For the first time since its inception the Junior Development programme has been extended to two divisions and the second division got under way with two teams from Amherst School, two from Cleeve Park and one each from Darenth and South Croydon.   Only one player had any experience in last year’s Development Division and all the others were “rookies”, inevitably there were some nerves jangling.

Round 1

If there are two teams from the same club in one division, it is often in the first round that domestic derbies occur and so it was here.

Amherst B (Felipe Fujimori/Ben McKay) took on Amherst C (Leo Hickey/Charlie Helmer) and soon had a point on the board with a win for Fujimori over Hickey.   McKay had to work hard against Helmer and only just held him off 12-10 in the fourth.   The B took the doubles in four games for a winning lead.   The reverse singles were shared – Fujimori making it four by defeating Helmer but Hickey recouped a 1-2 deficit against McKay to take it 11-7 in the fifth and opening Amherst C’s account.

Cleeve Park B (Alex Patterson/Nathan Lee) had a comfortable 5-0 win over their C team of Asa Watkins and Mark Russell for a flying start to their season.

Darenth had entered the competition after a gap of three years and Matthew James joined Tommy Cowling for the B team’s first match against South Croydon B (Caron Charles/Anishka Vijay).   The girls are quite small but showed they can play if allowed to.   They were somewhat overpowered here but will be good in time to come.

Round 2

Amherst C (Helmer/Hickey) won their match with South Croydon B (Vijay/Charles) after an epic battle between Helmer and Vijay who came back from 1-2 down to win 11-9 in the fifth.   Hickey levelled it with a straight games win over Charles.   The boys won a close doubles 11-8, 11-9, 11-9 and Helmer made it a win by beating Charles in straight games 14-12 in the third making some quite remarkable replies to Charles’ strong attacking play.   Hickey kept Vijay at bay for the victory.

Amherst B (Fujimori/McKay) put up a terrific fight against Cleeve Park B (Patterson/Lee), two sets went the distance and two others to four games.   One of the best sets of the day was that between Fujimori and Patterson where Fujimori came back to level at two all before finally giving best at 11-7 in the fifth.   Lee survived a late charge from McKay to make it a 2-0 lead.   However, a rather up and down doubles went to Amherst 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 3-11, 11-3 to get them on the board.   Both the reverse singles went to Cleeve Park but they needed four games to fend off the Amherst boys.

Cleeve Park C (Russell/Watkins) took a while to find their feet against Darenth B for whom Oliver Thompson was making his competitive debut in partnership with Tommy Cowling.   Cleeve Park went 0-2 behind after the opening singles.   They then began to get things together in the doubles and took the first game.   However, the right-left combination worked well for Darenth and they took the set in four.   There was a fine set straight afterwards between Russell and Thompson where Thompson took a 2-0 lead.   Russell hung in there and levelled at two all and then took the fifth 11-9 so Cleeve Park had one in the bank.   Cowling didn’t let Watkins settle using his backhand well to distribute the ball round the table.

Cleeve Park B and Darenth B lead the table on nine points apiece while Amherst B and C have five points apiece and both Cleeve Park B and South Croydon B opened their accounts.

It was a very good afternoon’s play with plenty of keenly fought games.   It will be interesting to see how the players develop as the competition progresses.

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