After a filthy day of wind and rain, there appeared little hope of any action in the Winter League this evening but thankfully the improved forecast proved spot on and with the wind reducing and the evening staying dry Wetherby 1 hosted Rufforth 2 without a drop of rain on view!
Wetherby fielded a strong quartet with Lucy Wright partnering Steve Jones and Helen Robinson with Roger Fawcuss giving them two equally strong couples. Rufforth captain Philippa Page was absent so vice-captain Dan Russell took over the duties and was joined by Christine Place whilst Andy Ivell and Judith Evans formed a very experienced pair.
Lucy and Steve had been successful last season when playing influential roles helping the club to the title and they teamed up for their first match of this campaign. They took on Judith and Andy. This was also a clash of the chairmen with Steve and Andy holding that role at the respective clubs. Lucy has been a regular this term whilst Steve was making his first appearance but the pair were quickly into stride and looking strong as always. You wont find many more competative females than Lucy on the circuit and she was giving everything, especially with some consistent hitting from deep. Steve is a canny player and his famous spin game was been used to great effect. The Wetherby duo were calm and playing some well-constructed tennis just had the upper hand. They needed to be on form however as another wily veteran Andy was showing why he is still a force to be reckoned with. After an opening service game that was won without a ball been retuned in play, he was producing some excellent crafty shots and ably supported by the impressive Judith Evans they ensured this rubber was competative and close throughout. In the end Wetherby were victorious 8-4 but this proved an excellent and absorbing affair.
On Court two Roger Fawcuss was back on court for his first appearance of the season and he looked fresh and ready for action. Helen Robinson is a regular in the Winter League and the ladies first team player is always a crucial player for the club. Roger was booming some highly impressive serves that quite frankly looked impossible to return and with his excellent serve and volley approach was looking in mean form. Helen has a lovely backhand and some of her exquisite volleys were a delight to watch. Dan has been a big improver in the last two years in the Winter League and he hits big from deep and has superb court coverage. Christine Place is a standing dish in the Rufforth ladies first team and it’s easy to see why as her keen eye is used to create some clever angles and her drop shots are a killer tool. With Roger showing his men’s first team form to unleash a heavy artillery of firepower the hosts ran out cosy 9-3 winners in another contest that was closer than the score line would indicate.
A solid start for the reigning winter league champions saw them move ahead 17-7 after the opening round and they were keen to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Roger and Steve are a strong partnership and these old friends offer a range of attacking options and work well together. Roger was once again on fire and was proving difficult to contain such was his power. Steve was providing a number of excellent finishes with his ‘soft hands’ approach reaping dividends. However Andy and Dan were not going down without a fight and maintained a big effort during this quality clash. Dan was able to chase down most returns and with Andy’s strong anticipation skills the visitors were enjoying the challenge. Ultimately Wetherby ran out 9-3 winners after a good tussle.
Helen and Lucy are regulars in the ladies first team and have a good rapport on court. They started strongly against Judith and Christine and were clinical with their finishing. Lucy was content to rally from deep but often produced her best moments at the net where, leaping like a salmon, she was dominating. Helen returns very low and she often caught the visitors unaware with some amazing shots that floated over the net and angled away for plenty of winners. Rufforth battled ever so hard and were unlucky to be on the end of a 10-2 reverse but credit the Wetherby big guns for an efficient display.
So the champs were almost over the line and looking to boost their points difference as the final round began. Roger and Helen were on the show court but had to dig deep to keep Andy and Judith at bay. There was a contrast of styles on show but the Rufforth duo were happy to defend against their big hitting opponents and strike when an opportunity arose. Andy was rolling back the years with some impressive running and court coverage and made many eye catching overhead smashes which are worthy of mention. Judith plays with a smile and is a good competitor. She made some lovely winners at the net and the Rufforth pair were playing well. But of course it was still an uphill task facing Fawcuss who maintained his excellent evening form with another polished performance. Helen was also in good form and the pair finally secured a 8-4 victory.
On court four Steve and Lucy were moving through the gears and they were keeping the score moving along nicely against the spirited Dan and Christine. Using the width of the court Wetherby exploited the gaps and with craft and guile were racking up some lovely winners. This was a good contest and a 10-2 success for the Wetherby top dogs ended a very good evening with the hosts prevailing 54-18. This moves them to within two points of Rufforth 1 who do look the team to beat having won all five of their fixtures. The battle between the big two will be significant with only a win keeping Wetherby in the hunt to retain their crown whilst a victory for Rufforth 1 would see them putting the champagne on ice. The two meet on Tuesday February 4th
Thanks to all on show this evening for providing good entertainment on a chilly evening and we look forward to seeing you all back in action sooner rather than later.
Well played Steve Jones, Lucy Wright, Helen Robinson and Roger Fawcuss who guided Wetherby to an impressive success tonight.
A big thanks as always to our friends from Rufforth who are great supporters of the Winter League. Andy Ivell, Judith Evans, Christine Place and Dan Russell played ever so well in a battling display.