My matches 2014: All Lilleywhite on the Night after Dave falls for the Walls

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Before the great Drain and Warwick rivalry there was Baker and Warwick; Dave was my long suffering comrade during our first tentative steps into taking tennis seriously sixteen years ago.
It has been a less frequent match-up but one that remains intriguing and richly rewarding, such is our worlds-apart playing styles matched with an all-too similar level of fitness.
Unlike the Mike’s and Rob’s of this world, neither myself or David could seriously describe ourselves as ‘fitness fans’ and our tennis therefore tends to rely on shot-making and technique.
Of course, it takes a while for either to truly hit their stride.
David’s game is unique amongst my regular foes in that his strengths lie with touch and feel at the net, the drop shot and half volley. Add to that a serve that skims the ground on impact and one that truly rivals my own as a game-changer.
These factors and a heavy deployment of top spin makes for a very different challenge and allows me to venture forward in response and does also enable my backhand time to find its range and rhythm. In this match for example, I hit many more flat backhand winners than off the forehand – unheard of against anyone else.

Our latest encounter – like last year, was a magnum opus spread across several weeks and locations.

Part 1

Mr Baker will be the first to admit that he is prone to a sluggish start so I knew I had to take the early advantage, and so it proved as a bit more recent match practice proved decisive and my confidence on serve and all over the court proved the difference.
In the 6-3 set, such is the nature of our woeful second deliveries, there was an incredible six breaks of serve. In many ways, holding feels like the break.

Come the second set and things would resume the pattern that so often encapsulates our encounters, once Dave hit his stride and I began to tire the momentum would swing his way.

Part 2

Returning to Greenwich for a brief but enjoyable segment and a microcosm of the previous form pattern. A confident start from yours truly soon evaporated as I struggled to reign in my returns off the powderpuff Baker second delivery. Cue a reverse scoreline for that second set and after only 40 minutes play the third would be left honours even at 2-2.

Part 3

In a punishing third act – played in the dead heat of this volatile August the quality would never sync up on both sides of the court, a frustrating two and a half hour slog of magic mixed with muddle and much swashbuckling and little substance.

Again holding serve proved difficult at times and often points were decided with a bit of extra power or a finely rasped groundstroke – the fresh-from-the-can balls proving a fine challenge for two rusty adversaries.

After David clinched the all-important third set on the breaker I managed to stay positive – I had had my chances after all. But things remained tight until my opponents lack of sustenance began to aid me.

Come the final set and – with David refreshed with a Tikka slice and fluids – it was anyone’s match. Some rewarding early exchanges and playful rallies soon made way for David’s gameplan to take affect; namely Murray-esque defence and that tried and tested tactic of making me play one more shot.

Tiredness had crept in and so too any rhythm. I fell behind to 3-5 and it all felt rather familiar. Except it wasn’t to be – after the aforementioned Tikka slice caused no end of distraction to my adversary I was able to turn the tide.

Suddenly my game returned and my opponent – despite many a chance to wrap things up – had seemingly given up the ghost.

It was all over very quickly, but although satisfied with my play at the end, I knew that a certain Mr Walls had helped me along the way.

Categories: ME

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