St. Ivo 2 vs Melbourn 2
Tues 21st January
Melbourn won 14-7
Just three points separated us from hosts St. Ivo in the league table before the start of play, with the sides third and second in the table respectively. It was therefore a big one in the Division 4 promotion chase.
Our cause was helped when we found out on arrival that Ivo’s #3 string, Rob Bresler, had been forced to drop out with illness. That meant Mark A (4) got the hot potato of playing 12-year-old and rapidly improving Diego Pita, whilst Marchy (5) had a more regular challenge versus Danny Caulkett senior. Rich started the opening game decently, but then things got scrappy in the mid-game phase and as he played a few balls back to where Danny was waiting, expecting them. A tweak in approach to a long-short game worked wonders though, and from then on Rich was in control as he won 3-0.
Next door Mark had started well against Diego, taking the opening game. However the kid showed impressive court nous (to go with the clean ball strike and excellent movement) to set Mark up for one-two punches, lofting the ball up and then pouncing on the attempts kills to counter-punch before the (much!) bigger Melbourn man could regain his balance. A new gameplan was needed for Mark, which was to be more patient in the set up, when presented with a high volley go for depth rather than the kill and thereby force Diego into the back corners instead of allowing him to move forward on to the ball. This worked a charm as Mark was in increasing control in winning the next two games.
Meanwhile on the opposite court Gareth J (3) had got underway against Sean Gant. The opening game was a mixed bag from Gareth for stylistic reasons, Sean’s approach failing to give him anything like the rhythm he needs to produce his best shots. Instead it all got rather scrappy as Gareth ended up playing Sean’s game and though he never trailed the eventual 15-13 scoreline told its own story. Between games the chat was simple – strip things right back, only play three shots (drive, crosscourt from the front corners, and boast as the attacking option) and at all costs hit through the ball. No ‘touch’ attempts. Gareth never really looked like he was enjoying this rudimentary approach to the sport, but it worked well and delivered a comfortable 3-0 victory that saw us over the line.
Matt W (2) started against Harry Aldridge with the match still nominally in the balance. Matt had claimed a game off Harry in the match at Melbourn earlier in the season, but based on the shouts from this one it was going against him from quite an early stage [or to put it another way, Reader, I was on court at the time!]. It ended 3-0 to the home player.
Which leaves Jan B (1) taking on David Chapman. Some nice extended rallies punctuated the first game, particularly up and down the backhand wall. David was mostly a few points ahead and though Jan closed to 14-13, the home player closed things out. Game two was the other way around, Jan edging ahead mid-game as he was able to volley-lob over David a number of times and otherwise find a tight length. This set up two game balls at 14-12. The big chance came on the second when a ball was floated up into the front backhand corner, but Jan’s attempted wrong-footer down the backhand was marginally short the needed sting and got retrieved. A few shots later it was 14-all, and two points later 2-0. That became 3-0 as David held the upper hand throughout the third, the two players also indulging in a competition to see who could pull off the most backhand return volley kills. The extended rallies of game 1 were go, and the match was over as Jan went down 3-0.
Jan was skipper for the evening and remarked “Their top two is very strong, but we had better depth. The match of the evening was Mark and Diego, and not just for the eye-twisting difference in size caused by Mark’s six-foot-four frame. Diego will go far in the sport, and in future years Mark will be able to look back on this and say ‘I beat that guy once, you know’.
“As for the league situation, the win is handy but at 14 points to 7 overall it isn’t decisive. We are now 10 points clear of them, but we have to keep winning to stay ahead”