National Interclub Tournament 2017
The 34th National Inter Club tournament held at Moreton Morrell and Leamington was launched bright and early by John Murphy 48.8 (Oxford) and Vaughan Hamilton 26.5 (Moreton Morrell I), the former proving a hugely dangerous challenge armed with a handicap that ‘ knoweth not how to stay down’ and the academic approach of ‘ if it’s there to be hit – whack it!’ Definitely one to watch for the competition’s denouement …
MMTCC welcomed teams of three from Oxford, Radley, Hatfield, Jesmond Dene (two), MCC, Newmarket, Leamington and Hardwick, with it must be said plenty of representation from the home club but 9 of the 12 clubs were made up of entirely bona fide members of those clubs. Thanks to a quirk of the organisation (aka a cock –up!) Jesmond Dene I’s doubles pair of Tony Harrison and Martin Kellaway (38.3) squeezed in an extra game which was fair enough as the Fog on the Tyne folk always support the tournament wholeheartedly from their frozen wastes! However they failed to capitalise on their good fortune losing to Mark Savage and Bruce Morrison off 58 and good value for their handicap.
Savage and Morrison won a tight first quarter-final against Radley’s Andrew Jeffrey and guest Tony Branfield (52.4) 6/5 with Morrison dominating the back of the court. The cack handed pairing of James Richardson and ‘Snowy’ Prophet (45.6) proved too strong for Jesmond II’s Fiona Harrison and John Yarnall (56.5) winning through 6/2. An exciting internecine all Leamington scrap between Mat Fattorini / Will Todd (36.9) against John Devis and Chris Sampson (49.5) was a close 6/4 affair but the steadiness of Todd helped Mat through! Moreton Morrell I’s Jon Lambdon and Keith Beechener (43.2) were too much of a handful for MCC’s David Phillips and David Bugge (51.8) winning 6/3 and sighting a clear view of the winning enclosure.
In the semis, the leftward leaning Prophet and Richardson rode their luck against Savage and Morrison going through on a 6/3 scoreline. In the other match Todd and Fattorini and Lambdon and Beechener were involved in a rousing and close set won by the latter, a pair with a useful contrast between Lambdon’s positive approach and the latter’s more cerebral consistency!
The all MMTCC final was nip and tuck up to 3-3 but thereafter Lambdon and Beechener took control to win the next three games to be worthy winners of the Verney trophy.
In the first singles quarter, there appeared to be a huge mountain for Ken Smith (46.7) (Newmarket) to climb against John Murphy who had won all his box matches with ease, and inevitably Murphy went through 6/1, his eyes firmly on the Final. For some reason that he cannot explain, MCC’s Andrew Hamilton, was in sublime form against Jesmond’s Richard MacAlister in a set of many long rallies which he ultimately won, to head on to the semis 6/0. Leamington’s Simon Gill was spared a leg-sapping match against Tim Messer who had injured his elbow the day before. Vaughan Hamilton was given a fright by Leamington I’s Alan Morrissey who couldn’t maintain earlier pressure and went down 4/6.
To emphasise the wonderful zone he had found himself in, Hamilton defied his and everybody else’s predictions by pulverising the much fancied Murphy who was never allowed into the game, winning 6/1. In the other semi, a closer affair, Simon Gill emphasised the marked improvement in the standard of his play with an excellent win over Vaughan Hamilton; Gill proved far more demanding than a quarter-pint measure to take the match 6/4.
In the final Gill appeared short measured against a once-again rampant Hamilton and at 3/0 down was looking into an empty glass. But a combination of a tricky good length serve, an improvement in play and greater fitness, Gill hauled himself back to 3/3 and then forged ahead to 5/3 and despite a slight rally by his opponent was a most impressive winner of the Hamilton trophy 6/4.
So ended a super weekend of handicap tennis, dominated as it was by Moreton Morrell and Leamington II (Gill, Sampson and Devis) who took the Ernst and Young team trophy.
Many thanks to Leamington for use of their court and Ben Matthews for marking and to Tom Granville and Nick Jury for their marking over two days and to all the pros for excellent sets of tennis balls.