Sax strike Woodbridge for six!
Match report by men's 1st team captain, Matthew Last
Wednesday 19th January 2022 saw our men's 1st team play away to Woodbridge men's 1st team, in the next instalment of our quest for glory in the Ipswich and District Winter League.
It's always the first fixture that Saxmundham's players tend to look for and ask, "When do we play Woodbridge?" There's hardly a fierce rivalry between us and them, but it's one of those fixtures that many players look forward to, as matches usually have that extra edge to them.
With Anthony emphasising the importance of the game all week, he was keen as mustard to get going. Some reports had even suggested he'd been on the court since Sunday afternoon to get warmed-up for the match.
The preparation clearly worked. He and Chris raced away with the first set, 6-3. The second set would be much tighter though, with Martin and Steve fighting back strongly to take a tight set 7-5 to make it 1-1 on the night.
With Ewan absent - presumably he's still in the Australian Open draw - it was up to Ian Portal to step up and play his second game for the men's 1st team. Both pairs looked very solid to start with, demonstrating some quality hitting and holding the serve seven games in a row, until the decisive Sax broke in the eighth game.
Ian and Matt would then be relentless in putting the other pair under immense pressure with good length, exquisite volleys, and the odd corker down the line. This would allow them to clinch the first set 6-3 and race away with the second 6-0. Not bad for a pair playing together for the first time! (The only issue with this fantastic second set was that the other pairs were locked in a tight second set, so we were left to get cold for half an hour.)
This is a poor excuse... but that half hour break certainly seemed to affect our momentum and form as we approached our next set. Very quickly Woodbridge's Rob and Steve made the most of this and stormed to a 6-2 win, making it 3 sets to 2, and giving Woodbridge a sniff at a good result.
You've got to love the psychology of tennis. Half an hour earlier as a pair we were free-flowing and relaxed in our play. But now, we were tentative and somewhat pushy at the ball. We managed to ease this slightly, as we started to return to our prior form, resulting in a commanding start to the set, and going on to lead 5-2.
However this would only end up being half the story...
Because from being in total control we ended up throwing away a 40-15 lead two games in a row, doing everything right up until the final shot and while, it wasn't exactly a sitter, it was you'd back yourself to make! By this point, the Woodbridge pair were almost toying with us, letting us get ahead only to respond with fantastic matchplay to keep in the set and force a tie-break.
However, yet again we managed to race away, and started strong going achieving a final score of 6-2. We'd had four chances to clinch the match, surely it was in the bag this time!
Clearly I hate doing things easily. What followed was a mixture of cruelly-timed net calls, big misses, and wonderful play from the Woodbridge pair. So we very quickly found ourselves on the receiving end of a set point. We held on to make it 7-7 but yet again, they were keen to have a second bite at the cherry. Which, yet again, we fended off to take the score to 8-8!
Thankfully, we'd win the next two points and win the set on the tenth time of asking. But it's certainly not recommended to throw away nine match points. (There's a free coaching tip, you're welcome!)
Anthony and Chris would then add the icing on the cake and win both sets 6-2, 6-3 to make it an overall 6-2 win to Saxmundham, keeping us at the summit of this league's Division 2.
It was a fantastic evening of tennis, played in great spirits, throughout. The only negative came from the chaps playing on the court next to us, who chose an ill-timed walk past the court after they'd finished, just as Ian was serving for the match (leading to a very rare double fault from Ian).
Not satisfied with this, the ne'er-do-wells then proceeded to take another merry stroll onto the next court and interrupt their rally too. Court etiquette, anyone?!