Mike Drain def Al Warwick 6-1, 6-1, 6-4
Anyone watching this match – or moreso anyone listening to my opponents’ version of events – would struggle to believe that the head to head results between me and Mike last year were almost 5-5 but for a few points on the green stuff.
It hasn’t materialised this year, but over the years I maintain that when both of us are on song the result is an evenly matched contest where two different styles of play often produce some eclectic and electric contests.
This really wasn’t one of them.
Simply put, I didn’t turn up for the first hour and a half. My opponent came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, pumped with an overflowing confidence from all things off the court and the familiarity on it one gains from regular tennis and squash encounters with his new regular playing partner.
The rhythm was plain to see, the serve and ability to vary the weight of shot and pace of play (two very recent upgrades to his game) proved far, far too good for yours truly who had nothing to offer and for whom the ball seemed impossible to target or indeed see at all, until it was right on top of me.
It was embarrassing and humiliating at times such was the gulf in class, I couldn’t hit water if I’d fallen from a boat whilst monsieur Drain was brazenly batting winner after winner from the back of the court, often on the back foot.
It was a joy to watch – which is what I subconsciously ended up doing for a lot of the contest.
Come the third set – and a sprinkling of exhibition – and things became more enjoyable for me.
Mike, deservedly satisfied with his performance began to experiment and duly his concentration and intensity suffered.
For what it was worth, my serve, offensive backhand and feel at the net came a crawling back.
Some fine aces, un-returnables and pitch-perfect drop shots as well as some neat serve and volleying which resulted in one instance with an over-the-shoulder backhand smash.
It was too little too late of course, and with points for 5-5 in the third and Mike’s cursing all the more audible as he clung on, my own level dropped once more.
Work to do then, but win, lose or – in this case – annihilation, I’ll always enjoy the challenge and the company.