“It’s a great game, this badminton”
Amidst cheers of ‘Watch out, Chris, she’s here again!’ St Nicholas welcomed me to their home fixture against the Chairman’s Club, St Phillips.
The ever positive Ian Grimshaw for St Nicholas opened the men’s doubles paired with Chris Silverwood, still struggling to control his tourettes. Despite clever deceptive shots from this agile left hander and some spectacular round the back defensive play from Chris, the experience of the St Phillips pairing, namely Andy Wood and Mick Ormerod, proved too much. Andy’s strong return of Chris’s smashes and well controlled short serves quickly saw the St Nicholas couple on the back foot.
Badminton, however, is a team sport and it was the St Nicholas ladies time to shine. In the longest game of the night, Yvonne Kay and Louise Hustler, took on the St Phillips pairing of Denise Withey and Elaine Norris. The tactical awareness of the St Nicholas ladies, with Yvonne taking up her favourite position at the net to cut off the cross courts whilst Louise punched clears to the back line, brought out the very best in their opposition. Elaine Norris matched Louise stroke for stroke, with some brilliant winning drives down the middle. As the audience got involved in this cracking game of ladies’ doubles, we were entertained by some very unusual hand gestures from Elaine in response to Laura Cannan’s advice on line calls. Every close game, unfortunately, has to eventually have a winner and, squaring the match, the beaming Yvonne and reddening Louise walked off victors in both games.
The second men’s doubles saw Ian partnering Mohammed Aslam against Mick and our Chairman, Andy Howard. Ian’s persistent scampering round the court and Mohammed’s brave battling in the rallies were eventually worn down by Mick’s excellent court coverage and Andy’s tactical awareness. Wherever there was a gap, Andy seemed to be able to find it, much to the St Nicholas men’s dismay. The ladies’ game on the adjacent court saw Louise, partnering Linda Vickers, take on her nemesis Elaine, playing alongside Laura Cannan. With precise backhand drops and brilliant anticipation at the net, this time it was Elaine’s turn to get the better of the St Nicholas pairing. There was some very sporting awareness of the good play of the opposition from both sides and honesty in all the line calls. Some might say that that goes without saying; I can tell you that we should continue to notice it and encourage it wherever possible.
As the halfway point of the night drew on, St Phillips were already edging ahead. In the mixed doubles, Yvonne and Mohammed met Andy Wood and Laura. Mohammed’s intelligent return to the net of a short serve frequently stretched the opposition, although it was Mohammed himself who ended up on his knees at one point! Andy Wood’s quick anticipation around the court and dominant smashes ensured an evenly matched game which was fairly split. In the remaining mixed games, St Phillips moved from strength to strength, gradually wearing down their opposition. Despite the excellent court coverage by both Ian and Louise in their mixed, Elaine’s confidence at the net, coupled with Mick’s effective backhand returns, meant a St Phillips victory was very much on the cards. Mohammed battled long and hard against Andy Howard playing with Denise. Andy Howard’s punishing drop shots and Denise’s steady pushing of the shuttle into the spaces on court eventually won them both games, although Yvonne’s drop to the net was as effective as ever. The final match of the night saw Laura and Andy Wood take on Chris and Linda. This very entertaining game saw a lot of court coverage from all four players. It was Andy’s accurate cross court shots, however, which finally won the day and ensured a St Phillips victory.
The floor may have been hard, but the friendliness of both teams was warm and infectious. As if that wasn’t enough, they have both promised to enter next week’s tournaments, provided the handicaps are generous.