By Katie Scott
So, our next mixed match of the season was against Redbridge, a notoriously difficult team to defeat. Based at their home ground, our team had quite a few switches for this face off. With Janet still out of action due to an ongoing tennis elbow injury, we had trusty reserve Tracy in her stead to partner tube driver Gary. My partner David also had to bow out due to a pesky knee injury making an appearance, so I managed to recruit Binu to keep me company on court instead.
Despite having a full three pairs, when we arrived at Redbridge, we soon discovered they only had two pairs present and correct, receiving no notification of this before the match. Speaking to their mixed captain, apparently the third pair had promised to attend yet had instead never shown up, not even texting or phoning to let him know. Brushing such unsportsmanlike and basically rude behaviour from this third pair aside, we still had two games per pair to play.
Tracy and Gary:
11-21 / 12-21
16-21 / 21-17 /15-21
Katie and Binu:
19-21 / 18-21
21-20 / 21-19
Kay and Het:
12-21 / 9-21
16-21 / 12-21
So how did it go?
Interestingly I think is the correct answer here. In my first match with Binu, we played their second pair, featuring their experienced mixed captain who we have played numerous times before as well as a new face for his female partner. Their tactics revolved around a mix of front and back play as well as defensive sides when the need arose. Smash placement was imperative, and the male player in particular tackled this nicely, while his partner was more adept at the front, Binu tactically targeting her as soon as she started to hover backwards. The games were nail-bitingly close as you can see from the scores. In the first win, we actually game from four points behind to sneak ahead of them and steal the win, which is always vastly satisfying. For us, the combination of utilising my short serve and attacking net play with Binu’s fantastic clears, drives and smashes from the back of the court produced some pretty solid play, which saw us take the only win of the evening. I even have a very fetching bruise on the back of my shoulder from this one, as a misdirected smash from Binu decided to hurtle into me instead of over the net. Attractive!
In our second game, we maintained the same tactics and delivery, although I confess to making a few more errors here. I feel Binu also made a few uncharacteristic mistakes, maybe the pressure of the second game getting a bit too much. That’s the thing when the score lines are so tantalisingly close the the points could go either way; you almost get in your own way by wanting it so much. Redbridge’s number one pair rather liked hitting the angles, skimming the tramlines to the left and right continuously. Net play was also in abundance, again cross court, ensuring that I remained on my toes. Taking 18 and 19 in these games, we came so close and held our end up well, and although I would say our style was distinctly more attacking than normal, they still managed to push through on many of the rallies. The guy of this duo is on the tall side, so at the net, nothing was getting past him. At the back, he also dominated, our main strategy was to keep him moving side to side which worked a fair few times. His partner was fantastic at the net and any shot that came too high was instantly dealt with.
All in all, I would say that Binu and I played really well together and this is clearly reflected in our competitive score lines and our win. Redbridge also played well, although as a club, I don’t find them a welcoming venue, as their players mainly ignored us when off and on court, barely raising a smile. Their captain was friendly, kindly offered us refreshments, and I may have nabbed a Jaffa Cake and I do feel sorry that he wasn’t given notification about his missing third pair. Ultimately, this means that we get three automatic wins, although in total, Redbridge still won the evening 5-4. Despite this, only presenting two pairs for match will result in Redbridge getting penalised, so this could work in our favour thankfully.
Gary and Tracy seemed to have some stonking games from what I could see, taking one of their through to a decider. I think Het and Kay felt the pressure in the last game, as we were all done by then so sat on the sidelines, which can seem intimidating and offputting when on court. On the whole though, I am pleased with our club performance and I don’t think we put on a bad show. Some of the rallies were sensational and thrilling to be a part of, and I have to say, I enjoyed both of the matches I played immensely. Thanks to Redbridge for the games and here’s to the next one!