How big an advantage are home courts in the Portsmouth & District Tennis League?

Home advantage is a well-known factor in sports such as football and rugby. The lack of travel, fan support and familiarity with the playing surface all contribute to that advantage. So, does playing at home give an advantage in a tennis match?

Friday, 24th September 2021, 8:34 am
Warsash 3rds v CourtX 3rds (from left): John Fargher, Chris Wynn, Nigel Banton, Syd Quinn, Martyn Cox, Matt Dyson, Robin Ellison, Richard Hebbes

Well, in the Portsmouth & District League travel is not really an advantage – unless you have to go to Ventnor, that is! – and there is rarely more than one man and a dog watching the match, so vocal support doesn’t really come into it, writes ALAN BEST.

But the playing surfaces in tennis vary far more than in most sports. Just five results cards for the 12 matches scheduled have been received, but four of these were played on different surfaces, and this probably influenced the result in three of them.

CourtX play their winter home matches on artificial grass – commonly known as AstroTurf. Warsash usually play on tarmac courts, so when the respective 3rd teams met at the Canoe Lake site, the hosts had an immediate advantage. They used it well, taking the first two rubbers with ease.

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Chichester v Warsash (from left): Jacky Gregory, Martin Troy, Michael Isaacs, Mandy Richardson, Suzanna Troy, Sue Hine, Paul Mansell, Syd Quinn

By the time the reverse rubbers came round, Warsash’s Syd Quinn and Jan Fargher were beginning to get used to the slower, lower bouncing courts and made Martyn Cox and Matt Dyson fight for the final rubber. Ultimately, though, CourtX won 4-0.

CourtX’s mixed masters team were also in action at David Lloyd West End (DLWE) to play on a very fast indoor court. The home team, used to the speed of the court, won the first two rubbers for the loss of just seven games.

DWLE started the second set of rubbers in the same fashion, but by now the CourtX players were beginning to adjust to the speed of the court and their ladies pair, Caroline Hardy and Karen Claeys, recovered from a 1-6 first set drubbing to take the second set and force a match tie break. They lost it, 11-13, but they had restored pride!

The men’s rubber followed a similar pattern. Robin Ellison and Bob Puncher lost the first set 1-6, but led 5-4 in the second only to lose the next three games and with it the rubber. DLWE triumphed 4-0.

Another mixed masters contest took place at Chichester on yet another different surface, this time artificial clay.

Chichester and Avenue are the only clubs in the league with such courts and enjoy a clear advantage over visitors who are unused to the slow, high bouncing courts where spin is a great advantage.

The opening rubbers were shared, the home team’s Sue Hine and Martin Troy outlasting Mandy Richardson and Michael Isaacs in a 6-4, 7-5 marathon while Jacky Gregory and Syd Quinn took the second rubber for Warsash on a match tie break.

The second round of rubbers both went to the home team, though not without a fight from the Warsash men, who fought back from 6-4, 5-2 down to level the second set at 5-5. But they lost the next two games, and with it the rubber and the match 3-1.

A fourth match, a mixed masters one between Wellow and Lee, and a fourth different surface, this time tarmac.

Lee play most of their tennis on Astroturf courts, but here that did not prove to be a disadvantage. The opening rubbers were shared, as often happens. But when the couples split to play the men v men and ladies v ladies rubbers, Lee’s ladies were too strong while the men’s match was the exact opposite way.

That left the match level with two rubbers and four sets each. On games countback, Lee sneaked the winning draw point by just four games.

There was no surface advantage in the final game. Both Denmead and Warsash play on tarmac courts and so this was just a straight test of skill.

Denmead were unable to field their strongest team and, although Aaron Blackman and James Craven fought long and hard in both their rubbers, the Warsash pairings of Martin Wilkinson/ Dan West and Andy Herrod-Taylor/ Max Parr-Daniels won 4-0.