Melbourn 1 vs Stevenage 1
Weds 24th July
Melbourn lost 12-3
A team on a four-match winning streak (us) against the league leaders (Stevenage). That was a promising set up for the evening.
The first match on, Chris F (3) vs Dennis Arthur lived up to the billing. On a really warm night (the all-time British record temperature would be recorded less than 24 hours later) it was never going to be easy to kill the ball, with forced errors being more the order of the day. Which is exactly what Chris drew from Dennis in a well judge first game, particularly when he held his backhand and then clipped the ball down the wall. Dennis struck back to take the next two, but some clearly sound advice from Malik encouraged Chris and he took the fourth by the scruff of the neck, again holding position and counterpunching well as Dennis went in short and early. That took us to a decider (the first time Dennis had been pushed that far at 3rd string this season), but sadly for Chris this was effectively decided in the opening dozen rallies as Dennis built a 10-1 lead. To his credit Chris never gave up and closed the gap to 8-12 at one point but in the end it proved too much to claw back and he lost 15-13, 11-15, 9-15, 15-6, 9-15.
At this point the match split onto two courts, Malik B (1) taking on Alice Green on one of them and Jan B (2) facing Robert Brooks on the other. Let’s start with Malik against recently crowned European Junior Open champion (and newly minted pro) Alice. The hitting was crisp, the movement was good and the rallies extended, but ultimately Malik’s line and length play was not able to put Alice under enough pressure. She showed the benefit of the work she is doing as she took Malik’s stretching and retrieving in her stride and sent him spiralling to a comprehensive 8-15, 6-15, 8-15 defeat.
The first game next door was equally comprehensive for Stevenage as Jan found himself repeatedly wrong-footed by Robert’s holds of his shots. Game two was nearly as one sided, but this time it was Jan on top as tight drops and serves in the early going built a large lead, prompting Robert to seemingly let the game go from ~10-2 down. The next was rather closer, with Jan still finding his range but not having as much time for the easy put away second punches after penetrating shots to depth. He still led the game narrowly until late on when Robert tighten things up to push through and lead 2-1. A quick start from the visitor established a lead in game four that he never relinquished as Jan went down 6-15, 15-5, 12-15, 11-15.
Jan commented “Stevenage are top of this league for a reason – when they get their regular side of Alice, Robert and Dennis out as they did this evening, then they are a very strong team. We did make them work for it though, which is pleasing.”