Melbourn II vs Newmarket I (6th March)
Melbourn lost 8-17
Back in the autumn the 2nds had picked up our best win of the opening half of the campaign when we won 15-7 at Newmarket 1sts. That had pushed us clear at the top of the table, where we remained at Christmas with Newmarket among the sides chasing hard. A few months down the line though things had changed as Newmarket had gone on a run of wins to take over at the top, benefitting in part from the 2nds simultaneous run of losses. There was much to play for when the sides meet again, then.
The first match to get underway would prove to be the most dramatic of the evening as Gareth (4) took on Mark Price. Gareth started well, hitting to depth and finding lengths with Mark – a notoriously dogged player – looking completely out of sorts with himself, the court and his body. Gareth was getting lots of joy in the back corners as Mark struggled to dig balls out, leading to a 15-9 first game claim. The second was even more one sided as Gareth pounded Mark back and Mark seemed disinterested in fighting. 15-4.
When Gareth built a 12-8 lead in game three a 3-0 win seemed on the cards, but a key error at that point proved costly as Mark at last woke up and began to play the sort of tenacious Squash he is known for. Six straight rallies got the Newmarket player to game points and though Gareth saved one he couldn’t claw back the game. The fourth also went the visiting players way with a late burst, and when Gareth fell 7-0 down to start game five, he and his cause seemed lost. That became 11-2 and eventually 14-8, but behind the 8-ball Gareth suddenly began to exploit Mark’s lack of mobility (he could barely move, in fact!) and saved one, two, three match balls. That became all of them, and not only that Gareth got a match ball of his own at 15-14. However, having found the pattern of push Mark back and then cut the ball short Gareth unaccountably turned down a simple drop on this point but rather started to smack the ball to the back of the court… where Mark was standing. Presumably tension, but this was Gareth’s undoing as he eventually lost the game 19-17 and was left contemplating how he had fallen 15-9, 15-4, 13-15, 11-15, 17-19.
Next door the first match on pitted Colm (3) against Matt Pearson, who has been getting some eye-catching results this season. However Colm’s game is rather made for playing against Matt, who is a high class shot-maker but not necessarily the best mover on the court; perfect for Colm’s retriever style to counter.
The first game was close throughout, with the lead changing hands numerous times. Again, the sort of battle that Colm relishes and one he won 15-13. And that set the pattern for the match as Colm was able to chase down enough of Matt’s kills and play successful counters. Matt kept pushing the play where he could, having the better of the final phase of the third game but Colm had his teeth truly in to this one and claimed a superb win 15-13, 12-15, 15-10, 15-12.
Following Colm on Court 1 was Sean (5), who took on Charlie Crisp. Sean hasn’t played all that much recently but was in decent form in the opener, particularly during a run of six straight rallies won in the mid-game which turned an 8-4 opening deficit into a 10-8 lead. After that things were nip and tuck, Charlie getting to game ball first at 14-13, but Sean saving it and then making the most of that by closing out the tie-break. This, however, proved something of a false dawn as Sean’s lack of recent court time gradually came to the fore as he tired and was unable to retrieve quite as effectively as he had. The difference was fractions of a second in speed over the deck, but that is enough to change the games from absolutely level pegging to tipped slightly but decisively in Charlie’s favour. Games scores were 16-14, 12-15, 8-15, 5-15.
Over on Court 2 Jan (2) was taking on Santiago Uribe Lewis. Jan was coming in with high confidence after a great win the previous week… but was swiftly wondering where this had gone as Santi powered into a 12-3 game one lead. What Jan was trying was simply not causing his opponent any discomfort, and despite grinding some rallies late in the game to get a few more points the first was gone. Game 2 was better from the Melbourn player’s perspective as he was able to move his opponent more, drawing errors particularly when he got the ball deep into the backhand corner. Jan even led this game 13-12, but paid for a key error at 13-all as the game escaped 15-13. And that was that really as Santiago pushed himself back up to his first game level to close out the third comfortably and leave Jan deflated after a 7-15, 13-15, 8-15 loss.
Jan’s loss meant the match was over as a contest before Mike (1) began against Hamish Jogee. The opening game of this one had Hamish’s stamp all over it, i.e. utterly bizarre. The Newmarket player is well known on the circuit for both his skill and his wild inconsistency in applying it, with spectators breath regularly drawn in after he hits the ball – but as often as not for a extraordinary error as a spectacular winner. Mike got thrown by this and never found his usual rhythm in the shorter-than-expected rallies. However he did dig in and improve the tightness of his shots late in the game, dragging the game back to a tie-break. This started with a game ball to Hamish that he could have called a probable stroke on, but didn’t and then tinned his drop shot instead. D’Oh! And another pattern was set as the tie-break went on, and on, and on. In the end it was close to a whole extra game before it finally broke Hamish’s way 24-22.
Game two saw Hamish up the winners and reduce the errors which took it off Mike’s racquet and left him needing to win the third. This seemed in the bag when Mike raced into an 8-0 lead with some solid player that offered Hamish few chances for winners but lots of opportunity to make errors… except this was then followed by a hot spell from the Newmarket player as he won 8 of the next 9 rallies to drag the game back to 9-8! Mike managed to play the remainder of the game on his terms to claim it, but this proved a false dawn as the fourth again saw Hamish as the key player on court, which resulted in a 22-24, 7-15, 15-12, 7-15 defeat for Mike, a rare reverse for him in what has been a very impressive campaign.
After the match Melbourn skipper Jan commented “We gave it our best, but they are a strong side who will probably be champions of our Division this season, and were too strong here.”