Portsmouth & District Tennis League round-up – remarkable reunion for Ryde player Ron in midweek Masters

Some six and a half years ago your correspondent was in an empty house, waiting for a meter reader before vacating, discussing with a friend the idea of setting up a league to play tennis midweek.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 9:31 am
Stubbington v Rowlands Castle 2nds. From left - Maureen Parker, Karen McCulloch, Jean Carty, Jane Mellor, Tracy Castle, Diana Gray. Kneeling - Sandra Turner, Lisa Giles

Two minutes later, the phone went. It was Michael Isaacs, secretary of the weekend tennis leagues, and the conversation went something like this: ‘Karen and I have been discussing the idea of setting up some midweek tennis leagues….’

And that is how the midweek Masters (i.e., slightly older players!) leagues were formed, writes ALAN BEST.

Just 14 teams entered in that first season; now there are 34 teams competing in a total of 125 matches. That equates to around 1,000 playing opportunities which did not exist prior to that March day in 2015.

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Ryde Lawn v Wellow. From left - Ron Sleap, Rita Hampson, David Cartwright, Lynn Sandy, Sarah Hill, Laura Doddington, Graham Wallis and Richard Millars

Masters tennis may be slightly slower than that played in the top leagues at weekends, but what is lost in speed and agility is more often than not made up through guile and cunning. And midweek tennis produces some heart-warming stories as well as thrilling matches.

Ron Sleap plays for Ryde Mead mixed masters 1, and has been a member there for many years. Last week he was asked to play with a new member – so imagine his surprise when he walked on court to play with David Cartwright, who he had last seen and played with 42 years ago in a county match for Bedfordshire!

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending, as the pair were leading their rubber against Richard Millars and Graham Wallis from Wellow 6-1 5-2 before they lost five games in a row and then the tie break. But their team had still done enough to claim the winning draw points.

CourtX’s Martyn Cox and Betty Corbett were another pair to show the unpredictable nature of midweek tennis. They lost their opening rubber against Ryde Lawn 2 by 0-6 0-6. But, undeterred, they teamed up with other partners for the men’s and ladies rubbers – to win them both, after match tie breaks, taking their team to an unlikely 3-1 victory.

Of course, not all midweek matches are quite so close, but they are always enjoyable. Lee recorded a notable scalp in mixed 1, overcoming David Lloyd West End (DLWE). Their only scare was when DWLE’s men took the first set on a tie break. They could not sustain that effort, though, and Lee recorded a 4-0 win.

Ryde Mead’s encounter with Southsea was also clear cut, at 3-1, though the Southsea ladies showed their men how to do it when they won the all ladies rubber 6-1 6-1.

Fishbourne rounded off the mixed midweek fixtures with a 3-1 win over perennial front-runners Avenue 2. The mixed rubbers were shared but Bill Cove and Gerry Savage overcame Graham Cotterill and Mark Fullstone 6-4 6-1 before Sue Groves and Sandra Reidel took a three-set victory over Sarah Long and Dawn Wears to seal the win.

Both Warsash teams were in action in the men’s masters leagues, but neither were able to claim a victory, the 1sts going down 0-4 to Avenue and the 2nds 1-3 to CourtX.

The men’s match between Glethorn and Lee was much closer. The rubbers were shared 2-2, but Glethorn edged the winning draw points thanks to a set that Nigel Hollowell and Martin Webster won in their losing rubber to Paul Baskerville and Nigel Crane.

Rain ruined all but one of Saturday’s fixtures, and even the Stubbington v Rowlands Castle 2nds game was abandoned after the first round of rubbers when the already wet courts became unplayable after another downpour. The match was evenly poised at one rubber each.

Much improved weather for Sunday saw the mixed league programme get under way with Lee 1sts losing their Division 1 match against Warsash, but Lee 2nds winning the Division 2 clash with Avenue 3rds. Avenue 2nds overcame Warsash 2nds.

JEM Tennis opened their account with a comfortable 3-1 win over Ryde Lawn 2nds, while Rowlands Castle edged past Chichester on games count back, having shared the rubbers 2-2 and the sets 5-5.

And finally, after a marathon first rubber in which Laura and Chris Titterington edged past Cressida Williams and Charles Donnelly by 7-6 7-6, Alverstoke defeated Fishbourne 4-0.