After a day of rain the evening was dry with plenty of sun as Wetherby A travelled to Starbeck to open their HDTL division 4 campaign tonight. After winning the title in the previous season the team have strengthened and were looking forward to the challenge of testing themselves at a higher level.
New captain Richard Franks teamed up with regular partner Fiona Chantrey and they faced Starbeck B first pair Steve Hubbard and Katie Draper. This promised to be a close affair with Katie playing in Division 2 for Starbeck A previously and Steven a solid performer at division 3/4 level. True to form and expectations this rubber didn’t disappoint and with some tremendously hard fought rallies there was little between the pairs. It would have been harsh for either couple to have tasted defeat so fittingly a 6-6 draw was a more than fair outcome.
On court two Jonathan Tyler was finally making his competitive debut for Wetherby after seemingly been at the club for ages. He was in fact making a return to league tennis for the first time in twenty one years after last appearing in the Somerset league and looked eager for action. He and Christina Plant have been showing up well in preseason and are developing a useful partnership. They took on Starbeck captain Chris White who was partnered by Jo Douglas. Chris led his team stats last season and this classy left hander is always a tough opponent. Jo is a very accomplished player too with a decent serve and strong all round game but it was the Wetherby duo who caught the eye of the watching home support. Jonny was covering every inch of the court and showing why he is so highly rated at Wetherby. Christina is one of the best female servers at the club and she was dominating in this department tonight helping the visitors to a welcome 4-8 success.
On court three Louise Beasley teamed up with Bradley Triffitt after spending the previous campaign with Brads dad Mike. She has upgraded to a younger and fitter model now though ha ha! The pair are no strangers after playing well together in the Winter league and they looked confident ahead of their tie with Stephen Cameron and Amy Beavan. The Starbeck duo are both big hitters and certainly pack a punch but it was Wetherby who had the greater consistency as they ran out cosy 3-9 winners to establish an early 13-23 advantage.
Chris and Jo moved down to court one and knew they faced another battle against Ricard and Fiona. No surprise this was also tight but Chris was finding some nice angles and with Jo strong at the net they began to assert. Richard and Fiona gave their all as always but they fell to a 7-5 reverse thus ending an amazing thirty four rubber unbeaten run which had covered all the previous season.
Jonny and Christina then welcomed Stephen and Amy and the Starbeck third pair were happy to keep playing their shots and were getting well rewarded. The Wetherby pair had to dig deep but Jonny produced a couple of aces and his ability to control the net proved the difference as again it was success for the away team 4-8.
Brad and Louise knew they too would need to remain strong to keep Steve and Katie in check but found themselves starring down the barrel as they trailed 5-0. However showing strong resolve and commitment they refused to fold and gradually worked themselves back into contention. Louise was using her excellent spin returns to great effect whilst Triffitt was happy to play the long game and his patience often reaped reward. Amazingly the duo fought back to record an incredible 5-7 victory which extended the Wetherby lead to fourteen as they moved further clear at 29-43.
It would take a big switch of fortunes for the Harrogate side to pull off victory and Wetherby looked in no mood to surrender. Richard and Fiona were certainly showing no mercy as they piled on the points against Stephen and Amy. The Starbeck pair were unlucky to meet the Wetherby top dogs in such sparkling form and the 1-11 score was very harsh on the spirited home duo.
Jonathan and Christina were involved in another absorbing encounter as they tried to lower the colours of top seeds Steve and Katie. These seasoned cyclists both arrived on their bikes and were showing excellent fitness levels. They took advantage of this to force errors and ran out narrow 7-5 victors.
It was left to Brad and Louise to complete the innings and they were also involved in a close match with Chis and Jo. Again the Wetherby pair had to come from behind as they trailed 4-1 but another strong finish saw honours even at 6-6 after each player was able to showcase their skills.
Therefore it proved a good opening night for Wetherby as they ran out winners 43-65 and are the early leaders in the section after a surprise loss for title favourites Spa against Dacre.
As always Starbeck proved great hosts and the club looks in great shape with courts and surroundings splendid and membership healthy. We look forward to the return later in the season. Congratulations to Wetherby who now host Spa next week in a mouth-watering clash.