Avenue edged a thrilling battle with JEM Tennis in Portsmouth & District League men’s division one on Sunday, writes Alan Best.
With both teams fielding exceptionally strong first pairs, it was no surprise to see the match decided on countback.
And while JEM had won two more games than their hosts, it was the Havant outfit who claimed the winning draw points 5-4 on sets.
Avenue’s Hampshire coach of the year Ashley Neaves partnered Doug Galley against Shaun de Jong and Zizheng Jin as the rivals’ first strings fought for an edge.
The home side made full use of their advantage of playing regularly on grass courts, taking a punishing first set 7-5.
But De Jongh and Zen settled and gradually gained control, winning the last two 6-3, 6-2.
The match then rested on the contest between the second pairs.
JEM’s Mark Turl and Andy Long knew they needed to win a set to match the one won by Neaves and Galley.
But despite a brave fight, they lost a first set tie-break before dropping serve late in the second to lose it 7-5.
Elsewhere in the top tier, Warsash and Lee won 3-1 over Ventnor and Ryde Lawn, respectively.
Now only three points separate second and seventh in a tight division.
Avenue II and Avenue III were also in action on Sunday – in division two.
The former beat Lee II by only four games, while the third team defeated Warsash II by one set.
Ryde Lawn II and Canoe Lake II also shared their rubbers – with the Southsea outfit taking the extra point on countback thanks to the set won by Ian White and Mark Himmens in defeat to Finn Fothergill and Alex Parker.
The only clear victory in another competitive division saw Ryde Mead beat Fishbourne 3-1.
Lee III gave themselves a good chance of avoiding relegation from division three when they edged past fellow strugglers Rowlands Castle 3-1.
In division four, Alverstoke and Alverstoke II recorded 3-1 wins over Avenue IV and Warsash III, respectively.
Credit went to Luke Bridge, Darren Harris, Bryan Wiggins and James Crook who were on court for nearly three hours fighting out their final rubber – for nothing more than pride.
Avenue duo Wiggins and Crook won it 7-6 in the final set.
Only two matches were played in the ladies’ competition with Stubbington losing 4-0 to Warsash in division two and Rowlands Castle earning promotion with a 4-0 defeat of Alverstoke in division three.
Avenue beat JEM 3-1 in a mixed division two match on Saturday.
The Havant side’s second pair, Richard Steeds and Liz Lim, proved too strong for JEM’s second pair.
Fishbourne played two matches in two days but came away pointless.
First Seacourt and then Canoe Lake kept their division three promotion hopes alive with 4-0 victories.
In division four, Southsea beat fellow promotion hopefuls Ryde Lawn 3-1.
In the men’s midweek masters, Chichester beat Fishbourne but lost to a strong Ryde Lawn, while Lee scraped past Canoe Lake 36-34 on games.
Avenue edged ahead in the race for the ladies’ masters championship with a 3-1 win over Ryde Lawn.
Rowlands Castle surprised leaders Avenue II by beating them 3-1 and opening up a three-way race for the title between these two and Ryde Lawn III.