Controversy before the match had even started as James (who made him Team Captain asked Ian Hislop) changed the quarter final winning team by dropping Ian and bringing in Craig! Now in fairness, Craig did have a more advantageous Handicap than Ian but his last match winning performance in the Cup had come before he switched to dodgy rubbers! No surprise then when Ian didn’t turn up to support his teammates – another one taking James off his Christmas Card list!
The other team were, of course, already steeped in controversy having taken a walkover in their Quarter Final match despite various pleas from Murrayfield to give them another chance to play the match! The bookies had Team 1 as slight favourites.
All friends and smiles before the match started – that soon changed as former teammates, Gary and James took to the table first. There was a bit of nastiness in this one – not helped by some “Colin Green” style umpiring from our Club President as he gave a warning to Gary about throwing the ball up on serve – obviously not quite as shocking as Colin’s umpiring – he would just have started docking points – but Gary didn’t find it amusing! In fairness he was in trouble before the warning and seemed to not cope with the pressure put on him by James’ attacking play – a 3 point advantage for James was converted to a 14-11, 14-11, 14-7 win.
Next up was Sonny v Jim – Sonny has been one of those players who has benefited hugely this season from a handicap that is based on his rating at the beginning of the season – he has improved greatly but his handicap has stayed the same – nevertheless he was having to give Jim 6 of a start in a race to 12. The first end was tight, and Jim played better after Sonny had quickly caught him up – both players had chances to win but Sonny squeezed home after 4 deuces 16-14. That seemed to give Jim confidence as he ran away with the second for the loss of only 4 points. When he took the next 12-10, an upset was on the cards. Good coaching from his teammates, however, seemed to spur Sonny on – he came out far more aggressive in the final two ends and his power and spin proved too much for Jim as Sonny took both those ends by 12-7 score lines.
Rachel has been Team 1’s secret weapon this season so far – a +7 Handicap is difficult to compete against but part of Team Captain James’ reasoning for bringing Craig back into the fray was to compete with that handicap. Craig was +5 and so only a 2 point start for Rachel and the bookies fancied Craig to overturn that – Rachel had other ideas – her stoic defensive pushing was combined with some terrific attacks and Craig just didn’t have any answers as Rachel triumphed in 4 close sets.
James then faced Sonny in the knowledge that a defeat for him would put Team 3 in trouble – on paper this looked like a straightforward win for Sonny but credit to James who put up a real fight – the first two ends were both won by Sonny 11-9, and they could easily have gone the other way. The same score in the third but this time in favour of James and the pressure was mounting for Sonny. A great match by both players with some of the best rallies of the night but it was Sonny who came out on top with an 11-8 fourth end win.
At 3-1 down, Craig knew that if Team 3 were to have any chance he would need to take out Gary. Gary still seemed out of sorts and the 9 point advantage for Craig was never lost in perhaps the most one sided match of the night – a 15-3, 15-6, 15-3 win for Craig kept Team 3’s hopes alive.
Match 6 and back came Rachel to take on another +5 player, this time Jim – 2-0 in a race to 11 and again a tactical choice by James to keep Jim in the team after his quarter final performance where he had performed brilliantly against lower handicaps. Based on Jim’s game against Sonny he was going to overturn that 2 point deficit and bring Team 3 back level, wasn’t he? Once again Rachel stood up to the challenge and this time never gave Jim a sniff of any weakness – she strolled to a 3 set win and with it put Team 1 on the brink of victory.
Could Craig keep the match alive against Sonny? Given Gary’s performances thus far it looked like Jim was a banker in the next match and that would leave Rachel v James as a decider – that would be tense! Sonny’s game has certainly improved over the last year or so – and he seems to revel in playing under pressure – after narrowly winning the first 12-10, he then lost the 2nd 12-9 – pressure on – he refocussed and won the 3rd 12-9 only to lose the fourth by the same score – what a match – and would you believe it the final end also finished 12-9 – despite Craig’s best efforts it went to Sonny and that win secured a 5-2 win for Team 1 and a place in the final.
Player of the match / player of the Week? A good argument can be made that it must be Sonny – 3 wins out of 3, coming back from 6 point deficits against Jim and Craig, winning tight matches throughout the night…. but in fairness he was probably expected to win those matches. Rachel was targeted by Team 3 as a danger and the two +5 players selected to play against her were selected specifically to level the playing field – it might even be argued that Team 3 were a little over-confident that they would win both those matches – instead, the momentum of the night was changed by Rachel’s performances – and she didn’t just play defensively waiting on her opponents to make mistakes – she used some excellent serves, played some terrific backhand attacks and finished numerous rallies with some phenomenal forehand smashes. Her matches were won relatively comfortably – and for that Rachel is our deserved winner this week – just make sure you do the same in the final Rachel.
Controversy of the Week – nothing that we saw – Gary may disagree! Was it fair to pull up a player for dodgy serves? Of course it was – what better time to do it than in an intra club fixture. And the umpire warned everyone at the beginning of the night that players should make every effort to serve correctly – no points were deducted, and it wasn’t just Gary that was spoken to – Rachel also had a request made of her as did Jim – and of course our Umpire was entirely neutral throughout. Gary wasn’t happy and felt it was unfair in a game between two teams from the same club – we think he was just moaning because he didn’t play well though – and he never reads these reports (until Rachel no doubt tells him this week to do so) so we can say it was sour grapes on his part! In umpiring most of the games, however, what became clear was how poor serving is – if the stickler for the rules “Mr Green” had been allowed to umpire there wouldn’t have been many rallies beyond one stroke! And we think legality of serves is a broader issue throughout the league – but hey that’s why the League have asked each club to have at least one member go through the umpiring course – they can then hopefully raise within their own club what needs to improve! Yeah right – raise it with your own club and all you get is dog’s abuse!!
The final of this year’s Handicap Cup sees us take on West Lothian on Wednesday 11th May – good luck to Rachel, Sonny & Gary – this time everyone in the Club will be rooting for you guys – let’s bring the trophy back to Ladywood.