Men's B team win to secure promotion to Division 1
(Picture, Left to Right: Stuart Levy, Carl Richardson, Patrick Warburton, Jon Clift. Not pictured: Ed Blake, Austin Gwilliam. Thanks to Helen Levy for the photo!).
On a sun-drenched Sunday morning in Winchester, the Winchester Men's B team took on East Dorset A in a promotion deciding match in Hants and IOW division 2.
The Winchester team were diplomatically asked by their captain for their views on the order of pairs, which resulted in the team being seeded in order of ascending 'total age'. Astonishingly, this left Carl Richardson playing in the 'young guns' pair, alongside Austin Gwilliam, an outcome which had spectators reaching for their calculators.
Even more surprisingly, this left the fresh-faced pairing of Jonathan Clift and Patrick Warburton to do battle in the opening round with East Dorset's lead pair of Iain Stokes and Dave Moore. The match was competitive from the start, with the East Dorset pair forcing a break in the first game of the match. With their backs against the wall, Jon and Patrick played some gutsy tennis to earn a break back at 4-5 and take the set to a tie break. The tiebreak was equally closely contested, Jon and Patrick eventually coming through 9-7. The second set was no easier, Jon and Patrick saving a set point on the way to wrapping up a 7-6, 7-5 victory. Helen Thorpe (former Leicestershire Ladies Champion) described the match as "very good to watch" which says it all.
Meanwhile, on court 3, the 'young guns' made short work of East Dorset's third pair with a comfortable 6-1, 6-0 win. On court two Ed Blake (suffering from a mysterious non-hangover related illness) and Stuart Levy were embroiled in a tight rubber against the East Dorset second pair. After taking the first set on a tie break, Ed and Stuart stepped up a gear in the second to win 7-6, 6-3. A result which left Winchester B leading 3-0 after the first round and in sight of promotion.
In the second round Jon and Patrick continued where they had left off, making short work of the second pair 6-1, 6-2. They were glad to get off court quickly as the blistering temperature continued to rise. There was no such luck for the other pairs as both first sets went to tie breaks. Stuart (wearing a shirt three times brighter than the raging midday sun) and Ed (heroically soldiering on as his body let him down) were unlucky to lose their first set 7-6. Despite his protestations, Ed was persuaded to concede the match for self preservation. Ed and Stu's withdrawal meant Winchester's 4-0 lead had effectively become 4-2, bringing the match back into the balance.
So it was over to Austin and Carl to get the job finished against the first pair. Despite playing some quality tennis, the East Dorset pair could not overcome Carl and Austin, despite having set points for the third set in a row. A good quality rubber ended with a 7-6, 7-5 win for Winchester which ensured the victory, and promotion, was sealed.
The formalities of the final rubbers still needed to be completed. Jon and Patrick notched up their third win, beating the Dorset third pair 6-1,6-1. Which left the stage set for Austin and Carl to finish the match on court 1 as a healthy crowd watched on, cool drinks in hand. Things started well, Austin and Carl breaking in the first set, but as the energy levels dropped off East Dorset secured a consolation rubber in the match tie break. Carl had to settle for two rubbers and mild sunstroke, in place of his 'usual' three rubbers, as the match ended in a 6-3 win for Winchester B.
So promotion to Division 1 is secured with a match to spare, a great achievement and a great squad effort. Next season Winchester will have 2 of the 6 teams in the top Men's Division. Well done to all who have played this year. There's still one match to go and a good performance required to seal the title.