You just can’t get the staff these days
Lovely to be back where I started in the last match report this year and to meet up again with Elaine Smith, quick to tell everybody to watch what they say as ‘she writes it all down you know!’ Nice, too, to get a compliment from one of the Abacus ladies, Julie Blackburn, as she admitted to being a regular reader of my ‘right good column.’
As the Blackburn Seniors training session finally ran the Edmondson duo off the court (well, that’s what taking on 16 young up and coming stars does for you, Lily and Claire!) the fixture got off to a slow start. As frantic phone calls were made in the foyer, it quickly became apparent that Abacus were going to be a man short and a hanging was threatened next time they saw ‘him’. Amicably, the teams decided to start with the men’s and ladies’ games: Adam Parker and Keith Last taking on Mick Crilly and Gary Pollock; Joanne Harrison and Vicky Last facing Rachel Hillary and Alex Bullock.
The men’s game got off to a cracking start with some long, exciting rallies. Point for point, the two couples battled it out in friendly rivalry. Keith’s well placed drop shots and aggressive smashes were met by some excellent reaction shots by both Abacus men. Gary’s efficient push attack returns and Mick’s effortless net shot from a short serve eventually won them the first game. The battle was on. Ambitious Adam dominated the net for Blackburn Seniors with some confident serving and excellent court coverage. Both pairs were sporting in their appreciation of the oppositions’ good play and splitting this first match was definitely a just result. In the ladies’ match, the Blackburn Seniors ladies took both games, although Rachel and Alex certainly gave them a run for their money. Quick to kill it at the net, Joanne played with confidence with Vicky, using her height to excellent effect. Vicky showed lovely control at the net and gave some very sporting line calls. The Abacus ladies never stopped fighting for every point, however, with Rachel’s effective drop shots and confident approaches to the net frequently forcing the Blackburn Seniors ladies to a lift which Alex was always ready to put away.
As the second ladies got under way, the Abacus men decided to stop on court to play an extra, friendly game against the young pairing of Adam and Brad Savage. As Julie worried about the stamina of her mixed partner, begging him to save something for the four games he would still have to play with her, Michael (to give him his Sunday best name) strolled on to the court with his partner in crime, Gary. Never has so much energy and enthusiasm gone in to a friendly game whose scores would not count. At one point, Gary’s breathing had to be assisted by another part of his body – enough said. Against this experienced pairing, then, the promising Blackburn Seniors partnership had their work cut out. Again, Adam’s domination at the net pushed the Abacus men to their limits, with some well-balanced coverage of the court and agility from both Brad and Adam. Having won the first, it was fortunate that Gary, who may have been struggling to breathe, was able to keep the score otherwise I think they would still have been playing! Two very pleased and very wet Abacus men came off the court, happy in their double victory.
In the ladies’ match, Julie and Alex from Abacus met the home partnership of Helen Shanks and Vicky. The opposition ladies worked well as a couple, with Julie’s anticipation at the net and Alex’s punishing drop shots pushing the Blackburn Seniors hard. Helen’s effective back hand and straight smashes were frequently out and out winners, racking up valuable points for the home pairing. The experience of Julie and brilliant court awareness, however, finally won the Abacus ladies both games.
In the mixed doubles, young Brad, playing with Joanne, faced Mick and Julie from Abacus. Using the whole of his racquet, Mick frequently surprised himself with some of the reaches he was able to pull off. Julie’s delicate net shots and agility around the court had their young opposition at full stretch. Despite some excellent cross court smashing from Brad and tight serving from Joanne, the opposition won both games. Next on court, Alex and Gary faced husband and wife, Keith and Vicky. Gary’s favourite cross court return from a smash worked effectively in the first game, along with Alex’s full length clears. In the second game, however, the Blackburn Seniors couple were determined not to let the opposition have it all their own way, fighting back to split this match.
In what was the last match on the night, the experienced pairing of Julie and Mick faced Adam and Helen. Another very sporting battle, Mick’s clever deceptive drops from the back and short serve returns forced the opposition to scrabble hard for the shuttle. Adam’s agility round the court and quick attack at the net worked well with Helen’s excellent reading of the cross court drive shots from both Abacus players. Neck and neck in the first game, the Blackburn Seniors finally put the shuttle on the floor at 21 to win. Not to be outdone, Julie and Mick fought even harder in the second game with some excellent cross court smashes by Mick. This was a very sporting match which was justly split, one game each.
A rest, now, till the New Year, although spectators are more than welcome next Monday 22nd December at Norden when Nigel’s tournament finals are to be played, 8pm start. You remember he promised mince-pies? Well, I do!