2nd XI play out a 5-set thriller
|Opposition:||Old Wimbledonians CC|
|Man of the match:||Keerat Khaira|
|Prat of the match:||Tom Clements|
With June done and dusted, our first July fixture was upon us, and we all know what July in London means... Wimbledon. Old Wimbledonians to be more precise. The grand slam winning HWRCC 2nd XI were back at HQ for this must win 9th round match, hosting on centre court the 10th seeded visitors in what would mark the halfway point of our grasscourt season. With only 3 seeds separating the competing teams, this game was going to be ace. The deuces were flowing and we were well and truly (ball) buoyed for this one. Stay tuned, it only gets better from here.
The new ball was thrown to the John Isner of the all-conquering 2nd XI, Harry Fitzgerald. Tall, strong, easy on the eye, speed to burn, capable of going the distance, but reasonably erratic and ultimately a journeyman without much to show for his career to date. Partnering big Fitz from the Northern end was none other than the Wick’s very own Andy Murray in Captain Linter. Despite having a few slams to his name and dominating the circuit for a fleeting moment, it is fair to say that he is no longer at the peak of his powers, letting himself go significantly since becoming Mr Ladd, and now slower than ever before. Nonetheless, this doubles combination were doing a bit with it early, and it wasn’t long before Fitz got us underway with an early break, managing to dismiss their dangerous opener for 7, who had just hit one right out of the strings and was beginning to look threatening. 15 love Wick. Before long, Captain Linter was on the board with his first, with an absolute worldy of a pluck from Boris “Boom Boom” Becker at 1st slip. A prodigious talent from an early age, that rare match-winning ability, striking good looks, one of them reasonably good at tennis (Boris goes OK too), there is more than just a nickname linking these two greats. 30 love Wick.
After a solid first couple of service games from the good guys, Old Wimbledonians had steadied, and the match was back on serve halfway through the first set. Captain Linter decided to try his luck with the Coco Gauff of the 2nd XI outfit, Zain Ikram. A giant-killer already this season, and with the brightest future of the lot at the age of only 14 (perhaps even an MW future), it wasn’t long before Zain was into his rhythm and hitting the scoreboard, with an edge finding the keepers gloves to give the Wick a vital break. Partnering Coco in this metaphorical mixed-doubles situation from the Northern end was none other than Robbie “Bernard Tomic” Oliver. Both once touted as the future, both with copious amounts of natural ability, yet both the loosest of cannons, Bobby served them down better than his figures would suggest, and although the Wick could not get a further break in the 1st set, these two did well to quell the runs. Drinks came onto the field, and we were off to a first set tie breaker.
Taking charge of the tie-break situation for the all-conquering 2nd XI would be the talented, lanky, space-cadet who sometimes goes missing, Sun Martin Del Patel. With him from the Southern end was the experienced campaigner, a man who, when up and going, makes all facets of the game look effortless. Cruelled by injury in recent years, so turning his hand to spin and charging through it like the warrior he is, in a sign that he really can do it on all, it was none other than Iain “Stan Wawrinka” Tong. Unfortunately, despite these two fighting well, the tie-break went the way of the visiting side, and had upped the scoring rate with their #5 and #6 in particular taking a shine to our servers. We went down 7-6 in the first, and we found ourselves quickly down a break in the 2nd set.
By this stage, the Old Wimbledonians lot were well on top, and we were staring down the barrel of going 2 sets to love down after a promising first few games. Compounding the problem was some dreadful efforts from the ballboys running the boundaries, giving away far too many unforced errors to inevitably gift the second set to the visiting side, despite 2 more worldies from our keeper and Boom Boom. We were in a tricky situation at 2 sets to love down at the interval, needing to win 3 sets on the bounce to advance to the next round. In this instance, 2 sets to love down equated to Old Wimbledonians putting on 272 from 50 overs, just in case that wasn’t clear.
The interval came at a good time for the home side. As always, playing on HWRCC centre court means you get an absolute belter of a spread from the Kitchen of Ken. This was no exception. The strawberries and cream of SW19 have nothing on a Wick feed. Our tummies were defeated in straight sets by your standard array of ciabatta pizzas, sandwiches, and your baked goodies. It does not get better. Unfortunately, neither do your scribe’s tennis-related gags.
Despite the challenge ahead, we knew that if we were patient, and waited for the 2nd serve, we were capable of winning this match. Opening the 3rd set for good guys was Ian “Andre Agassi” Collier. Despite being well over the hill, and struggling in the feather department, he has a record that would be the envy of most. Barbara Streisand, Brooke Shields, Steffi Graf, our boy Colly has heard of them all. Balancing the age/hair ledger at the other end would be Keerat “Alexander Zverev” Khaira. Having a brilliant season with talent the envy of most on tour, yet still capable of stealing defeat from the jaws of victory and with a lot of work to go, this would prove the perfect partnership to set us off on this potential 5 set marathon. The boys started strongly, and whilst not going at the speed of a Sam Groth serve, we had made steady progress without Old Wimbledonians breaking us. It was us who had secured the early break and were looking good. Game on.
Unfortunately a serving change from the King’s Field end got Old Wimbledonians the break back deep into the 3rd, Collier unlucky to be caught at slip, much to the chagrin of the royal box (AKA the balcony, temporarily housing the Australian royal family). Robbie Tomic strode out to join Keerat at the crease, and these two managed to get us over the line in a tightly contested 3rd set. Robbie didn’t last too long, but Iain came in to steady the ship and he and Keerat started to look extremely good, giving us the perfect start to the 4th set. We had steadied and all of a sudden the equation looked extremely doable. Just as it looked like these two would take us deep into the 5th set, Keerat framed one to mid-wicket, bringing the precocious talent of Zohaak “Nick Kyrgios” Tughral to the court. The Wick does not see much of the terrific, the talent, and the tantrum these days, and we don’t get Nick Kyrgios much either. This day would prove no different, and despite a couple of lofty blows, Zippy was in and out quicker than Kyrgios at a major. Deep into the 4th, it was crunch time. We needed to go big.
When you find yourself in times of trouble, who do you turn to I ask? Mother Mary? No. You do not. You turn to Roger Federer, that is bloody who. A true great, arguably the greatest ever, never not at the peak of his powers, calmness personified. and the very definition of a match winner. We did try calling him, but he was busy, so we sent in Clemmo instead, in what most astute judges would say is a like for like replacement. The experience and MW ability of Clemmo partnered with the raw talent of Tong, it looked as though the 4th set would go the way of the Wick. Just as it looked comfortable, Tong was ajudged LBW and we were 5 down, facing 3 match points against us. Enter Boom Boom. At both ends, the Wick had MWs, and just like that, the match points were unsurprisingly saved, and the fourth set was heading to a tie breaker again. Thankfully, Boom Boom did all the work here, hitting winner after winner to take the breaker 7-0 and send it to a 5th set, momentum well and truly with the home side. It was still going to be a struggle for us, with the visiting slow bowlers using the pitch very well, not letting us see too many 2nd serves. But even so, we were confident of a 5th set victory.
The 5th set got underway, and it was an absolute arm wrestle early on. We stayed on serve until Boom Boom went for one big hit too many, and was broken, giving the visitors the upper hand. Big Fitz was sent out to continue the launch foundation set by Boom Boom, being ably steered by the cool, calm, and not very collected Clemmo. Unfortunately some good serving again got the better of Fitz, and the news got worse for the home side when, needing to survive 6 overs, Captain Linter sent himself in! Old Wimbledonians must have thought we were throwing in the towel, retiring injured with this kind of ploy, but alas, the skipper backed himself to stick around as we decided to shut up shop for the final 5 overs for the draw. We successfully managed to bat out for the draw, and successfully not conceding the 20 points to the visiting SW19 side. A victory of sorts for us, but equally, plenty to work on over the coming weeks as we embark on the return fixtures. The 2nd XI find themselves currently seeded 8th, but in what is a remarkably tight table, only 41 points off top spot. Despite not claiming another grand slam this weekend, we can take a lot into the next major of the year, a trip to Streatham & Marlborough. All that is required is a few tiny changes to our attitude and we will be climbing the rankings again in no time.
MoM was awarded to Keerat for a couple of good grabs behind the poles and another classy dose of runs, 65 this time around. Clemmo was unlucky to be awarded DoD on paper with 28*, but he can categorically state that his innings was of equal quality to this match report, utter shyte. Quite the achievement when reading back over this.
Game. Set. Wick.