But while the overall standards might be not quite so high, a lot of the most competitive tennis is played lower down the divisions, writes ALAN BEST.
This is particularly the case when a smaller club meets a team from one of the bigger clubs as the former is often inspired to “take down” their more illustrious opponents.
That’s certainly what happened in Men’s 2 when the men’s team from Fishbourne – a smallish club with just four courts – took on Lee’s 2nds (Lee’s 1sts having won the first division title in 2019!)
The opening rubbers both went to match tie breaks, with the respective nominated top pairs beating the second strings after a mighty battle. And there was nothing in the first sets of the reverse rubbers, Lee just edging both on a tie break.
Joe Fowling and JJ Bone then took the second set for Fishbourne in their rubber, setting up a nail-biting finish with Chas Earl and Chris Cunningham, but the home pair held their nerve to clinch the match tie break and with it an overall 3-1 success.
The competitive spirit was still with Lee when their midweek mixed masters team entertained Chichester. Once again, the opening rubbers were shared, with Deana Tarrant and Ian Wilkie crucially taking theirs in straight sets.
Chichester ladies took their rubber after a 10-point tie break, leaving the match to be decided by the men v men’s rubber. Nigel Marks and Rick Hellaby took the first set 7-5 and another set would give them the match. But Ian Wilkie and Trevor Grant fought back to claim the honours after a three-hour marathon.
There were two further 10 set contests in the lower leagues, JEM Tennis ladies sharing the sets and rubbers with Active Academy but claiming the winning draw points by 36 points to 32.
Carlton Green took two crucial tie break wins in the mixed rubbers against Rowlands Castle. The loss of the ladies v ladies rubber was then offset by their men winning in straight sets, securing a win over 10 sets.
Rowlands ladies went on to consolidate the rubber win against Carlton when they took on
neighbours Avenue 4ths in a weekend fixture. Jane Mellor and Debbie Tapley were in sparkling form and didn’t lose a single game in the four sets they played in a comprehensive 4-0 win.
There were similarly convincing wins for Avenue 2nds against Ryde Lawn 2nds in ladies division 2, for Chichester 2nds against JEM Tennis in Men’s 3 and for David Lloyd West End v Warsash 1sts, Ryde Lawn 1sts v Ryde Lawn 2nds and Warsash 2nds v Ryde Mead in midweek matches.
But back to competitive matches. Not a marathon in terms of games played, but one of the best was Ventnor men’s 3-1 win over CourtX 2nds. Ventnor’s Elliott Rugg and Will Bayliss proved to be too strong for both the CourtX pairs, but Rob Fairall and Ryan Anders beat the islanders’ second pair in straight sets before Jack Holmes and David Robertson took the final rubber to a match tie break.
A win would have given them a share of the points, but Ventnor edged it 10-8 for a 3-1 match win.
Chichester’s mixed team scored a similar 3-1 success over Avenue 3rds, while Warsash ladies 2nds beat CourtX 1sts by the same margin.
The matches between Fishbourne men’s 2nds and CourtX 4ths and Lee ladies 3rds and Alverstoke both finished with the rubbers shared 2-2. CourtX claimed the winning draw points in the first, having won 36-28 on games, while Lee’s Sarah Pears and Jen Lake took a crucial set in their losing rubber to Nicky Heyworth and Sue Western, enough to earn the extra point by 5 sets to 4.
To round off the week, Ryde Lawn mixed 3rds eased past Wickham, the latter’s solitary success coming when top pair Janet and Peter Eade won the match tie break against Helen Peak and Stuart Brett.