Boys Under 18 County Cup 2012
At Redbridge Tennis Centre Group 3A
Team: 1. James Gammell (Chesham) 2. Gavin McKinlay (captain) (Halton) 3. Jack Mordey (Vice) (Halton) 4. Kushal Kansagra (Milton Keynes) 5. James Blane (Portsmouth Uni) 6. Kiran Kudravilli (Milton Keynes) 7. Dean Kelleher (Halton) 8. Alex Fage (Halton) Manager /Coach Andy Scholfield (Gerrards Cross)
Andy’s Quote: ‘The Boys had a phenomenal experience over the week-end. They turned it around in an unbelievable manner from being certainties (on paper, clearly not in our minds) for relegation! It was one of the best experiences I have had in tennis! The standard of tennis on the last day was unbelievable with all players raising their games after two days of tough play’.
Opposition Leicestershire, Northumberland, Cambridgeshire
Format: each match consists of six singles matches followed by three doubles.
The event turned out to be a very emotional experience for all players involved. The venue provided excellent viewing facilities which were used to the maximum by all the managers / coaches and team mates to give tumultuous support for their team (two matches in play from 9.30am to 5pm each day)
Day 1 against Leicestershire proved disappointing to start with, ending with a devastating loss. Kiran competed very well at number 6 singles but got very tight on the big points even trying his trademark looping tactics but lost in two close sets having had two set points. James Blane played a disappointing match tactically (he was to put this right the following day); he constantly hit to his opponents backhand and went for low percentage shots (his nerves got the better of him). He blew a couple of set points before losing 7-6 6-2. Kushal Kansagra (16 from Milton Keynes) played with great intensity and mental calmness to overcome a very attacking player who had stormed into a 3-0 lead, 6-4 6-1. Jack Mordey at number 3 proved he had the biggest serve of all competitors by slamming down huge 1st and 2nd serves which totally frustrated his opponent. Jack backed this up with big topspin forehands to win 7-5 6-1. Captain Gavin McKinlay also had set points in a very close match against Kusmartsev 5-7 6-7. James at number one was too consistent and used good changes in pace to defeat Chris Morris 6-3 6-2.
The doubles matches proved crucial. Kushal and Dean Kelleher performed with great understanding to secure a two set victory as third pair. However James and James as second pair were disappointing with their doubles tactics losing in two close sets. The deciding, number 1 pair doubles, saw Gavin and Jack cruise to a well deserved first set. Four breaks of serve in a row at the start of the second set saw the momentum of the match become much closer. However at 5-4 up, Gavin faced a second serve to win the match; hit a building shot return which went wide. A crucial few points again swung the match towards the opposition who won the second set tie-break forcing a match tie-break to decide the outcome of the tie. Jack and Gavin took an early lead before the opposition came back to lead for the first time in the match at 8-7. Gavin, serving, faced two great returns which gave the opposition the win which was wildly greeted by their managers and team mates. The whole Bucks team felt devastated but determined to work hard to change their fortune.
Day 2 A brisk warm up in the car park showed the team’s determination to overcome the disappointment of the previous day. We were up against Northumberland who had won the previous day 5-4. Dean Kelleher played at number 6 and put up a stubborn fight in the second set before losing 1-6 3-6 citing lack of recent singles matchplay as the reason for his inconsistency. James Blane played tactically much more effectively winning the first set 7-6 after one and a half hours. He was about to receive a warning from the Referee for his slow play (too long taken at change of ends) but won the second set by 7-6 again before he could be spoken to. The key match was at number 4 where Kushal again put on a great performance of high intensity attacking tennis against an equally impressive John Boden (who is nationally ranked at number 6 in the same U16 age group as Kushal). After many enthralling baseline rallies Kushal lost the first set 7-6. A big turning point came in the second set when Kushal served and then caught the return claiming a let which John did not accept. This incident affected Kushal who lost the game and was unable to return to his peak performance losing the second set 2-6. Jack won at number 3 aggressively dominating with his serving and forehand groundstroke. Gavin and James lost against strong opponents meaning we had to win all three doubles to win the tie. Kushal and Dean got us off to a good start but Gavin and Jack played a storming match at first pair before losing the match tie-break 10-7 again ! James Blane and Gammell lost but there were signs their doubles play was improving.
So we HAD to win on Day 3 against Cambridgeshire who had beaten Leicestershire 5-4, not only to avoid relegation but to restore some lost pride. It was great to have the support of our girls under 18 team who were competing at the same venue. After a close first day against Kent they were smoothly dominating their opposition.
The plan was to win at least one singles at number 5 and 6 but this proved just beyond Kiran and James who frustratingly both lost the first set on tie-breaks then went down fighting both by 6-4 in the second set. Our two best performers went on next. Kushal played a sublime masterful match to beat Chad Richard 6-4 6-1. Chad was over-whelmed by Kushal attacking persistence (let s hope he continues to work hard at his tennis). Jack Mordey steam- rollered the first set against James Morris 6-2; however loss of concentration and good play by his opponent lead to an early break in the second set giving James the initiative. Bucks had to win this match (we were confident because of Jack’s previous performances). James also had a great serve and forehand, but Jack looked to attack the net on the right ball creating uncertainty in his opponent’s play. Jack remained totally committed and determined and broke James to love to go 4-2 ahead. At 5-3 ahead Jack served for the match. His great serving and ghosting into the net gave him 40-0; at this stage his vibrant supporters were holding their breath. A brilliant pass and missed backhand volley gave James hope but a huge second serve sealed the much deserved and vital win for Jack.
Our excellent captain Gavin McKinlay played his heart out for the team. His tenacious all court play had his higher rated opponent (Jack Thorndike) gasping for respite. Jack responded with his traditional stroke play, attacking Gavins’ second serve and hitting accurately into space. In the first set tie-break jack held his nerve and the unlucky Gavin just lost. The same pattern followed during the second set, Gavin giving 110% but his opponent prevailing 3-6.
At this stage of the match my mind told me the logical ending to the tie would be a loss but one can always dare to dream (how often do they come true ?). So the challenge for me was ‘Could I make a difference ?’ (Team coaches were allowed on court after each set to give advice / empathise / discuss simple processes for further improving performance. Is communication all about how you make people feel about themselves ?) The team morale was still excellent and support was deafening for those closest. Kushal’s parents had arrived and we were welcome for as much support as possible! At this stage Leicestershire were passionately supporting Cambridgeshire Northumberland had thrashed Leics 7-2 (! ) so a win for Bucks would mean their relegation. Earlier in the day I had bumped into one of the Leics coaches in the cafeteria who stated ‘You know you could relegate us today !’ Oh you’re joking – really ?’ I replied (Double-bluff I smiled to myself).
The Bucks girls had completed their final victory but we were too involved in our own teams’ fight to join in their celebration. James Gammell was up against Will Huyton a very good player with an excellent forehand, serve and great movement (he had defeated the Northumberland number 1 Ben Lott on the first day). However James had the belief he could do very well. James lost the first set 3-6 but he noticed if he could stay consistent and stop his opponent dictating from mid court he stood a good chance. At the start of the second set Will lost focus allowing James to break serve. This gave James the boost he needed and after excellent scrambling he held serve through the second set and broke a second time to level the match. The deciding set saw fantastically long rallies with Will trying everything to break through. James probably played his best –ever set of tennis hitting amazing groundstorkes and serves on the big points. He broke serve and won the last game after a 30 stroke rally of punishing quality.
So this result gave us a glimmer of hope particularly when Jack and Gavin stormed through their doubles as number 1 pair 6-3 6-0. However our opponents had spread their strengths and brought in a doubles specialist to their third pair. Kushal and Dean who were undefeated in their previous two matches were over-whelmed by their two big-hitting opponents and lost 2-6 4-6. Therefore one match left on court to decide the outcome of the week-end !
The match up from a singles perspective was similar but Cambs percentage doubles tactics at the start of the match were much better and they seemed to cruise to a 4-6 lead. James Blane who d been resting after his singles 5 hours earlier continued to plod along and James Gammell was not producing the consistent form required of him. So this was it, right here right now - match point down, James Morris serving, all our toils would be over. The return of serve left a shoulder high volley for victory however with all his team mates and the Leicestershire team expecting victory, he wanted to go out on a high, and show-boated the volley long and wide with the Bucks pair completely out of position ! Yeeeeess ! A chance, this can be a turning point ! Suddenly Bucks’ James and James came alive consistently returning and closing the net down (at last I thought). We broke serve to much cheering and the Leics coach had his head in his hands. A crunching display in the second set tie-break gave Bucks a 7-4 second set win. By this stage Jack Mordey dashed onto court with me to verbalise his support to the pair. James and James came out like caged lions and won an excellent match tie-break 10-4 !
So a highly improbable comeback had become a reality ! What a celebration we had. The Leics captain shook my hand saying ‘You deserved it’ .
All who were involved in the memorable Bucks team this week-end will remember ‘There can always be a way back, as long as you keep believing’