Apart from just a 30 minute shower at the end of Saturday, this year’s event enjoyed sunshine and warmth (if not a little wind!) - which meant uninterrupted play for the Hampshire & IOW team - consisting of Ian Udal, Tim Farthing, Matt Rogers and David Gaterell (Captain).
Day 1 - vs Middlesex
Tim Farthing had a tricky start on the stadium Centre Court, playing at number 2 singles vs Ala Tehrani, going a set and two match points down, before turning it around to win the second set and the deciding championship tie break - giving H&IOW a 1-0 lead. Tim’s score: 4-6, 7-6 1-0.
David Gaterell and Matt Rogers then teamed up for doubles, winning a tough first set. Two shaky service games in the second set, saw the match level at 1 set all. Gaterell and Rogers held it together mentally against a fairly loud Middlesex support crew, and a fired up opponent, to clinch the championship tiebreak. A 6-2, 4-6, 1-0 victory, gave H&IOW a 2-0 win.
Ian Udal then played Damian Nzekwu at number 1 singles. Ian got better as the match went on, but wasn’t quite good enough and went down 6-4, 6-4.
H&IOW win 2-1
Day 2 - vs Devon
Same team order as Day 1 saw Tim Farthing face Devon’s Jamie Bartlett playing on court 10 with lots of family and friends support for H&IOW, Bartlett was just too good, and saw Tim off 6-3, 6-1. 1-0 for Devon
In another close doubles, Dave Gaterell/Matt Rogers fought against Linden Hardisty and John Hillman. After winning the first set 6-3, H&IOW with other shaky service game at 4-5 lost the second set 4-6. A close tiebreak all the way, saw Gaterell/Rogers win 10-8, levelling the match at 1-1.
Ian Udal then went on against the super-steady Danny Ahl. Ian plays a similar game, and despite some close games, Danny won 6-1, 6-1. A score line that did not reflect the match.
Devon win 2-1
Day 3 - vs Kent
With the abbreviated format this year, due to the loss of several courts whilst building work continues, the league was still undecided at this stage. Kent were looking to win the league, and Middlesex, having lost again, were looking to avoid relegation. Mathematically, both H&IOW and Devon could potentially gain promotion - and H&IOW could still potentially be relegated!
We needed Devon to beat Middlesex to remain in Div 2a. Devon won their doubles, but incredibly Middlesex won both singles, coming back from a set down in both matches. Nzekwu with a diving volley drop shot to give him match point against Ahl, who then lost the final point. H&IOW now needed to win at least 1 rubber against the strong Kent team, who so far in the event had not lost a match.
Tim Farthing faced Oliver Freelove first and went down 6-2 6-4 - a valiant effort against a class opponent.
Gaterell and Rogers, started well, with a break and a hold, going 2-0 up, but then it was all downhill and
Kent were too strong. There were some close games and it was a good match, but one that H&IOW lost 6-3, 6-1.
If Ian Udal won, we would be safe. If not, it would come down to counting up sets for/against across the weekend. Ian went down to Zane Cheeseman, who has had a successful run in ITF seniors lately, 6-0, 6-2.
Unfortunately H&IOW won 6 sets during the weekend, and Middlesex won 8, so despite beating them, H&IOW were demoted to Division 3 and Middlesex stayed, along with Devon, whilst Kent, winning all 9 matches, were deservedly promoted to Division 1 for 2018.
David Gaterell, Team Captain