It was a crucial evening for Wetherby tennis club in the HDTL tonight with both the first and second teams in action and facing crucial matches.
Wetherby A entertained leaders Harlow A in Division four knowing victory would keep them in the title hunt and overtake the Harrogate based team . Debbie Vines withdraw on the morning and with Louise Beasley also absent the hunt was on for a replacement. Thankfully Anne Lillywhite, who is enjoying a good season in Division five, stepped up and the team were extremely grateful. She paired with Bradley Triffitt at seed three with Richard Franks and Fiona Chantrey at one and Jonathan Tyler and Christina Plant at two.
All eyes were on the Harlow team as they arrived with captain Chris Milnes pairing with usual partner Ruth Whaling at one. John Berger and Helen Flynn formed a formidable duo at two whilst Andy Poulton and Loopy Parker are strong seed three’s and ensured this would be a difficult match to call.
The action began on the show court and Ricard and Fiona entertained Chris and Ruth in a high quality affair. Little between these pairs and some lung busting rallies with nearly every game going to deuce. Chris is very strong from the baseline and can mix power with guile whilst Ruth is one of the sections stronger ladies and packs a punch from deep with her powerful forehand. There is no denying the hosts great teamwork however and with excellent defending they ran out narrow 8-4 victors.
Jonathan and Christina are a standing dish at seed two and took on John and Helen. Once more some entertaining action and this was a full blooded rubber. Nothing to split these excellent players and no surprise a 6-6 draw ensued.
Brad and Anne had enjoyed success a few years back together in Division six but knew they would face a tough evening. They began slowly against the powerful Andy Poulton and with Loopy clinical at the net the visitors raced ahead 2-5. However settling into a rhythm the hosts fought back and took the last two games to level the score at 6-6 which left Wetherby ahead 20-16.
Round two was equally close with Jonathan and Christina producing some wonderful tennis to entertain the crowd which included the HDTL secretary Carolyn Rothwell who was watching on eagerly. Jonathan produced some exquisite backhands down the line whilst Christina’s serving was top drawer and she made many aces. This was a hard fought but well-earned 8-4 win and was arguably the rubber that gave Wetherby the edge overall. Richard and Fiona were held 6-6 against Andy and Loopy in another rubber where no quarter was given whilst Brad and Anne dug deep and came from behind to earn another 6-6 tie against John and Helen.
So going into the finale Wetherby had extended their advantage to eight points as they led 40-32.
Brad and Anne moved down to court one expecting their hardest challenge against the Harlow top dogs and so it proved as the classy duo of Chris and Ruth showed no signs of slowing down. They were always behind but mindful of trying to keep the scoreboard ticking over worked their socks off with some tremendous court coverage and backs to the wall defending to secure four points in a 4-8 reverse which saw Harlow closed the gap overall to just four points.
Richard and Fiona also had to dig deep against John and Helen whose battling qualities and crafty play were difficult to contend with. However the Wetherby top pair secured a narrow 7-5 victory meaning the winning line was in sight.
Jonny and Christina were in no mood to let slip the advantage and although Andy and Loopy were consistent throughout the evening there was no way they could overturn the deficit. The Wetherby duo stayed mentally strong and calm to celebrate a narrow but crucial 7-5 win which meant victory by 58-50 and revenge for an earlier defeat in Harrogate.
Wetherby jump into pole position level on points with Harrogate Spa but at the summit on points difference ahead of their two remaining matches , both at home against Starbeck and Thirsk. Two wins would almost certainly guarantee the title. Well done to all on show for such a superb match played at a very good standard.
Further north in Bedale, the Wetherby first team travelled knowing that the Division Two title was also in the melting pot after the hosts had let slip what appeared an unassailable lead following a draw and loss in their two recent matches. After a 56-52 loss at David Lloyd the night before, Bedale were surprisingly hosting Wetherby who arrived with a strong team. It was all or nothing for Wetherby as only a win could keep title hopes alive whilst Bedale had another chance to claim the silverware. However an important 2-10 win for Andy Roberts and Lucy Wright in the opening round saw the visitors open up a 15-21 advantage and in this 12-8-8 format with Bedale not having lights, the pressure was on the hosts to close that gap with less games at stake. However despite top pair Ann Hatch and Mark Woodward remaining unbeaten, Adrian Lobley and Rachel Hill along with Marc Bickers and captain Helen Robison proved too strong as the points were heading back south after a super 30-54 win.
Wetherby close the gap on Bedale to just three points and with Bedale now having finished their campaign and Wetherby having Almscliffe to play home and away, its Wetherby who can secure the crown with wins in both. David Lloyd in third are still in the hunt and if Wetherby do slip up, know victory over Boston Spa can see them lift the cup too so plenty to play for still.
A great night of tennis for Wetherby and good luck to both teams in their final two games.