fast serve and accurate groundstrokes based mainly on timing, wrist and follow through and would be expected to get the better of Tim in a baseline to baseline rally. And there were indeed some quite lengthy rallies. So Tim at various points was serving and volleying – not that easy on the slow hard court, but well executed, though Greg was typically able to pass down the line. On various points, Tim attempted to drive Greg back, then drop shot. But Greg is not only pretty fast around the court, but also anticipates well, so any drop shot had to be perfect, or Tim would get passed. There was one brilliant rally where it looked almost as if Greg from the back was just giving Tim smash practice, but Tim was forced to smash from far enough back for Greg to scramble and retrieve to stick in a reasonably deep lob. This went on for a good few smashes before Tim blinked first. The match also took some time to resolve – the other men’s semi had more or less completed the first set in the time it took Tim and Greg to play the first four games, despite starting around the same time.
But Greg always had the statistical upper hand and although Tim won many points, he could only muster one game in each set, ultimately to give Greg a 6-1 6-1 victory and a place in the semi-final.
On hard court 4 was another men’s singles semi final between Geoff Isaacs and Stephen Cooke, the fifth and fourth seeds respectively. Both are pretty consistent players, though Stephen has stronger strokes tends to use more lower-risk topspin that Geoff, and has more accurate placement. There were a number of lengthy rallies. Stephen was often able to manoeuvre Geoff out of position to make space for a winner, although the majority of points were probably decided on errors. Again Geoff won quite a few points but, in the end, they only added up to one game in each set, for a 6-1 6-1 win for Stephen.
The ladies doubles semi-final was played on the grass between the third seeds, Elena Valarche & Emily, and the top seeds and title holders, Marjan Denis & Sue Ehr. Both Emily and Sue are lefties. This game can best be described as a see saw. In the first set the stand out feature was how well Emily was playing. The watching Logan was speculating that her service action and pace would stand up against those of some of the men’s first team players. She later attributed this to having played three days in a row. All I can say is watch out if she ever gets to play four or five days in a row! Elena did her best to get to the net as soon as possible, as usual. Both Marjan and Sue were not quite at their best in the first set, and this was amplified by the number of poor bounces that made it difficult to hit accurate shots against a pair of players at the net. Elena and Emily took the first set 6-2.
At the start of the second set, it was clear that Marjan and Sue had to raise their game to stay in the match, and indeed there were early signs of this. This forced more errors from their opponents, and led to Marjan and Sue taking the set 6-2, the reverse of the first set.
In the resulting champions tie break the see saw swung again. Marjan and Sue just could not sustain the impetus from the second set, and made a few key errors. Elena and Emily stayed solid as the points accumulated, and ended up with a 6-2 2-6 [10-3] win and a place in the final.
First, some non-tournament news. The grass court 3 net post with the winder has been replaced, so the net can now be raised to the correct height all along the tape. Further, Sultan Gangji says that the grass courts will be rolled on either Monday (tomorrow) or Tuesday to eliminate most of the bad bounces.
There were four matches played today.
In the ladies singles, Julia Abbot played Emily. Emily played well, though, Julia says, in struggling to return Emily’s deep shots, Julia occasionally managed to scrape a shot just over the net, where Emily failed to reach it. The West Heath non-bounces were equally distributed and there were a few good rallies as well. Julia served fairly consistently, but reckons she was out-classed by Emily, who won 6-0, 6-3.
In the men’s singles Steve Yoo played Marcio Sugui, the top seed. Steve’s plan seemed to be to serve and volley. The serves generally went in, and he generally got to the volley fine, but Marcio didn’t make it easy for him, and, in the first set, Steve’s volleys went out or in the net more often than not. Then there is the matter of Marcio’s lefty serve to contend with, and Steve struggled to win enough points against that to break Marcio. Marcio took the first set 6-0.
In the second set, Steve’s serve and volley strategy bore more fruit. He succeeded in holding serve in three games, but still could not break Marcio, who took the match 6-0 6-3.
In another men’s singles, Jeff Fine took on the second seed, Logan Mair. Jeff hit some good shots and won a number of rallies (not necessarily because of the West Heath bounce), but Logan does have a variety of serves and shots at his disposal, and knows where to put the ball just out of Jeff’s reach. Jeff could not consistently put pressure on Logan, and Logan induced a number of errors from Jeff. Logan won the match convincingly 6-0 6-1.
The last tournament match of the day was a men’s doubles semi final between Brian Coffey & Gideon Stone, the surprise victors over the third seeds, and Tim Simpson & Logan Mair, the second seeds. Brian and Gideon plays some good rallies, and created some good points, but could not guarantee to hold their serves, and could not break Tim or Logan. In fact, in the match, the challengers won two games on Brian’s serve, and two games on Gideons, resulting in a 6-2 6-2 for the Tim and Logan, who now become finalists.
We have at matches scheduled each evening through Thursday, when the Mixed Doubles Final will follow the men’s singles semi-finals (see post below), but no Gourmet Dinners, alas, as it is too risky. But bring your own food and drink if you want.
There were six matches played on the Saturday, with three of them scheduled for high noon.
In the first men’s singles match, Darius Seir played Greg Lim, the third seed on a hard court. Darius kicked off well with a game in the first set, but couldn’t replicate this in the second set, for a 6-1 6-0 victory to Greg.
In another Men’s singles match, Alex Shemie played Jeff Fine. Jeff is a wily player, with plenty of experience on grass. As in the parallel men’s singles match, Alex got a game in the first set, but that was it. Jeff won 6-1 6-0.
In the mixed, Richard Nightingale & Sally Tornow played the second seeds, Sultan Gangji & Jen Ehr. Richard and Sally reached quite a few game points, but the seeds dug in to prevent a conversion to games. There were plenty of entertaining exchanges between Sultan and Richard but Sultan usually got the better of these. The net was a 6-0 6-0 victory for the second seeds.
In another mixed, Barry Adamson & Julia Abbot took on Stephen Cooke & Elena Valarche, the fourth seeds, on grass. Elena hit some nice backhand returns. Barry has a decent enough serve, when it goes in, and it is difficult to read where it is going (perhaps he also doesn’t know). He held his first two service games, to be 2-3 down, at which point the match looked like it might have been a tight affair. But Steve’s serves proved too strong for the opposition, aided at times by the famous “West Heath bounce”. The second set was marred by an unfortunate ball which caught Barry, whom Julia claims may never now have children, although he was supplied with arnica. There were some good rallies, and the match was enjoyed by all. The seeds won a convincing 6-2 6-0 victory.
In the mens’ doubles, Barry Adamson & Darius Seir played Stephen Cooke & Steve Yoo, the fourth seeds. Darius is sometimes known as Didi. Stephen is one half of the current title holding pair, the other being Tom Tapper, who is away for the tournament. Barry often has a decent serve and some good pace on the groundstrokes, but is somewhat erratic. On the grass, Darius served and volleyed. The first game went to deuce, and the first set was more contested than the second. Darius attempted some interceptions at the net and, at some point was asked by Barry if he had been drinking, though we don’t know what the answer was. Stephen and Steve won 6-0 6-0.
In a ladies doubles, Julia Abbot & Sally Tornow played Elena Valarche & Emily. Sally and Julia didn’t get much of a look-in against Emily and Elena. Emily’s ground strokes have pace and depth, although she did serve a few double faults. Elena and Emily won 6-2 6-3.
It looks like no matches were played on the rather wet Wednesday.
There was plenty of entertainment for the enthusiastic spectators on Thursday.
On the grass, Jack Burgess played Stephen Cooke, the fourth seed and 2019 doubles title holder. We don’t know for sure whether Jack had ever played on grass before, but he commented at the end of the match that he was just getting going, on the sixth game of the second set, when the match ended without him clocking up any games.
On hard court 4, David Cohen was playing Steve Yoo in the men’s singles. Steve was concentrating wonderfully in the first set, and managed to win it 6-1. This continued in the second set, which he led 5-0 and match point. At this point, not only was a mixed doubles waiting to go on court 4, but also his wife and kids walked by to distract him (or so he claimed). The rot set in, David dug in and put the pressure on, and won the next three games. However, Steve did then regain his composure to take the match 6-1 6-3.
Taking over on hard court 4 was a mixed match involving Moira Duncan & Howard Kingston vs Marjan Denis & Greg Lim, the top seeds this year, since Andra Marinescu, who won it with Marcio Sugui last year, is living temporarily in Surrey. Howard’s service is particularly effective on a grass court, so it is a bit of a surprise he allowed himself to play on a hard court. Howard and Moira did their best, and managed to break Marjan twice. They also held Howard’s serve twice, but that was it, for a 6-2 6-2 victory to Marjan and Greg.
On the grass, there was also a men’s doubles, with Brian Coffey & Gideon Stone taking on the third seeds, Jeff Fine and Geoff Isaacs. This must have been quite a hum-dinger. Bionic Brian (hip, two knees and both eyes, apparently) and Gideon took a closely fought first set 6-4 to worry the seeds. The seeds dug in to take the second set to 6 all, and won the tie break (anyone remember the score?). Gideon has less excuse than the others, but the other three players must have had senior moments at the same time, as no-one remembered that there was supposed to be a Champions tie break at one set all in all the doubles events. Anyhow, the score in the third set reached 2 all when Sultan intervened to remind everyone. Brian and Gideon went on to win a tight Champions tie break 10-8, to provide the first upset of the tournament.
To the best of my knowledge, no matches were played on Monday. I have three results and match reports from the matches for Tuesday, as follows.
On the hard courts, the veteran mixed pair of Jane Boyle & Brian Coffey took on the third seeds Margaux Valarche & Logan Mair. Brian is pleased just to be on court nowadays, sporting a pair of bionic knees obtained in operations last year. But he is just “breaking them in” so to speak, as far as tennis is concerned. Margaux was struggling somewhat with her serve, and ended up having to serve underarm. But the rest of her game was certainly on a high last time I saw her play. Margaux and Logan justified their seeding by winning 6-2 6-0.
Stephen Cooke is one half of the reigning men’s doubles from 2019, the other half being Tom Tapper. Tom is not available this year, and Stephen attempted to co-opt Tim Simpson to assist in his title defence. However, this was not to be, which is why Tim Simpson & Logan Mair are second seeds this year in the men’s doubles and were hoping for an easy win over Marco Baldini & Howard Kingston. Marco is new to the club this year. However Logan had already played Howard in the singles, and was well aware that Howard’s first serve can be extremely difficult to return on grass – if it goes in.
Apparently, this turned out to be a very entertaining match, with some terrific rallies. And, after a few aces by Howard, it turned out to be a much harder slog for the seeds than anticipated. Tim ended up having to throw himself around the grass court Becker-style with some wonderful diving volleys to secure vital points. Logan hit “wild” (to quote Sultan) powerful backhands towards the net player on others. However, consistency and experience came through in the end, with Logan and Tim securing a 6-4 6-3 victory.
Stephen Cooke is now paired up with Steve Yoo.
Marco Baldini is a new member this year and played Geoff Isaacs, the fifth seed in the men’s singles. From the score it seemed like quite a good match, which Geoff won 6-4 6-3.
In the men’s singles, Gideon Stone played Tim Simpson. Tim won 6-3 6-3.
If you have anything to report, please email me at the address on the list, or text or WhatsApp me on 07957 followed by 199 583. Thanks. (The number is separated to avoid robots reading it then spamming my mobile number.)
The 2020 tournament has started. About time too! Unfortunately the weather was rather wet on Saturday, and no matches were played.
On Sunday, the first match played was a ladies doubles on a hard court where Susan Grossman & Puyisha Kapila took on the second seeds, Jen Ehr & Becca Vaughan, who have played with each other for a few years outside West Heath. Susan and Puyisha competed vigorously, won points in most games, and detained Jen and Becca on court for the best part of an hour, but didn’t get any games.
The other two matches played were men’s singles, involving the top two seeds, though they weren’t playing each other. Cedric de la Chaise isn’t playing in the tournament this year.
In the first match the second seed, Logan Mair, offered Howard Kingston a choice of surfaces. Howard thought the occasional random bounce on the grass might serve him better than it would Logan. At the start of the match my thought was that, if Howard could get his first serve in, he was in with a good chance of winning quite a few services games against Logan. And so it proved, though Howard also threw in a few double faults for good measure. An early service game of Howards must have had something like 14 deuces – mainly from advantage to Logan, and often rescued by a good first service in from Howard. With the help of Howard’s serves, some random bounces and a few overhits from Logan, matters reached 3 all. Howard set up a number of good serve and volley points, but sometimes seemed to me to be trying to hit the volleys too hard rather than placing them, dumping the ball in the net. Logan was also hitting his first serves hard, but seemed to win ground stroke points more consistently when he went for placement rather than outright pace. Logan took the next three games rather quickly for a 6-3 set.
The second set was somewhat similar, with Howard taking a couple of service games earlier on, but Logan’s consistency giving him the games later, for a 6-3 6-2 victory, with Howard acquitting himself well. Logan’s next opponent is either Jeff Fine or Alex Shemie.
In the evening session the top seed, Marcio Sugui, was playing Fred Davidson. Fred is improving all the time, particularly on the serve, taking advantage of his height, and has been seen to throw down the occasional ace in a men’s doubles. Having recently married, Fred’s wife, Soo Teng, is expecting their first child around Christmas, so she is not entering this year. Meanwhile Marcio has been in the wars, tennis wise. He slipped when playing on a clay court, injuring both hands, and particularly his left thumb (he is a leftie), which he could not move for a couple of days. Four weeks later he was able to play again but has been getting pain in his left elbow, as he had during this match. Fred has played on grass a fair bit this season, but, in the absence of any team matches, this was Marcio’s first time on grass this season.
Marcio broke Fred’s first service game, but Fred then held his serve for the rest of the first set. Meanwhile Fred struggled to return Marcio’s leftie swing serves. Marcio was trying too much to force the pace early on, and getting elbow pain as a result. Having taken the first set 6-3, Marcio eased off, going for blocking the service returns and consistency and placement of ground strokes. This worked rather better, and Fred struggled to take any games in the second, with Marcio winning the match 6-3 6-0. Marcio next meets David Cohen or Steve Yoo.
The Tournament officially begins on FRIDAY 14th AUGUST and the FINALS will
be played on SATURDAY 29th AUGUST starting at 2 pm. If rain prevents play,
the FINALS will be played on SUNDAY 30th AUGUST. The Draw will be up by
WEDNESDAY 12th AUGUST to allow competitors to arrange matches during the
week. First round matches must be played before or on SUNDAY 16th August.
Courts can be booked online via ClubSpark and competitors are asked to book
the courts they intend to play on.
The players whose name appears in the top half of the bracket are initially
responsible for challenging their opponents.
The tournament is to be played on all the courts, apart from the semi-finals and
the Finals, which will be played on grass, unless the weather does not permit. In
the event of disagreement between the opponents on the surface to be chosen,
this will be decided by the spin of the racket.
New Balls will be provided for the FINALS.
All rounds are to be played within the scheduled time indicated at the top of each
draw sheet in order to allow smooth progress. Extensions will only be permitted
in exceptional circumstances and with permission from the joint Referees.
All matches will be the best of 3 Tie-Break Sets except the DOUBLES EVENTS
which will have the 3rd set as a MATCH TIE-BREAK (i.e. Champions T/B with a
Team reaching 10 points with a margin of 2). The rules of the Tiebreak are
All matches must be continuous and appeal for bad light will be considered after
Please give your Entry Fees £3 for single event/£5 for multiple event to Moira or
Competitors are expected to volunteer to be lines persons on Finals day.
Mixed Doubles Final will be scheduled for Thursday 27th August.
The schedule for 2nd week is fixed with Gourmet Dinners hopefully.
The Joint Referees are Marjan and Sultan whose decisions will remain final.
Fifty years ago when Vince was living in Hampstead he was introduced to West Heath Lawn Tennis Club. Like many before and after him, he would have walked down Croftway, the passage way running between Ferncroft and Kidderpore Avenues, through a green door in a brick wall and up the path to the tennis courts and somewhat flaky clubhouse. It was to be the start of a life long love of tennis, and all that goes with the game, as well as a great affection for the club.
Recalling his early years at West Heath Vince talked of “spending many a pleasant weekend or evening playing moderate tennis or sitting and sipping a glass of draft Whitbread bitter overlooking the lawns, red shale and ancient trees”.
Enjoying meeting people and socialising, Vince was a shoo-in for running the club bar at what was also, in the seventies, viewed by some as the only pub in London with tennis courts and furthermore, one with no licensing laws!
It was here too that he initially met Rosie, for a short time the club social secretary, who arranged internal and outside events as well as having members over to her Harley Street flat.
All small clubs like ours rely heavily on volunteers and Vince was great at lending a hand with everything. It could be anything from replacing the netting behind the courts or driving a lorry load of shale down from Leicester to making a gourmet supper during our tournament or offering advice on the accounts, not to mention researching and writing up the second half of a history of the club from the 1950’s onwards. Exactly the sort of person a club like ours loves.
He also developed a taste for growing his own food whilst at West Heath, taking over a small patch of land at the side of the grass courts and planting potatoes and onions! This was probably done better later, on an allotment at the beautiful nearby Branch Hill.
Whilst always playing at West Heath, his membership wasn’t exclusive. Over the years, and having moved away from Hampstead, Vince joined and played at Georgians, Hanley, Templars and most recently enjoyed regular games of singles and doubles at Coolhurst and I know at all these places he easily made new contacts and great friends. He was always very inclusive, and many of us have joined him in one or more of these clubs for a BBQ, social game or perhaps a small tournament.
So what of his actual tennis – well, in his third season at the club he reached the finals of our men’s doubles only to be thwarted in his attempt for the cup by the indisposition of one of the opposition. For some reason the match was never rescheduled and, understandably, he felt a bit cheated by this! But over the years his tennis continued to improve and by his sixties his game was as solid as a brick wall and, much to his bemusement, he had a place on the men’s second team!! He was happy to play with all comers and, although competitive, always good-humoured, fair, relaxed and even tempered no matter the score or result, so a pleasure to be with on a court.
A lovely man and we shall miss him, perhaps arriving at the club with a cake from Dunn’s bakery in Crouch End or journeying over the heath with Rosie clutching some home cooked parsnips for our Christmas lunch – and, of course, probably leaving behind a hat or a jumper!
He’ll certainly always be a very big part of the fabric of West Heath.
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