The weekend started early with matches for Ladies’ 1 on Thursday and Mixed 3 on Friday in the penultimate week of the season.
On Thursday evening, Ladies’ 1 entertained Wargrave 3 at home in Division 4 and, despite their lowly position at the bottom of the division, the visitors presented quite a challenge. Emma Knowles & Tina Stern had to dig deep to take the first set 7-5 against the strong visiting first pair Christina Reid & Linda Nelson but they finished off the second set 6-3 to take the rubber. Meanwhile, Ravinder Norman & Alison Nicholson were in a battle with Christine Cooke & Rebecca Salisbury-Beard, losing 3-6 4-6 but doing well enough to level the tie on games. In the second round, Knowles & Stern showed their class by winning 6-0 6-1 and Norman & Nicholson maintained their consistency in winning 6 games despite losing 2-6 4-6 to make it a winning margin of 5 games.
On Friday evening, Mixed 3 played RSF 2 in Division 6, starting in bottom position on 0 points against RSF’s 1 point. With RSF arriving with just one pair, the result was never in doubt but the visiting pair Kevin Still & Amanda Brundrett proved to be a handful for both of our pairs. Alison Nicholson & Peter Lindholm started well, winning the first set 6-1, but the visitors fought back to win the second 6-2 and take the deciding tie-break. Stuart Fowler & Wendy Miles did well to take a couple of games from a more than competent pair while losing 1-6 1-6. So it was a 5-4 win on sets and it was good to get the match played rather than either team conceding. Crowthorne have leapfrogged RSF into 4th place and now hope to avoid relegation.
On Saturday it was the turn of Ladies’ 1 again with 3 of the team from Thursday turning out again to play 2nd placed Woolton Hill who were level on points with Crowthorne. This time, Emma Knowles & Tina Stern were immediately into their stride winning 6-3 6-1 against the visiting first pair, Jackie Godwin & Gillian Baker. Jenny Sheppard & Ravinder Norman also started well but just missed out in the first set against Liz Fidler & Jane Meaney, losing the tie-break and the set 6-7. But it seemed like a wake-up call for the visitors who then took the second set 6-1. Knowles & Stern had no problems in winning 6-1 6-0 against Fidler & Meaney and, although Shepprard & Norman dropped the first set 1-6 against Godwin & Baker, they nearly casued an upset in the second, just losing it 5-7. So another 2-2 winning draw for Ladies’ 1, thi time for an increased marging of 6 games. A win away against 4th placed Bucklebury next Saturday should ensure promotion.
There were a further three matches on Sunday, Mixed 1 v RSF 1 (away), Mixed 2 v BCS 2 (away) and Ladies’ 2 v Shiplake 2 (home).
At RSF, in Division 3, our Mixed 1 team was too strong for the home side and they came away with an emphatic 4-0 win despite Emma Knowles and Tina Stern both playing their 3rd match in 4 days. Knowles, playing with David Smith won 6-1 6-2 against the home first pair, Sandy Wyles & Phil Newborough, while Stern and Matt Paxton won 6-4 6-3 against Karen Holt & Mark Fuller. In the second round Knowles & Smith cruised through 6-0 6-2 against Holy & Fuller while Stern & Paxton had a bit more of a battle against Wyles & Newborough, eventually going through 6-4 6-7 1-0. With a match to play next Thursday against table leaders Caversham Park 1, a good result should see them finish in third place, with Maidenhead 2 likely to pick up points in their last match against RSF.
At Berkshire County Sports in Division 5, an otherwise friendly match was marred by the late arrival of the home captain who also forgot to order refreshments and went off without saying goodbye! The result was a win on games for Crowthorne Mixed 2 with good performances from the whole team. Lorraine Fowler was playing her first match for the best part of a year following her return from an achilles tendon injury and she and Vince Brooks did well in the circumstances, losing 3-6 3-6 to Susan Page & Abdul Minhas, a match that Lorraine said later they would have won had she been match fit. Mark Callaghan & Caroline Atkinson, meanwhile, were winning 7-5 6-2 against John Dunford & Sue Beasley to trail by 1 game at the interval. In the second round Brooks & Fowler were too good for Dunford & Beasley, winning 6-1 6-1, while Callaghan & Atkinson put in another excellent performance losing 2-6 5-7 to make it a margin of 4 games for the Crows. Once the league table is adjusted for the winning draw, Crowthorne will finish level with BCS on 2 points and the same on rubbers but with a superior record on sets and games and should narrowly avoid relegation.
At home against 2nd placed Shiplake, Ladies’ 2 may have done enough with a point from a losing draw to gain promotion from Division 8. However, their fate depends on Bracknell 4 who are 4 points behind with 2 matches to play and could, if they complete their matches this week, clinch the 3rd promotion spot. Jenny Partridge & Maddy Dunckley had a battle on their hands against Sharon Hearn & Meg Hearn but they turned round a losing situation to win 2-6 6-2 1-0. Penny Hemingway & Wendy Miles lost 3-6 1-6 to Katie Binning & Lottie Botterill to make it 1-1 after the first round but Partridge & Dunckley had an easier job in the second round, winning 6-3 6-2 against Binning & Botterill. Hemingway & Miles repeated their score, 3-6 1-6, against Hearn & Hearn so it was just the 1 point for the home side against a team who will finish in 2nd place behind a dominant Windsor 4.
The penultimate match of the season, Mixed 1 v Caversham Park 1 was played on the Thursday before Easter. Playing the team topping Division 3 who have only dropped 1 point all season, our four did well to finish with a losing draw and a point that takes them above Bisham Abbey 1 into 3rd place, level on points but with more rubbers. Having lost narrowly to Bisham in the first round, this is a satisfying achievement. David Smith & Emma Knowles started off against Jonathan Tait & Hayley Halsall-Randall, losing the first set 4-6 before taking the second 7-6 on a tie-break and clinching the deciding tie-break as well. Matt Paxton & Tina Stern were well beaten 6-1 6-0 by Logan Turner & Celine Cheng in their first rubber but they did better against Tait & Halsall-Randall in the second round, losing 2-6 3-6. Smith & Knowles survived another tie-break while winning the first set against Turner & Cheng 7-6 and it was another close score in the second set as the home pair capped a fine performance in winning 7-5 to take the second point of the season off the division winners.
With one more match, Ladies 1 away to Bucklebury tomorrow (watch this space for the result!), the last week and a half has been a triumph of reorganisation for Lorraine (Ladies) and Alison (Mixed) and a big thank you also to the players, some of whom have played multiple times over the period.