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National League Finals, April 17 2008

Posted on April 20, 2008 | in Match Report, National League | by

On Thursday 17 April all roads led to The Queen’s Club in London for the finals of the Maurice Lacroix National League. For the first time the qualifying Premier Division teams, Cambridge University 1 and Prested Hall 1, were joined by the Division 1 finalists, Petworth 1 and Leamington 1, for a feast of tennis.

Division 1 led off with the second-string match between Tom Durack of Petworth and late replacement Craig Greenhalgh from Leamington. Craig raced away with the first set, 6-2, but then Tom took charge of the second set, leading 5-1. Craig came back to 4-5 with some patient retrieving, but Tom finally closed it out 6-4. The final set was nip and tuck all the way, with neither player able to stamp any authority on the game. Tom finally took the set 6-5.

[Win to Petworth 2-6, 6-4, 6-5]

With the timetable for the day already in jeopardy, the Premier Division second-string match between young lions Jamie Douglas (Cambridge) and Ricardo Smith (Prested Hall) was next up. Jamie laid his cards on the table with his first shot – a stunning force to the dedans. He kept up this attack to take the first game, then to lead 4-2 and 5-3. Ricardo was never out of this set, however, and squared it at 5-5 with winning shots to the grille and the dedans. Another flurry of clear winners in the final game saw Jamie squeeze victory 6-5. The second set saw Ricardo, serving to a very good length, race to a 5-0 lead; Jamie at last managed to get into the set and pull back to 3-5, but Ricardo finished the set off with some good shots to the tambour to win 6-3.

So, to the deciding set. Jamie took the first game and then a long rest in the second game saw him set a chase of 1 yard, which he won to lead 2-0. Jamie continued to play with great power, forcing at every opportunity, although Ricardo’s defence kept him in the set at 3-2. From then on, Jamie’s patient play kept up the pressure, forcing Ricardo into mistakes, and he closed the final set out 6-2, giving him one of his biggest wins of the year.

[Win to Cambridge 6-5, 3-6, 6-2]

The Division 1 first-string singles was up next, between Ben Matthews of Petworth and Marc Seigneur of Leamington. This was expected to be the closest contest of the day, and there was hardly more than a game in it throughout. Although Ben fought well, Marc never let him off the hook and went on to win 6-5, 6-4 to level the tie.

[Win to Leamington 6-5, 6-4]

The first-string match between the World Champion, Rob Fahey (Cambridge) and Bryn Sayers (Prested Hall) had been eagerly awaited. Rob moved swiftly to a 3-1 lead with a series of main wall forces, but Bryn then managed to get the measure of these and defended them brilliantly for the rest of the match. At 2-3 down he hit the grille to get to deuce, then a rare mistake from Rob and a fine serve brought the set to 3-3. However Rob then increased the pressure, winning the set 6-3 with a brilliant volley into the hazard end.

He started the second set in the same way to lead 1-0, playing very accurately into the corners, but Bryn continued to defend well and hit some clear winners to win the next two games and lead 2-1. The next game culminated in a great attack from Bryn but Rob pushed him from corner to corner to level the score. The fifth game saw Bryn playing excellent shots into the backhand corner to put Rob under real pressure, and then setting a chase of 1 yard. Playing the chase, Rob hit a force to the dedans to lead 3-2, then went on to win the next game with a cross-court volley, 4-2. Bryn must have seen the next game as his last chance to get back into the match; he hit two winning forces that Rob could only get his racquet to, but then Rob hit some killing shots into the corners and although Bryn set a 2-yard chase, Rob closed out the game with a shot to the grille. The eighth game saw a lethal boast from Rob that only just missed the dedans but set a chase at 40-15. Both players went for winning shots but Rob finished the match off with a shot to the winning gallery to take the set 6-2. In his last major competitive outing before the World Championship next month, Rob looked in great form against a strong and fit young opponent.

[Win to Cambridge 6-3, 6-2]
[Cambridge win Premier League title 2-0]

As the match was already won, and time was moving on, the Premier Division doubles was not played. The Division 1 doubles, between Ben Matthews/Tom Durack (Petworth) and Marc Seigneur/Craig Greenhalgh (Leamington) was an entertaining but one-sided match, with Petworth winning 8-1 and taking the Division 1 title.

[Win to Petworth 8-1]
[Petworth win Division 1 title 2-1]

Presentations of the Division trophies and Maurice Lacroix watches for Most Valuable Players were made by His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex. Rob Fahey and Scott Blaber of Cambridge were MVPs of their divisions, along with Ben Matthews, Gareth Rees, Olivier Walter, Julian Wilkinson, Martin Rogers, John Lumley, and David Mikail.

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