Jim Hawes is stepping down as Men’s Veterans Captain after 9 years in the job (volunteers please contact him) and it was fitting that, in the final match of the season, the four players representing the club were the four who contested the Crowthorne Men’s Doubles Final in 2003. On that occasion Jim Hawes & Mike Smith defeated Richard McCully & Andy Stone 7-6 7-6 in, what is described in the report as a close and hard hitting match to take their third successive and last title.
Fourteen years later the foursome arrived at Windsor to play in Division 1 of the Over-55s league needing a win to be certain of avoiding relegation. They found an impressive array of newly surfaced courts with a row of three composition courts and three artifial clay behind them. They were
relieved to find they weren’t to be playing on the clay as none of them had quite perfected their sliding technique. However, the courts they did play on presented problems of their own as they were grippy and smooth and the bounce was unlike that on macadam. McCully & Stone started well against David Stephens & Chris Kitching, winning the first set 6-2 but they slipped up in the second, losing 1-6, and were edged out in the deciding tie-break. Hawes & Smith, after competing well to get to 2-2 against Peter Buck & Dick Van Den Burgh dropped service at 2-3 and soon found themselves 2-5 down. However, they fought back to win the set 7-5 and, after winning 10 games on the trot to lead 5-0 in the second dropped a game but recovered to take it 6-1.
At this point the floodlights were turned on and it was soon apparent that there was a problem. The first was that the floodlights were low and from one end pointed directly into the eyes of the players. However, this was minor compared with the problem from the other end where the background was three bright clay courts lit by powerful new LED floodlights, making it seem like twilight on the match courts. All the Crowthorne players struggled and this was reflected in the scores with McCully & Stone losing 3-6 against Buck & Van Den Burgh while Hawes & Smith lost 2-6 against Stephens & Kitchens. Both pairs did well to fight back in the second set but it was a strain to have to adapt one’s game in conditions which were really not fit for purpose. Nevertheless, Hawes & Smith won 6-3 and McCully & Stone won 6-2 so both rubbers went to deciding tie-breaks. Hawes & Smith finished first winning 14-12 and surviving some anxious moments including a match point against them but McCully & Stone were unlucky once again to be edged out by the Windsor pair and felt aggrieved that they had been unable to play their normal game due to the bad visibility.
However, although it was an unsatisfactory conclusion to the match, it was a win by a set and Crowthorne’s 2 points are enough to keep them in the division. There remains the question, however, of why a rich club like Windsor would spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on six new courts and LED floodlights on three of them and fail to address this issue of the Twilight Zone.