Melbourn II vs Comberton III
Mon 1st October
Melbourn won 20-3
The first Division 4 match of the new campaign pitted the 2nds against Comberton 3rds.
First on court were James Storer (5) and Sean Hamilton (4) taking on Colin Walker and Bertie Elmes respectively.
There is a sneaky tactic that experienced match players such as Colin can employ, one that will snare the unwary. What you do is chop or boast in short from a deep position on the court and then stay still. The opponent has to rush to the front to pick up the short ball, and with their eyes on the ball they can’t see where their opponent is. All they know is he is behind them. Somewhere. Is he close behind, and if so, is he on the forehand or the backhand? Where do I hit to hit it away from him?
The best option is to listen for the opponent’s movement, to try and pick up clues to where he is positioning himself. In the absence of such audible signals, what a player will often do in this situation is revert to standard defensive play, i.e. hit for length. That seems the safest option. Except, it isn’t. The experienced match player hasn’t moved since he hit his shot. He is standing at the back of the court, waiting. He is effectively only covering half the back half and his opponent has just obliging hit it into that area! The shot is either straight at him or one or two steps away, and he is waiting to pounce and put away the easy winner. The web has been woven...
James got well and truly stuck in this for two games as he either tried to put short balls away with pace or, if he did go short attempted something tricky and difficult to execute such as a trickle boast in an effort to keep the ball very tight from the opponent who, in James’ mind, could be hovering on his shoulder (but wasn’t!). And when he did this, he missed as these delicate shots do not fit well with sprinting hard forwards.
James was looked deeply frustrated and confused as the second game ran rapidly away from him to send him 0-2 down. Between games chat at this point attempted to convince James that if he got a short ball, he should do nothing more complicated than straight drop with lots of margin for error in response. The first one or two times James tried it you could see him bracing as if Colin was going to come charging through and kill easily. But Colin was miles behind the ‘t’ and therefore unable to get forward to the drops, which were easy winners for James instead. Gradually James relaxed and began to trust the gameplan. He never looked entirely comfortable, soft shots are not really his natural style, but utilising it did effect a major turnaround as James won 9-15 5-15 15-3 15-6 15-8.
Concurrently in the match next door it was Melbourn player Sean who had the experience against teenager Bertie. Sean definitely made this count in a comprehensive opening game, but after that gradually got drawn into a hitting contest that suited the Comberton player as it played to his strengths of movement and ball-striking. Sean edged through the second game but then lost the third on a breaker. Once again his teammates helped get him through the mini-crisis, imploring Sean to be more considered and deliberate in his use of power. That worked a treat as Sean reasserted himself to win 15-6 15-12 14-16 15-8.
Colm O’Gorman faced off with Tom Snaith at third string. Both players were looking to drop the ball early on, with Tom notably making tracks towards the front part of the court wherever possible. Despite this Colm managed to play a number of drop shot winners as he took the opening game, particularly into the front forehand corner. A tweak in the plan to try and use Tom’s go forward against him wasn’t noticeably effective, until Colm hit a purple patch at the end of the second game, playing extremely clean, well-constructed rallies to race from near parity halfway through into a two-love lead. The third was nip and tuck, with Tom ahead for most of the way. However Colm dug in, brought the game back to 13-all and converted the next two rallies for a 15-9 15-10 15-13 win.
Next door Matt Walker (2) was taking on Ashok Babbar. You correspondent didn’t see very much at all of this game, just a couple of rallies, so I’ll have to go on scores and reports. Matt was happy with how he played and also with his concentration in finishing things off when Ashok came back at him in the third. The scores back this up, standing at 15-6 15-6 15-12.
That sent the top strings, Jan Brynjolffssen and Neil Stutchbury, on to court without much riding on the game by personal pride. The two players had met last year with Jan coming out a 3-0 winner, and this one went much the same way; Jan was having success in pinning Neil into the back corners and then dropping, whilst Neil was able to get his best shot, his forehand volley, into play only some of the time. Well, consistently so on the return of serve from the left box, but that is only 50% of his opponent’s service points and none of his own! Jan never trailed in any of the games after the first few points, and though the first two were relatively close in scoreline it was an ultimately comfortable 15-11 15-11 15-7 win.
Skipper Roger Woodfield was taking an armchair general role for this one. He said it was “A tremendous start to our winter campaign. This impressive performance will give the whole squad the confidence to be a real competitive force in this league.”