The week started with Team 3’s trip on Monday evening to the Gyle to take on Murrayfield in Division 2. James & Abby Wighton were joined again by Hannah McDonell as they looked to bounce back from their 6-4 defeat to Edinburgh University in their last outing. The Murrayfield side fielded Lynn Somerville, Graham Muir and Anna Porsche.
The tone of the match was set by the first two matches – James v Graham and Hannah v Lynn. Are there two more awkward players in the Division? Neither James nor Hannah could really get to grips with the “dodgy” anti-spin of Graham or the long pimples of Lynn and although both probably deserved a bit better the away pairing both fell to straight sets defeats. Match 3 saw Abby take a 2-0 lead against Anna. She, however dug in, and nearly pulled off a terrific recovery falling 13-11 in the fifth to an extremely relieved Abby.
Whilst Hannah had been a bit confused by Lynn’s long pimples, her head was then utterly scrambled by Graham’s anti-spin. Abby looked as if she was working out Lynn in the first end of their match but fell 16-14 and from there was never in it. Two further 3-0 victories for the home side and at 4-1 down James knew he needed to win against Anna. It wasn’t to be as he fell to a 3-1 defeat. When Abby and James (the 3rd doubles combination in the same amount of weeks) fell 3-0 to Graham and Lynn, the points were secured by the home side. They rammed home their advantage in the last 3 matches, the highlight (or maybe lowlight) being James somehow losing a -2-0 advantage to Lynn. James seemed to find his form again in the decider and at 7-2 up the night looked like it would end well, but from there he lost 9 of the next 10 points as Lynn won 11-8 in the fifth to complete a miserable night for Team 3.
Wednesday evening saw Team 1 travel to face West Lothian 1 in the Premier division. Iain Johnston was again called upon to join David Melrose and Colin Green. This match was tight all the way. In the first round of singles Colin was the only winner for the visitors but the match was levelled up after the second round of fixtures with wins for Colin and David. 3-3 going into the doubles. As is regularly the case, the doubles is a crucial match. David and Colin took on Darius and Brian Hunter and at 2-1 up they had two match points that they couldn’t convert. The home pair sneaked the 4th end 14-12 and that gave them the confidence to take the decider 11-7.
At 4-3 down going into the final round of singles the Penicuik trio were a little dejected and they knew it would be tough for them to secure a win. When Brian then defeated David in match 8 by a 3-1 scoreline, the task of even securing a draw looked very difficult. Match 9 saw Iain take on Steve Collins and when Iain won the first end 11-1, the visitors confidence was boosted. After that horrendous end, however, Steve steadied the ship to win the next two ends 11-9, 12-10. To his credit Iain then dug deep to take a tight fourth end 12-10 before completing his recovery with an 11-6 win in the decider. That left the two team captains to play the final match of the night – Darius v Colin. In a nervy encounter Colin took the first two ends but then Darius kept in the match with a 12-10 win in the third. The fourth end also went to deuce, but this time Colin held his nerve for a 13-11 win as he secured a good point for the visitors.
And so, to our player of the week award. It’s an obvious one this week. An undefeated night in singles play which secured a vital point for the team merits the award going to Colin – well done to him.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. We mentioned last week that we could have aired some of our own internal issues but chose not to in the hope that matters might have settled a little - they’ve settled but not in the way we would have hoped! Foul serving has featured regularly over the years, and we were given a reminder about rules and regulations this past week by the League’s email regarding the requirement for each club to have a “qualified” (in the loosest sense of the word) umpire. Two of our players were involved in their own “foul serving” debacle away from the ELTTL at a recent competition. A foul serve was called on the player as he delivered a “dodgy serve” to an opponent. At the time this didn’t seem to particularly have a huge impact – there was no shouting and moaning and the player who was foul served went on to win the match. However, after the event, feelings have run very high. The issue? Putting aside whether the serve was unlawful or not, how many of us would call a fault on our own teammates? A warning – absolutely – but to award the point to the opponent? Now obviously the starting point here is the rules – and the rule states that if the umpire is clear that a serve is unlawful then the point is awarded against the server. Just ask our friend Roger Thomas from Haddington – Rachel is still recovering from having a point awarded against her out of the blue when he helpfully stepped in to umpire a Division 4 match a couple of seasons ago!
Obviously if we are playing the sport fairly and are umpiring in a neutral manner, there should be no distinction made by an umpire between his own teammates, fellow club members, friends or players from other clubs. Otherwise, the Umpire leaves him or herself wide open to criticisms of unfairness and bias. In truth, however, how many of us can actually say that we would foul serve a player? How many of us would foul serve a teammate? We imagine that most of us would probably let “dodgy serves” go on both sides and very few of us would actually award a point against any player, teammate or not. We may give warnings (which in terms of the rules should only be given once if the umpire is unclear about the legality of a serve). We may take the view that no advantage is being gained by the server (completely irrelevant in terms of the rules) or indeed we may just take the view that we’re going to stay quiet because this is the Edinburgh league and the vast majority of us are not official umpires! Is that fair? The idea, we assume, behind the League trying to get more “umpiring knowledge” into clubs is so that, irrespective of the standard that we are playing at, the rules can be applied more consistently throughout the league. One of the problems with having some players who have been deemed to have passed an umpiring course, is that they might umpire to a very different standard than the rest of us. It’s inevitable, in our view, that when a player umpiring another player calls a foul serve, feelings are going to run high. Why are you calling me but not Mr X or Mrs Y – their serves are just as bad. It becomes personal. It becomes emotive. Arguments are then made that there is bias against the player in question. And let’s face it, probably most players in the ELTTL have at least one serve that doesn’t comply with the rules – certainly at Penicuik there are numerous examples – and maybe the moral of this story should be that we spend more time in our own clubs getting the message through to everyone that we have to serve in compliance with the rules.
We were hoping to end this week’s report on a jovial note, as we always try to do, but on this occasion there’s not much we can say to lighten the mood! The difficulty in this case is that the issue arose between League teammates. We are fairly sure that if any of us were playing with an official umpire taking on the duty of umpiring then we would simply accept a call made by them for a foul serve. We might not like it or agree with it, but we would just accept it and move on. And of course, whilst we accept that it should not make any difference, when that call is made by another player (and more challenging still a teammate) matters become far more complicated.
The outcome of this episode – a complete breakdown of the relationship between the players resulting in the “offended” player leaving the club. How terribly sad for all concerned.