Luton & Dunstable I vs Melbourn 1
Weds 19th June
Melbourn won 9-3
A team of Mark Oppen, Kate Bradshaw and Jan Brynjolffssen made their way along the A505 for this Herts League Division 2 match between a side from Bedfordshire and one from Cambridgeshire. The Herts League has expansionist tendencies…
First on was Jan (3) against Mark Grey. Mark opened the quicker, establishing a 5-1 lead but Jan pegged it back to be level by midway through the game. Those opening rallies had been fairly extended, with both players going up and down the walls and Mark surprising Jan by his pace to pick up certain drop shots. That appeared to take it’s toll on the Luton player though as he slowed up noticeably for the last few rallies of the game as Jan won a string of points to take it 15-11.
That set the pattern, which the next two games followed exactly. Mark started the quicker in each, Jan clawed things back, Mark tired from mid game and Jan took control to win. The Melbourn player was having significant joy with drop shots into the backhand corner, particularly when played straight down the wall. He kept going back to the well on an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” logic, the match suitably ending on such a shot as Jan won 15-11 15-11 15-10.
Kate (2) was next on court against Antony Di Blasio. It didn’t take Kate long to put any early nerves behind her as she found her best game of fleet-footed movement allied with deadly cut outs and drop shots. She was also trapping Antony on serve as she raced into a 11-2 lead. A few overly confident rallies saw Antony close the gap a little, but Kate then cleaned her game up to accelerate away again and win the opener by a distance.
The remainder of the match followed a distinct template – Kate would look to force Antony deep into a back corner, from where either Antony would be forced into a defensive shot that Kate could attack (her backhand volley drop was working sweetly) or he would try a desperation kill that Kate was quick and nimble enough to reach and counter-kill. Once in a while Antony would pull off a remarkable winner or Kate would make an unforced error, but it was mostly one-way traffic.
The only slight deviation came when Kate got to within a point of victory, as she lost focus and made some loose errors trying to end it in one shot. That used up a few match balls but seeing as she had 10 there was ample chance to refocus, Kate eventually playing a more patient rally ending with a forehand dropped flicked right when left looked more likely to close things out 15-6 15-6 15-9.
That meant Melbourn had the victory prior to Mark (1) taking on Sean Davis. It was swiftly clear that Sean was a class apart from his teammates, and that Mark had a hot potato in his lap. There were some extremely impressive rallies on early with 20 or 30 shots up and down walls as the two players looked to move each other around for the opening. A few “Oppen boasts” were attempted and (amazingly) worked and Sean made a few sloppy errors and suddenly Mark was 13-11 up. However, he couldn’t close things out as Sean tightened up his game, coming back through to win 15-13.
Mark kept working and fighting after this, but the play remained lung-busting, which challenged his fitness after his recent month or more away from the match court. He looked increasingly gassed as Sean eased away, Mark going down 13-15 10-15 9-15.
Skipper Jan commented “This was a must win match for us. Both Kate and I had our opponent’s number, it was just a case of delivering and we each did that. Kate was in particularly ruthless mood, with excellent serves and drop shots. Mark had an altogether tougher challenge against a very strong player. Though he lost, he showed signs that his best form is close after missing a number of weeks earlier in the season.”