The last Winter League game before the Xmas and New Year break was played this evening at Castlegarth and what an eagerly awaited clash with rivals Wetherby 1 and Boston Spa meeting for this Derby Clash. The hosts lined up with Lucy Wright and Steve Plant at seed one whilst Roger Fawcus and Jill Abel were another strong pair at seed two. Spa arrived with captain Katie Gilman partnering the wily Peter Smith whilst former captain Jordan Gregory made a welcome reappearance and teamed up with the classy Pauline Belt.
The mist was swirling but with little wind temperatures felt warmer and play commenced on courts one and two.
Wright and Plant were making their competitive debuts together and this looked a nice partnership for Wetherby. Plant continues to impress at the club since his move North and as well as been a regular at Social and in the Winter League, is also assisting with some coaching. They took on Gilman and Smith. Little between the pairs early doors and with the scores level at 2-2 a close encounter looked on the cards. However the home duo then stepped up the pace and playing some excellent tennis really began to move through the gears. Wright was in tremendous form and thoroughly enjoying herself. She was hitting with great accuracy from deep and producing some amazing angles whilst Plant is so strong on his backhand and when hovering at the net. He has the great ability to mix the pace and with some steady play was punishing the opposition. Smith and Gilman were playing well too and all credit to them as the quartet played out some breath taking rallies. However Wetherby were unstoppable and ran out 10-2 winners for a cracking start.
Over on court two men’s first team captain Roger Fawcus was joined by York mixed second team captain Jill Abel. They faced Jordan Gregory and Pauline Belt. It was the visitors who were far more steady and with some lovely error free tennis they were soon in the ascendancy. Roger was struggling in the light and even took to wearing sunglasses to reduce the dazzle. He always serves fast and with strong smashing kept the hosts in the contest. Jill was battling away and returning plenty but Gregory is a tough opponent and with an unorthadox style and some terrific placement he was playing well. Belt is tough to pass and with great coverage she and Gregory were starting to pull clear. Eventually they ran out 10-2 winners to leave the scores level at 12-12 after the opening round.
The Ladies rubber took place on the show court and what a great advert for female tennis this turned out to be. The pairs produced some dazzerling tennis in what was surely one of the best ladies games of the whole of 2018. Wright and Abel were comfortable together as were Belt and Gilman for the visitors and every point was hard earned. Lucy was everywhere and whether rallying from the baseline or scurrying around the net, she was proving such a strong opponent. Jill was also battling away from deep and with some lovely returns and impressive winners the Wetherby girls were certainly entertaining the gallery. Pauline is a true model of consistency and another player who is difficult to pass. Aided by some fantastic court coverage from Kate, Boston were certainly not throwing in the towel and this rubber was going to the wire. Finally after a titanic struggle Wetherby prevailed 7-5.
The men’s rubber on court two was equally hard fought. Plant and Fawcus are both powerful well-built individuals and with both serving fast and approaching the net with great menace they adopted a real powerful game plan. This wouldn’t faze Peter Smith or Jordan Gregory however who over the years have developed a very impressive partnership of real class and guile. So in this battle of differing styles play commenced. Each player produced moments of brilliance and fittingly with neither pair deserving to lose a 6-6 draw was a fair reflection of events.
As the final round began Wetherby held a slender 25-23 advantage in what was going to prove an intriguing finale.
Jill and Roger looked determined to put their opening defeat behind them and with Roger now more accustomed to conditions the duo were looking more at home. However Peter and Kate sensed blood and looking to bounce back quickly themselves were nicely away. Neither pair however could find the consistency needed to open up and despite playing catch up the hosts were always well in contention. They finished the stronger and with both showing great test of character ran out narrow 7-5 winners to increase the overall lead to four.
All eyes were on Wright and Plant as they looked to seal victory and they were still in sparkling form and making life hard for Jordan and Pauline. Thankfully for Wetherby they were always ahead and despite a valiant effort from Spa they couldn’t quite close the gap. Plant continued to play the percentages and with a safe and steady performance was looking assured. Lucy was also still maintaining a very high level and the pair finally ran out 7-5 winners which gave Wetherby success 39-33.
A game played in great spirit with little between the teams and a big thanks as always to all on show. Wetherby leap over Boston to take over leadership at the summit and sit a point clear of Boston and Starbeck. With only five points separating top and bottom this has been one of the closest title fights in many a year and the majority of the teams will still be chasing first place.
The action resumes on January 22 when Wetherby entertain current champions Rufforth before high flying Starbeck play Collingham two days later.
Congratulations to Wetherby 1 who lined up from left to right with Steve Plant, Lucy Wright, Jill Abel and Roger Fawcus.
A great effort from Boston Spa who had from left to right Peter Smith, captain Katie Gilman, Pauline Belt and Jordan Gregory.