The scene was set at Harrogate Spa tonight as they entertained Wetherby A
Wetherby A made the trip to title favourites Harrogate Spa this evening in the Harrogate and District mixed doubles Division 5. Spa had been promoted winning every game last term and often by big winning margins and they had carried on that form with two easy wins so far this term. Wetherby were also unbeaten and hoping to provide good opposition in this early top of the table clash.
A pleasant evening with early sun and no wind meant conditions were ideal in a game played at the new facilities on Claro Road surrounded by fields. The club was a hive of energy as the teams began with all six courts in use and many juniors in attendance.
Spa picked from strength with five of the team that had defeated Bedale 82-26 last week on show along with returning captain Martin Yates who made his first start of this season. Wetherby were without Mike Richards and Greg Vince so Nick Lumb came in from the men’s second team.
Captain Barry Johnson continued with the elegant Fiona Chantrey and this pair are starting to build a useful partnership. However they knew they would need to raise the bar against the excellent home pairing of Chris Dight and Carolyn Rothwell who have dominated tennis at this level for the past two seasons. Dight is a big server with a powerful ground stroke game and his coverage is impressive too. Rothwell is a calm and strong net player who makes the game look easy with her effortless style. The match opened and some good tennis was on show with the visitors hoping to match their higher rated opponents. Plenty of good rallies and excellent winners but not surprisingly Dight and Rothwell had too many aces up their sleeves and despite been made to work hard ran out winners 8-4.
On Court Two Mike Triffitt and Dawn Steel were hoping to carry on the good form they had shown last week but again knew the opposition would be far stronger and not prone to errors. Andy Clayton is a quiet but aggressive player with a very strong serve that he swung to good effect throughout the evening. A tough man to lob it meant the Wetherby number two’s would have to produce serious thought with their shot selection. Marie Scrimger provides a good foil and returned well and the hosts shot into an early 5-2 lead. Despite not matching the hosts power, Triffitt and Steel are dogged opponents and were able to start making inroads into that lead with some backs to the walls play. Both players were proving very mobile and finally earned a useful share of the spoils from a 6-6 tie.
Louise Williams was sporting a new outfit to show off her lovely tan picked up from a recent two week holiday in sunnier climes!. She was partnered by the big serving and hard hitting Nick Lumb who was a very useful acquisition to the team tonight. The pair was soon into stride and Williams buoyed by the presence of Lumb produced some great tennis of her own. The duo needed to be good as Spa number three Martin Yates and Emma Merrifield are very strong themselves with Merrifield producing some amazingly controlled left hand forehands and Yates serving well.This was another excellent contest but one in which Wetherby were to win 4-8 .
After a terrific opening round the scores were level with the hosts knowing this was most definitely their toughest game in two years. Clayton and Scrimger moved to Court One and continued the high tempo tennis from earlier against Johnson and Chantrey. Clayton was hard to handle but the canny Wetherby pair got their tactics spot on to frustrate the hosts and record a most welcome 4-8 success. It was Lumb and Williams turn to try stop the Dight / Rothwell juggernaut and they certainly gave it one hell of a go. Lumb was revelling in the fast pace and was enjoying to ground stroke battle with Dight. Williams was producing some excellent finished too and the hosts had to up the tempo before finally prevailing 8-4. Triffitt and Steel were struggling on Court Two with too many unforced errors stopping their momentum. Merrifield is deceptively quick and despite plenty of short drop shots from Triffitt she was equal to most and alongside Yates they were ahead. Scrambling and stretching to return a short ball Triffitt felt his calf go and whilst down on the ground the hosts moved 6-3 ahead. A short break and despite the pain Triffitt continued with the able assistance of Steel who really earned her stripes with some unbelievable court coverage. They managed to close the gap to 7-5 but would feel aggrieved to have perhaps thrown away the rubber.
However the tie was still to be won with Spa now leading by only 37-35. Lumb and Williams were still producing the goods and this time Lumb was really going toe to toe with the powerful Clayton. Both ladies were providing their partners with excellent support and the honours were rightly shared 6-6 after a superb contest. Triffitt was struggling back on Court Two and unable to dictate at the net or influence the tie. Steel was continuing to return a barrage of shots reigning down on her from Dight and with Rothwell placing some lovely smashes the game began to slip from Wetherby’s grasp. A 10-2 win for the big guns meant Johnson and Chantrey needed a miracle on the show court but they too had run out of gas as Yates and Merrifield turned the screw. You will be hard pressed to find a better left handed lady in the whole of the Harrogate mixed leagues than Merrifield who returned everything and often with power. Her and Yates were now in first gear and Wetherby had no answer as they lost 9-3.
A good team effect with some great tennis but a final score line of 62-46 just showed how well the hosts had finished the tie. Barring injuries Spa look champions elect already and it will take a good team to prevent them from going consecutive seasons without a single defeat.
For Wetherby injuries are mounting with Mike Richards, Debbie Vines and Ginny Hinds now been joined on the side lines by Triffitt. They need to regroup and take many positives from the evening though as they certainly will not be facing any team as strong as Spa this season. They are back in action when they visit Burton Leonard next Tuesday and let’s hope the physio’s can weave their magic to get those injured back out on the court!
Thanks To Spa for been excellent hosts and good luck with the rest of the campaign, not that they will need it on this showing of course!
From left to right Fiona Chantrey, Louise Williams, Mike Triffitt, Dawn Steel and Captain Barry Johnson.
Well done Harrogate Spa. From Left to right – Andy Clayton, Captain Martin Yates, Chris Dight, Marie Scrimger, Emma Merrifield and Carolyn Rothwell.