Late charge not enough to stop Lee wrapping up league title

Jessica Ridge
Jessica Ridge
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JEM Tennis Hamble’s late run to try to displace long-standing front runners, Lee, from the top of Portsmouth & District League men’s division one ended in gallant failure

Needing three points wins from each of their last two matches to snatch the title, JEM managed to overcome Avenue firsts in a titanic struggle, writes Alan Best.

But they could only squeeze two points out of the win, having shared the rubbers 2-2 and gained the victory by the narrowest of margins, one game.

It was veteran second pair, Andy Long and Mark Turl who turned the game JEM’s way.

Not only did they beat Avenue’s Richard Marsden and Doug Galley, they held the strong first pair, James Green and Macca Neaves to a 7-5, 6-2 loss, thus securing enough games to give them the winning draw points.

But Avenue’s efforts in forcing the draw meant that Lee will now be crowned men’s champions – and Solent Cup representatives for 2019 – to match the achievements of their ladies’ team.

Avenue may still have a say in the destination of the second division championship as well.

Two champions tiebreak wins in the reverse rubbers enabled them to edge past Alverstoke in another closely-fought match taking them into second place, hot on the heels of league-leaders Lee seconds.

Other men’s results saw Chichester’s Tony Walsh and Ian McWilliam clinch a vital third set tie break against Avenue thirds, John Huddleston and Ian Marks in division four, tipping the balance their way in a 3-1 win for the Sussex team.

In division five Canoe Lake thirds finished with yet another close encounter when they claimed the winning draw points against Ryde Mead by just two games.

The rubbers were shared 2-2 and the sets 4-4. The result leaves Lake at the top of the division but they can do nothing more than sit back and hope that one of their rivals can hold off Seacourt and prevent them from snatching the title.

Lee have clearly been the dominant force in both the men’s and ladies competitions this winter.

As well as the two championship results mentioned earlier Lee ladies seconds have already claimed the division two title and their 3-1 over Ryde Lawn seconds has left their colleagues, Lee thirds, with a very good chance of taking the runners up position in the same division after they beat Avenue seconds three rubbers to one.

Lower down the divisions Fishbourne ladies gained revenge for their early season defeat by Rowlands Castle, winning by 4-0 this time, a result which killed off Castle’s last chance of promotion but which leaves Fishbourne with an outside chance of securing the runner’s up slot.

Meanwhile champions elect Ryde Mead almost pulled off the result of the season when they entertained Ryde Lawn thirds but could field only one pair.

But that pair, Kirsty Roberts and Carrie Drake, almost managed the impossible task of gaining a draw.

To do so they had to win both the rubbers and they played without dropping a game. They all but achieved it, dropping just one game in each rubber – it was a phenomenal effort.

Ventnor needed to win their final match against Ryde Lawn firsts to snatch a curtailed Mixed division one title from defending champions Warsash.

But Ryde proved to be just a bit too strong for them, winning 3-1, leaving Warsash to retain the title.  

In mixed three, Carlton Green firsts rounded off their season with a comfortable 4-0 win over Southsea, while their second team were also victors, by the same 4-0 scoreline, over near rivals Alverstoke, a result that leaves the division four title wide open with just two matches to play.

Needing all three points to keep their midweek masters one championship challenge on track Ryde Lawn firsts managed it by the finest of margins.

Rick Spink and Lynn Sandy just edged a third set tiebreak against Neil Crawford and Gill Clarke in the firsts v firsts mixed rubber to give them the vital extra point.

Long-time league-leaders David Lloyd West End now have to rely on Wellow beating Ryde in the last match.

And in a week of very close results, Fishbourne and Ryde Lawn ladies firsts fought out another thriller in the midweek master’s division one.

Katy Bracher and Priscilla Pendle eventually won a crucial third set tiebreak to give Fishbourne the winning draw points.

But that may not quite be enough to prevent Avenue firsts snatching the title from them.

Meanwhile, Ian Cameron, president at the Avenue, presented a cheque for £500 to Jessica Ridge, the community fundraiser for The Rainbow Centre, the club’s nominated charity of 2018. 

Funds were raised by club members through two bank holiday charity tennis tournaments, a Christmas Raffle, a Summer BBQ and loose change collected in a charity barrel located on the club bar.

Kim McCormick, bar manager, thanked everyone who contributed to the fund, either by donation or by giving up their time to help run the events.