Stamford I vs Melbourn I
Weds 26th September
Melbourn lost 18-3
Melbourn 1sts came down with a crunch as their opening day win over the defending champions was followed by a 4-1 thrashing against a Stamford side who generally hover around the bottom half of Division 1.
We were missing a few due to a combination of holiday, the World Deaf Championships and wedding anniversaries not being compatible with sticking one’s head around the door to grab the bag and then disappearing until nearly midnight. And we also knew we were in for a tough night when we figured out the hosts were at close to full strength.
Jan’s reaction to finding out his opponent at fifth string would be Paul Partington was “Oh no” or words to that effect, the two having met before with Paul winning. Sports Psychologists would, I’m sure, say that is a bad attitude to take it, but it really doesn’t need a professional to assess that; Jan was already most of the way to defeat before a ball was even struck! So it was that Paul, feeling confident, missed almost nothing and Jan, fighting desperately, found himself on the back foot pretty well throughout. One or two winners were hit in there, but the 3-0 win for the Stamford player didn’t take long. In fact, by the winning shot was hit before the knock-up for the second strings next door had even ended. Not sure that’s ever happened to me before...
That second string match pitted Malik against former World No.4 Tania Bailey. Very much youth against deep experience and match nous. Malik hit the ball nicely, and tried his best to impose himself on rallies but found it unsuprisingly difficult to unsettle the home player. In fact it was Malik who was finding the match getting under his skin, with regular frustrated glances thrown up to Dad Zafer on the balcony as Tania had an answer for everything he tried. Two games down there was still hope if Malik could make it an epic, but Tania closed things out in tight third for a 3-0 victory.
Whilst that was going on, Kate was taking on Oscar Hill at fourth string. The match opened with a string of long rallies, but all of them ended one way – in Oscar’s favour. With Kate getting nothing and also feeling the pace physically, she went to her old reliable hyper-attacking game, only to find Oscar was fast and nimble around the front court and was eating up drops which were not as accurate as Kate can produce at her best. Then, to add injury to insult, Kate turned an ankle in another draining second game rally. That added an extra nail to the already tightly shut coffin as Oscar won 3-0.
Half-past eight and we had already lost on the night. Oh. Well, hopefully Mark (3) or Ed (1) could pick up some consolation points against Jon Hand and Spencer Beresford respectively. Not that Mark was particularly close to doing so during an opening game where he didn’t appear mentally locked in, playing a gameplan that simply fed Jon’s strengths. Rod Laver apparently used to do this deliberately, as if you can beat a player on his best shots then he has nowhere else to turn. But Laver was arguably the greatest of all time at his sport, and noticeably stronger than most of his opponents. That didn’t apply to Mark against Jon, and feeding Jon’s touch and reverse shots simply lead to losing the first game comprehensively.
Fortunately Mark picked things up significantly after that, and executed what he needed to do, moving Jon away from the front court and service line. That gave him a chance, and the next two games were much more competitive. But Jon is a good player, and even with this it wasn’t quite enough for Mark to claim a game as he went down 3-0.
Ed also lost his opening game to Bez, but he did so in a manner that offered considerable hope for the rest of the match as an early large lead for the Stamford player was nearly clawed back. That would prove a harbinger for the rest of the match as Ed’s relentlessness and ability to play working drops and cover all possible responses began to expose Bez’s injury-limited movement. The second game was comprehensive in Melbourn’s favour (“Yay, we’ve got a point”), but it was the third that was decisive as Ed held his nerve to claim it on a breaker. The fourth was close, but always felt Ed’s to lose. Which he didn’t as at least the top string finished 3-1 to Melbourn.
Skipper Mark commented “This was a tough night. However the team still performed well, producing some good quality Squash”