DIVISION 5 – 01.10.17 – DAY 1
OTFORD D HEAD THE TABLE AFTER DAY 1 BUT WATCH OUT FOR THE PACK!
The revamped Division 5 began its campaign with the following make up – Bromley Common D, Otford C and D, South Croydon C, Sparta A and B, one of these being formerly known as Crownwoods B. On paper, it looks like a well-balanced division with the by now customary collection of newly signed on players making their debuts. All the matches were to be keenly contested and there were some quite extraordinary escape acts
These matches were exceptionally long with many sets going the distance and another six needing a fourth game to settle the issue.
Bromley Common D fielded Terry Edwards for the first time alongside regular Joy Grohmann against League stalwarts Mike Palmer and Tony York for Otford C. Three sets went to five games here and huge battles were fought out. Edwards began well, taking out Palmer in four games followed by the first full length set between Grohmann and York. 8-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9 to Grohmann doesn’t do justice to either player especially not to York’s comeback efforts in games he didn’t necessarily win. Concentration was difficult with spectators wandering in at inopportune moments and over loud applause for a match on another table didn’t help. Full marks to the players though. This put Bromley Common 2-0 ahead but the doubles went Otford’s way in straight games, a left-right handed doubles pairing is a big advantage. York had to recoup an 0-2 deficit before turning it around in five against Edwards with a favourable net helping him home 11-8 in the end. This made matters all square leaving Grohmann and Palmer to settle matters. Grohmann struggled to return Palmer’s serve throughout but still managed to take a 2-0 lead. Palmer, for his part, battled on and eventually got home by taking the next three 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 for a 3-2 victory.
Mike Gold signed up for Otford D to partner Richard Cowling against South Croydon C (Rocco Martinez-Paoli/Yuvathi Vijay). In by far the longest match of the day, they still had 1 ½ sets to play when the first match finished. Gold’s opening set against Martinez-Paoli took 23 minutes to complete. Gold was 2-1 up but was pegged back to two games all. However, he kept steady and secured the set. Cowling had his work cut out against Vijay being 1-2 down before managing to wriggle of the hook. He was a hatful of points behind in the fifth but hung in and scraped home 11-9. Otford added the doubles but it wasn’t easy as 17-15, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7 suggests. Otford thus had three in the bag. There was more hard work for Gold in the last singles where he took on Vijay. It was a huge tussle, Golding pulling back an 0-2 deficit as Vijay faded. However, she got to grips with it in the fifth and scuttled home 11-8 to open South Croydon C’s account for the season. Cowling never let Martinez-Paoli settle and made it 4-1 for Otford D.
The domestic derby between Sparta A (Mark Walker/Rob Foster) and Sparta B (Harry Isaacs with new signing Ed Galkontas), was a very hard fought match. It began well for the B with Isaacs scrambling past Walker 13-11 in the fourth. Foster replied for the A with a straight games win over Galkontas and the A then added the doubles in four games for a 2-1 lead. Walker made it a win for the A with a win over Galkontas leaving Isaacs to deal with the long reach of Foster and secure a 3-2 win for the A team.
Once again there were a couple of close results and all the matches were very competitive.
South Croydon C (Vijay/Martinez-Paoli) pulled off a very good win over Sparta A (Walker/Foster). Vijay got the ball rolling with the narrowest of wins over Walker, 11-9, 14-12, 12-10 tells the story. Martinez-Paoli got involved in a long duel with Foster and dropped behind 1-2 after taking the first game. He managed to hold Foster off 13-11 in the fourth and fought hard to stay with a much taller and more powerful opponent to level at two games all. It was anyone’s to win in the decider and it went to Martinez-Paoli 12-10 which put South Croydon C 2-0 ahead. Sparta cruised the doubles and then it was backs to the wall for the reverse singles. Vijay held a 2-0 lead over Foster but completely lost her way in the third and ran off with the fourth 11-6 for a winning lead. Walker, however, put Martinez-Paoli under pressure and the young fellow was not allowed to do what he wanted so it finished as 3-2 to South Croydon C.
Otford C (York/Palmer) likewise found themselves under pressure from Sparta B (Isaacs/Galkontas) and were 0-2 down after the opening singles, Isaacs defeating York and Galkontas opening his League account with a win over Palmer. Otford D thereafter staged a recovery by winning the doubles narrowly in four games (12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9) and York bringing them back to parity through a straight games win over Galkontas. It was thus down to Palmer and Isaacs to decide the outcome. It was quite a tense set which Isaacs won to make it a 3-2 success for Sparta B.
In the opening singles between Bromley Common D and Otford D, Edwards got involved in a lengthy duel with Gold. He led 2-1 by virtue of some good positional play but was pegged back to two games all. The fifth was very close with Gold just about holding Edwards off 11-9 in the fifth. Cowling backed this up by beating Grohmann. He did have to go to four games after dropping the first 13-11. Otford rolled on, taking the doubles and the first of the reverse singles where Cowling beat the luckless Edwards. Gold, though found Grohmann a handful as she punished anything off a length. She needed four games to do it but got home 11-7 in the end to avert the whitewash.
Otford D thus head the table on eight points but there are three lurking on five points - Otford C, Sparta A and B, with South Croydon C only one point behind on four and Bromley Common D on three.
Already this looks to be a very much stronger division than last year and more even. No one can afford too many silly mistakes or have an “off” day. Nailing the doubles every time might just be crucial as it is worth 10 points during the course of the season.