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TENNIS - Mens Vets A feature in The Great Escape!

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Had Harry Houdini been a tennis fan, he would have appreciated our recent win, as a strong Winchester four conjured up an unlikely win against a spirited Virgin Active team.

A set and a break down in all but one of the rubbers, 4-0 could easily have been 1-3, but somehow a combination of support from the raucous crowd (larger than last week) and that thing that the cream always does, culminated in a great escape.

On a breezy Summer’s evening with the sun shining and the temperature hovering around 20°, we had Mike Johnson and Ben Jepson at one and Paul England and Chris Gotla at two..

To say we got off to a dreadful start would be a little unfair on the Southampton team, who were all playing well. Both Winchester pairs duly lost their first sets and both pairs went a break down in their second. Ben and Mike staring down the barrel at 2-5. It was looking bleak in a match we needed to win convincingly to keep the pressure on second placed Avenue.

The VA captain, Rob Smith, had said to me rather prophetically before the match, “We’ve had a strange season. We keep going a set and a break up and then losing.”
As any sports psychologist would tell him, he should probably dwell on something a little more positive before going on court.

The turning point seemed to come as Mike thundered a ball in frustration at the side netting on court 7. True to form, it missed and sailed over the road and cannoned into the side of the covered courts. Magically things started to improve after that.

Playing now in front of a crowd that outnumbered the home fans by 2 to 1, both Winchester pairs dug deep, clawed their way back into it, somehow won both second sets and broke the opponents hearts by taking both match tie-breaks.

As the away crowd melted away into the bar we went into the second round with an unlikely 2-0 lead and the lights came on.

On court 6 Mike and Ben built on their first round success and ran out easy winninrs in their second rubber. They played some really good tennis to take it 6-1, 6-2. But there was one point that deserves special mention: Mike serves, return comes back to him cross court, Mike volleys. Ratatat ensues. Little lob from Ben, opponent scrapes it off the sky with the top of his frame. Ball coming at a nice height to Mike for an easy put away. Ben dives across, lands on his knees in front of his astonished partner, throws his racquet at the ball which obediently dribbles into the bottom of the net. Huge grin. Mike studies the sky. Next point...

On court 7 however, things were a little different. Following their success in the first round Paul and Chris decided to adopt the same tactic of losing the first set comfortably, going a break down, looking thoroughly dejected with Paul almost on his knees with tiredness, then suddenly landing a couple of sucker punches and a right cross to get the break back, win the second set and flatten them in the match tiebreak.

4 zip, against a VA team who, despite the hugely disappointing scoreline, were extremely magnanimous in defeat. Maybe they need to get a bit nastier...

It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win and at this stage of the season a 4-0 win is a big win.

Last match of the season against Avenue on the grass is on Wednesday 5th July.

Piers Cross

Mens Vets 45 A Captain

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