The week started with Teams 2 and 5 both travelling to Edinburgh International on Wednesday 1st March. Team 2 have been in trouble for virtually all of this season and the relegation trapdoor from Division 1 is opening a little bit more for them - Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Abby Wighton were not necessarily identifying this encounter as a target for points – the trouble for the team, however, is that there’s not many games left which look, on paper, particularly winnable! Probably the less said about this encounter the better – Gary was our best performer on the night with two of his three matches being decided in five ends – other than that this was a miserable evening as the visitors fell to a 10-0 defeat.
In the other half of the hall, Team 5 called upon Patrick Shanks, Sian McDonald and Roscoe Cairney in their Division 4 encounter. Sian lost match 1 in four ends before a four end win for Patrick levelled the scores. Roscoe then secured match 3 to give the visitors the advantage before the match was levelled again as Sian lost out in Match 4. This topsy turvy affair then swung in favour of the home side before Patrick won match 6 to level the score at 3-3 going into that ever crucial doubles. Patrick and Sian let a 2-1 advantage slip as they lost in five. For the first time on the night there was more than one match in it as the home side won Match 8 to give them a 5-3 advantage. But this game had been tight all night and wins for Sian and Patrick secured what in the end was probably a fair result – another 5-5 draw for Team 5.
The following night was a busy one at Ladywood with our three remaining teams all in action. Let’s start with Team 4’s encounter with Edinburgh University. Bob Porteous, Richard Millar and Rachel Petrie took to the table against the students who sat one place and one point beneath them in the Division 3 table. It’s very tight at the foot of the division and the home side knew that a win here might give them the boost needed to get out of relegation trouble. Bob has had an excellent first season for the Club and so when he lost the first match of the night, trouble was brewing. The hosts fell 2-0 behind after Rachel’s loss in match 2. Richard pulled one back but Rachel’s loss in Match 4 reinstated a two game lead for the visitors. That lead was wiped out, however as Bob and Richard won matches 5 and 6 before combining for a doubles victory to give the hosts a 4-3 advantage going into the last three matches of the night. Match 8 looked like being crucial – Rachel recovered from 2-0 down to win a tight third end 11-9 before a walloping 11-2 win in end four put her in control – she was well up in the decider before falling to an 11-8 deciding end defeat. Two matches left and two wins needed for the win. The two thus far undefeated players took centre stage next as Richard took on Petrina Shek. Richard was 2-0 up but lost the third 12-10. In the fourth end he had a match point, hit what looked like a winner, only for the student to somehow blast the ball back even quicker for a winner of her own – a 13-11 defeat in the fourth sent this to a decider. Like Rachel before him, he fell 11-8 in the fifth and with that the chance of the win was gone. A point wouldn’t be a disaster but a loss would, so pressure on Bob in the final match of the night – the pressure perhaps showed a little in the first end as he fell 11-8 but he composed himself and was rarely troubled in the next three as he secured a 5-5 draw for Team 4, keeping them just a point above the relegation zone.
Team 1 have had a dreadful run after losing their third player, and they knew that unless they could find a victory against bottom of the Premier League Murrayfield 4, they would probably become favourites for the drop. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz was again called upon to help out Colin Green and Greig McDonell in this vital match. When Krys lost match 1 and Colin lost match 2, this had the potential to be a horror night for the hosts. When Greig lost the first end in Match 3 it looked like the wheels were coming off, along with the engine, bodywork and everything else. Greig managed to steady the ship by winning Match 3 in four ends and Colin then brought the scores level in Match 4. The importance of a third player then showed as Krys had an excellent victory against young Haydn Jackson in match 5 and it got better for the hosts as Greig then defeated the Murrayfield number 1 to give the hosts a 4-2 lead going into the doubles. Colin and Greig combined well for a three end victory to secure at least a point. Colin then secured the overall victory in Match 8 before Greig completed his undefeated night in Match 9. Krys lost out in Match 10 but an excellent 7-3 victory for Team 1 gives them a fighting chance of survival in the Premier League. Mathematically Murrayfield 4 are now relegated.
Finally on Thursday night there was the eagerly awaited top of the table clash in Division 2 between Team 3 and Murrayfield 9. In the reverse fixture the Murrayfield youngsters of Nichole Lee, William Wang and Rory Thomson had picked up a fairly comfortable 8-2 victory. Ian Hislop who had played in that fixture was replaced by Hannah McDonell as she joined forces with James Wighton and Julian Taylor. After their slip up in Week 20 the team knew that anything out of this match would be a bonus. James threatened an upset in Match 1 against William but lost out in four ends. That loss was cancelled out as Julian defeated Rory in four. The next two matches played simultaneously saw Hannah take on Nichole and Julian face William. In Nichole Lee, Murrayfield have unearthed another extremely talented youngster and she has had an awesome season, winning 47 of her 54 matches played before this match. Hannah was therefore over the moon to win in three straight sets and when Julian did the same against William the hosts were suddenly 3-1 up. James was close in the first two sets against Nichole but she seemed to step it up to another level thereafter as she secured Match 5 leaving Hannah v Rory in the last singles match before the doubles. Just like Nichole, Rory has had an amazing first season at this level – without doubt if he sticks at it he’s one to watch for the future and will, no doubt, soon be mixing it with the “big boys”. Hannah was in control in the first end, 7-3 up and she looked to have the upper hand – an 11-9 loss dented her confidence, but she recovered to win the second 11-9. This was probably the highest quality match of the night. It was certainly the loudest! And we know the noise isn’t going to be coming from Hannah – as the game got tighter the noise levels got higher and at various points play on the other four tables stopped as attention turned to see what was going on. What the various players witnessed was a cracking match in which the tenacious Murrayfield youngster secured the win to level the scores at 3-3 going into the doubles. Hannah and Julian have had a great run of form recently. 1-0 and 2-1 down against Rory and William they dug in and a tight 11-9 victory in end 4 was followed by an 11-6 victory in the decider to give the hosts a 4-3 advantage going into the last set of three singles. One win from three would secure at least a point – surely that was doable? Nichole and William took on Julian and Hannah simultaneously and both home players will rue missed chances as they both lost in four ends – Hannah’s match turned on just a couple of points as she lost out 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 9-11 whilst Julian let slip a 1-0 advantage, although in fairness Nichole once again seemed to find a different gear in the last couple of ends. Suddenly a point would be a fantastic result for the hosts – James would have to take out Rory in the final match of the night – the tension and pressure, combined with his opponent’s consistent attacking play, probably got to James a little as he fell in three straight sets. A 6-4 loss for Team 3 – oh what might have been – irrespective of the result there was no doubt this was the match of the night.
And so, to our player of the week award. Let’s not beat around the bush here – there were only two players this week who were undefeated in singles play but Patrick lost the doubles that he played in so it’s congratulations to Greig – about time according to Colin that he contributed something to Team 1’s efforts to avoid relegation!
And finally, our controversy of the week section. As reported on above, there can be little doubt that the Murrayfield youngsters in Division 2 have very bright futures if they continue their progress. The noise level, however, from one of their players was absolutely ridiculous. Not only do we have tennis style grunting with every shot that’s played but in between points the constant chit chat and yelps of delight or disgust became intolerable for many players who were trying to play their own league match on Thursday night. Even the Murrayfield players who Team 1 were playing felt it was over the top. Rachel, Bob and Richard had to halt proceedings in their match because of the noise and it added to the night a degree of resentment from Team 3 towards their opponents which could really have been avoided. We all have moments where we need to vent, whether that be a “good boy” chant or a scream of horror when we miss an easy shot. We get that we’re not robots and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging yourself somehow and geeing yourself up. TT is not a silent game but there has to come a point where a line is drawn, and something is done about this type of behaviour. As we’ve said many times before though, what can we expect when youngsters look at some of the top players in the game and they behave in a similar manner. The problem with Thursday night is that it spills over to those watching so James became very upset by the fact that not only would the Murrayfield supporters be clapping a good shot but they would also clap poor shots or misses from James – suddenly ill feeling exists. What do we do about it? Surely it has to start with the Clubs themselves stamping down on behaviour like this when it becomes excessive? This was a terrific match full of some excellent play from both sides and it’s a shame that that’s not all that the match will be remembered for.
In Team 4’s match, Rachel had a real gripe that in her crucial match which she lost in five, her concentration was completely lost after being comfortably up in the decider. At that point one of the Uni players came into the court to sit beside the umpire – is that controversial? No! You need to concentrate harder Rachel!
On we go to Week 22.