When the arrival of an email headed 'Men's AEGON Team Tennis' leaves the TBLTC super computer server, the membership are greeted with the prospect of national level tennis right on their doorstep. Early weather forecasts predicted a torrential downpour and the threat of calling stumps long before the Sunday washout ensued. Week long communications with the opposing side resulted in an agreed 'final hour' 3pm Saturday rain check. The resulting phone call agreed an earlier Sunday start time of 11am allowing for a perfect four hour slot for play before the storm clouds gathered over Thorpe Bay.
The team - Robert Carter, David Wright, Edward Pudney and Oli Mason faced the prospect of a Connaught side capable of drawing several national and internationally ranked players from a roaster of 16 listed journeymen. When play began, it appeared the opposing side had travelled with a few Trump cards. A series of early strikes combined with a sluggish start by the home side meant at the first change of ends TBLTC were down in three singles rubbers. Only Wright's defences looked up from the word go quickly gaining a 3-0 lead and surging to a 6-1 6-0 win. The comfortable dismantling of his opponent in such a fashion led to favourable comments from the spectator gallery.
The home crowd assembling on the benches by court 8's side had cause for concern when Carter, playing on the show court was involved in an early stalemate. The first four games were to go on serve. The new balls and quick courts meant the Connaught no.1 was able to make early inroads. But Carter hasn't been Essex's no.1 for 7 years in a row by chance. He soon broke free at 2-2, winning 6-2 6-2.
Up in two, the TBLTC faithful moved along the bank to spur on Pudney and Mason. It was clear the blustery conditions and slight drizzle played havoc with Pudney's shot making early on losing out narrowly in the first 6-7. Pudney recomposed well, managing to find out his opponents game style taking the next 6-2. At a set all, the third rubber was to be decided by a ten point championship tie breaker. At 11-11, Pudney's radar came back online just in time to claim it 13-11. The last two sets saw the sort of shot making and refusal to yield which makes Pudney one of the County's surest prospects for the next decade.
To the casual eye, the fourth rubber on court 5 looked like a one sided affair. Mason, called in from the team's first reserves for a second fixture in a row showed himself to be no fool. Early reports hoped for a slightly closer outcome, however, Connaught's 4th player did look in control throughout claiming it 6-3 6-2. Mason put in a determined fight but it wasn't to be his day.
The results of the singles meant TBLTC were 3-1 going into the doubles. The partnerships for victory appeared obvious, Carter/Wright at first doubles and Pudney/Mason at two. Connaught's 3rd seed was left feeling seriously fatigued after his singles vs. Pudney, so much so, he was a question mark for play in the doubles. While one half of Connaught's second doubles pairing caught his breath out of the gales, Carter/Wright cruised to a 6-1 first set win. The certainty of victory for Thorpe Bay and the threat of defeat for Connaught meant they had no intention of playing their second pair in what they perceived to be a dead rubber. However, the perfect storm came not in the scheduled 3pm washout, but a determined counter offensive from Connaught's first pairing in the second set. The TBLTC duo found themselves in a much tighter affair, trailing on serve throughout the second. As if by Michael Fish proportions it seamed the home side might be involved in a resurgent tie, with the second pairing finding their way to court 7 in an attempt to turn the tide. 30 minutes earlier, Pudney's singles opponent was convinced his energy was spent - he said he could offer no more to the proceedings. His energy levels were miraculously replenished and ready to drive his parter and side into play-off territory. With the smell of play-off in the air, the second doubles rubber was a tight affair early on with all four players looking fresh and holding serve. On court 8, with the comfort of the clubhouse bar looming Carter/Wright forced a breakout at 4-4. A break of serve and a solid hold of serve meant Carter/Wright claimed a second straight doubles victory in their debut AEGON partnership. The shaking of hands on court 8 was followed by another on court 7. Connaught, faced with a hopeless 4-2 result at best, conceded defeat and shook hands at 2-2 in the first set. The surrender meant TBLTC took the day 5 rubbers to 1.
The result means TBLTC go into their remaining matches top of the league. The team cannot afford to be complacent though with five matches still in hand. They do have hope for optimism with the return of fresh reserves from US soil in the from of Tom Pudney and TBLTC newcomer Nick Wade. TBLTC Veterans Harry Randle and David Tubbs are also rumoured to be fit for next weeks fixture away to the old enemy Billericay...
Thank you to all those who defied the elements to support to team and we look forward to seeing you at the next home fixture on May 20th.