Tuesday, 3 December 2013

2013 Neptune British Open - Queen's Club


It's been well over a week since my last Open update. Until today it was a nightmare to type as I could't use both hands but more on that later...

Friday 22nd Nov was my 1st doubles match of the Open. Playing with Kieran Booth we were seeded 4th and our 1st opponents were the 5th seeds in Andrew Lyons and James Male.
It has been over 3 years since KB and I last played doubles together, although when we did we made the Australian Open Doubles Final in Hobart. We weren't sure how we were going to play it and decided to see how the 1st set went with playing server up (covering the galleries). Safe to say that it didn't quite go well. The 1st set disappeared in a flash losing it 2/6.

For the start of the 2nd set we decided for KB to play back and for me to play up covering the galleries. This worked almost immediately as KB was as solid as a rock at the back and this allowed me to pick off a few volleys for winners. From the Hazard end we decided to play as much as we could on the floor to Andrew because he defended so many of our forces in the 1st set and with this we had more opportunities to pick off galleries and get back to the service end. I also let rip on a couple of trademark B/H forces of which James did well to get out of the way of the 1st one. The 2nd and 3rd sets came our way 6/1 6/2 to lead 2-1 in sets.

The 3rd set continued in the same manner going 4/0 up then 5/2. We both got a bit too excited and with that got a bit loose which enabled Andrew and James to take a few games but leading 5/4 we knew we didn't want to play a 5th set and took the last game to love to win in 4 sets 2/6 6/1 6/2 6/4.

Sunday 24th Nov a doubles Semi Final, my 1st British Open Semi Final, It lasted all of 5 mins! going down in the 3rd game with a dislocated left shoulder.

We were at the Hazard end, I moved up the court to defend the Winning gallery when the ball was boasted off the Main wall behind me. As KB went screaming across the court to retrieve it I ducked out of the way and as I put my hands on the floor the palm of my left hand just slipped straight off the surface and I crashed forward onto my chest.
As soon as it happened I knew it was bad, when someone asked me if I was OK the 1st thing I said was that I think I've dislocated my shoulder. As I've done my first aid I knew that the best thing was not to move until the Ambulance arrived so I was kept warm with blankets and towels.
I was wearing a very tight thermal compression top under my t-shirts and when the paramedic said that he wasn't sure it was dislocated and asked if he could cut my t-shirts off. As he cut the compression top off I almost went through the roof as the top was basically keeping it together.
I was taken to the Hospital and had to wait until having an X-ray before the doctors could put my shoulder back in. I was in a lot of pain so was given pain relief in the way of a gas that I sucked in through a mouthpiece. It was pretty strong stuff and I remember telling Carly that it tasted like a rum and coke... Finally after just over 2 hours I was sedated and my shoulder put back in.

I'm due to go back to the Hospital on Thursday 5th Dec to have a check up with a shoulder specialist in the fracture clinic and will hopefully get the all clear to start my rehab. It is pretty unlikely that I'll be able to play in the Australian Open 6-14 Jan which is very disappointing! To miss a tournament through injury is always disappointing but to miss my home Open in Melbourne is doubly disappointing.

A big thank you to all those that helped look after me when it happened and to those who have text, emailed or called.


Friday, 22 November 2013

2013 Neptune British Open - Queen's Club


Yesterday was a tough day at the office, well court... It was quarter final day at the Open one of the biggest days on our tennis calendar and I was up against Tim Chisholm the number 4 seed in this years Open as the number 8 seed myself it was probably my best opportunity to date to make a British Open semi final.

Unfortunately I was up against Tim Chisholm one of the cleanest strikers of a Real Tennis ball the game has ever seen! I went into the match with good confidence after Tuesday's promising performance.

I started the 1st set well trying to keep the ball on the floor and make the ageing body of Tim to twist and turn in the corners. We went game for game and I was feeling good about the way the match was going, this was until Tim decided he'd had enough of the rallying and decided to become almost impossible to serve to. I was serving a mixture of Demi Piques and heavily cut side walls from around the last gallery half way between the middle court line and the main wall. But Tim found his range and started forcing for the Dedans of the volley. All of a sudden the 1st set had disappeared 3/6.

The 2nd set was also disappearing quickly and found myself 0/4 down not only was Tim returning so well but his choice of high serve was unplayable at times. I was now making some errors they would go down as unforced errors on a stats sheet but the perceived pressure Tim was placing on me made some of the errors as forced errors. At 0/4 down I decided it was time for a new serve and went to a high serve of my own. This allowed me to get back into some points and it felt like it was back to the start of the 1st set where we were going point for point. Tim still hit a few Dedans of the return but no where as many as the previous 7 games. I couldn't stop Tim taking the 2nd set but felt I was back into a rhythm. 2/6 and 0-2 down in sets.

Things just weren't going my way, a number of times I missed the Grille or Dedans by inches which at this level hurts and hurts bad as a player of Tim's standard makes you pay. I found myself 0/3 down but was playing some decent tennis. All night I had lost a number of deuce games and this continued in the 3rd set. I fought back to 2/3 and had a couple of game points for 3/3 but just couldn't capitalise. Tim went 2/4 up but I kept plugging away and trying to stay in the match but I couldn't stop Tim often enough to win enough games to really push him. 3/6 2/6 2/6

Although disappointed to have lost, there are some promising things to come out of this match. Josh filmed the 2nd and 3rd sets and I have watched the footage after arriving home. I will keep working at my game and keep trying to chase these guys in front of me in the rankings.

Next up is doubles today at 2pm. Kieran Booth is my partner and we're very much looking forward to our 1st round against James Male and Andrew Lyons. Quite interestingly, for anyone who has seen these two guys play will have noticed that both players are ambidextrous with Andrew playing two F/H's right and left handed and James playing double handed both sides so effectively playing a right and left handed B/H. James was also World Rackets Champion between 1988-99 so has one hell of an eye for a ball so should make for a very fun doubles match.



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

2013 Neptune British Open - Queen's Club


Yesterday Tuesday 19th was my 1st match in the 2013 British Open Championships. As a seeded player (#8) for the 1st time at a British Open I was at a small disadvantage due to the fact my 1st opponent Conor Medlow the 9th best player in the draw had already played two competitive matches, A singles on Sunday and a doubles on Monday. It doesn't sound like much and of course I had 6 hours of practice late last week at Queen's but practicing and competing is a very different thing.

Due to this I knew that I had to come out of the blocks early and hit the scoreboard. The other problem associated with playing young Conor (I can say young as he is 21 and I'm the ripe old age of 28...) is that he is left handed, He is as deadly as anything if he is able to take the return of serve on his F/H so getting him to return on the B/H was of great importance.
Going into the match, plan A was to try and serve a railroad to get him either volleying the return or scrapping the ball off the side wall on the B/H but as I served my 1st few railroads I quickly realised this just wasn't the serve tonight as it wasn't kicking back and he could turn on each serve and have a free shot at the Dedans. Plan B was to serve a side wall serve from mid court that forced him onto the B/H volley return which paid dividends almost immediately as I raced out to a 4/1 lead in the 1st set. This was after getting smashed on the bridge of the nose from a Conor force that ricocheted off the bandeau above the Dedans on the 2nd point of the match.
Conor then strung a few games together and after having a game point on a Hazard Chase which which have meant i was 5/1 up we were now locked at 4 all in the 1st set. I really had to dig deep as I didn't want to let this 1st set go. It is exactly what I did and I took the 1st set 6/4.

After taking the important 1st set I lost my way a little bit and when one losses discipline in shot selection and game plan this game has a habit of biting you on the backside, throw in a talented guy who can hit plenty of Grilles and Dedans and all of a sudden the 2nd set disappears. 2/6, One set all and game on.

After a loo break and change of shirt it was time to get back to it. I had prepared my body for 5 hours of tennis if that's what it was going to take and knew that I had to trust in my game a little more and tried to lengthen out the points by keeping it on the floor. I started the 3rd set well and leading 2/1 we had a marathon 4th game which I reckon is the longest single game I've ever played. I've been told it went on for 23 minutes and after exchanging game points and lots of chases I was able to take the game. The loss of this game must of hurt him because the next 3 games came fairly quickly as I took the 3rd set for a 2-1 lead 6/1.

I continued on this run of games, I had also found another good serve that was limiting him to B/H volley returns basically a shortish under arm twist again using the side wall. I managed to get out to 5/0 lead before he made a mini charge of which saw him have 2 game points to get to 5/2 but I was able to stop him doing so and take the match in 4 sets. 6/4 2/6 6/1 6/1

This sets up a Quarter final on Thursday 21st at 4pm most likely against Tim Chisholm (#4) who plays another youngster in Frenchman Matthieu Sarlangue on Wednesday.

It was great to see a number of RTC faces at Queen's to cheer me on whilst having a few frothys.... There was even an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie at one point.


Chris ('The Chappers')

Sunday, 17 November 2013

2013 Neptune British Open - Queen's Club


Today sees the start of the 2013 Neptune British Open held at the Queen's Club in London. 5 singles matches kick off this years Open today Sunday 17th November and finishes with the Doubles final on Tuesday 26th.

This is my 5th British Open and the 1st time I'm not playing on the 1st Sunday as it's the 1st time I've been seeded for the Open at number 8. Seedings are Rob Fahey (1), Steve Virgona (2), Bryn Sayers (3), Tim Chisholm (4), Ben Matthews (5), Kieran Booth (6), Ricardo Smith (7) and myself.

I'm due to play the winner of the talented amateur Conor Medlow h'cap 0 and Queen's Club pro Andrew Fowler h'cap 5 on Tuesday 19th 5pm. Tim Chisholm is in my Quarter and Steve Virgona in the same half of the draw as myself, so I will be looking to get my game face on come Tuesday and put in a good performance to give my self every opportunity to win the match and progress through the tournament.

In this year's Open Doubles I'm partnering fellow Aussie and number 1 amateur in the world Kieran Booth. we've been seeded at number 4. The other seeds are Fahey/Virgona (1), Sayers/Chisholm (2), Matthews/Smith (3), Chapman/Booth (4), A Lyons/J Male (5) and J Lumley/Medlow (6). The top 4 seeds are seeded through to the quarter finals where we are most likely to meet Lyons/Male on Friday 22nd 2pm into Sayers/Chisholm in a semi final Sunday 24th also at 2pm.

Draws are placed in the office and the new notice board near the Dedans door and we'll be keeping them updated.

Hope to see some friendly faces at Queen's during the week for some support and if you do please always make some noise....



Sunday, 10 November 2013

Playbrave Super Series


Friday 1st November saw the second instalment of the Playbrave Super Series being hosted by Leamington Real Tennis club, played in front of a very healthy crowd.

I was first on court taking on world number 4 Bryn Sayers. I had started a little slowly to say the least... I was 0/4 down before I knew it and knew that if I didn't turn it around the match (a 10 game set) could be over before long! At that stage I knew I needed to keep the ball in play and make sure I at least made Bryn hit some winners, at this same point the crowd really got behind me as a few quid was potentially changing hands due to some friendly wagers. I took the game to be 1/4 and the roof including the penthouse's nearly lifted off the court... I was now really getting into the match and started hitting the ball a lot cleaner and was able to string a number of good games together and found myself 7/6 up at which point a question from the dedans 'were you hustling us at 0/4 down?'
Bryn found another gear and took 3 games in a row and I now trailed 7/9 and rallied again closing the gap to 8/9 but unfortunately went down in a close match 8/10.

Next up was Ben Matthews v Ricardo Smith. Ricardo had mentioned upon arriving in Leamington that he can't remember the last time he was this far north of Essex... He played like he didn't quite know where he was losing 10/1 to Ben in double quick time!

To finish off the night we played an exhibition doubles where I partnered up with Bryn Sayers against Ben and Ricardo. We had plenty of fun rallies and the crowd absolutely loved it from the reaction we got after most rallies and then following the last point.

A big thank you to the Leamington club for hosting the 2nd evening of the PlayBrave Super Series. It was a very fun evening and looking forward already to the next time I get to play again at the club.

The next Super Series is on the 6th December at Moreton Morrell following the British Open at Queen's Club which starts in only a week.



Friday, 1 November 2013

Quick tennis update


Tonight Friday 1st November sees the 2nd instalment of the super series. Tonight's venue is Leamington and we look forward to entertaining the locals this evening. 
I face Bryn Sayers in my singles match, Ben Matthews faces Ricardo Smith in a 10 game set before we play an exhibition doubles. 
Ben currently sits in top of the standings by game difference to Ricardo with Bryn 3rd and myself looking to get off the foot of the table. It should be a great evening. 

On another note the draw for the British Open singles and doubles has been completed. On a personal note I've been seeded 8th in the singles and due to face the winner of talented Conor Medlow and the experience of fellow Aussie big red Andrew Fowler on Tuesday 19th 5pm at the Queen's club. 
Doubles sees me partnering Kieran Booth again a fellow Aussie who is world number 6 and a very solid doubles player. We've been seeded 4th and due to most likely face Andrew Lyons and James Male in our opening round of the quarter finals. 
Draws can be found on the IRTPA website and there will be draws on the notice boards early next week. 


Monday, 21 October 2013

IRTPA Championships 2013 - Manchester


I always enjoy going up to Manchester for the IRTPA Championships. I'm not quite sure why... It's always grey, dark, wet and windy!
I think it's partly 1) the great old club Manchester is 2) how they do come to support the tennis being played on their court and 3) that even though it's a home tournament for the UK based players everyone is around the club as if away in NYC or Melbourne.

This year was going to be quite a strong tournament with myself being the 6th of 8 seeds but due to Bryn Sayers and Ricardo Smith pulling out injured I was reshuffled into Bryn's vacant spot as the number 4 seed.

I took on young Neil Mackenzie (Trainee Pro at Bridport - 10 h'cap) in the 1st round. Much of the 1st set was getting used to the court as I had only 1 hour practice on court the same morning. Neil played well and deserved a close set 6/5 to myself.
The 2nd and 3rd sets saw a slightly more 1 sided match as I had a few too many weapons and experience for young Neil 6/5 6/2 6/2.

My Quarter final opponent was another young guy who has improved greatly this year improving some 4-6 points down to a 2 handicap, Darren Long (Assistant Pro at Canford). Playing Darren was something of an out of body experience feeling like I was playing a mirror image in a way... like myself a squash player who can generate some serious pace and can boast the ball out of any situation.
The 1st set was tight but at 3/3 I was able to dominate the service end and closed the set out. 6/3
The 2nd set had the same scoreline although possibly with a few less errors could of closed out the set sooner but Darren played some great shots but I again kept control of the service end which is the most important part of the game 6/3 and 2-0 in sets.
A little inexperienced young Darren allowed me to take control of the service end and spent what felt like about 98% of the 3rd set up there serving tight railroads. final score 6/3 6/3 6/0

After Saturday's dinner at the club and a day off on the Sunday for which some of it was spent at the Heaton park on the 18 hole pitch and putt golf course with a number of my fellow Professionals with Ex pro golfer Nick Howell taking the title with myself in the silver medal position, I was to face in some what of a deja vù moment playing Rob Fahey for the second time in a week in back to back Semi finals.

Monday was this rematch, I had struggled to cope with Rob's return of serve at Lords a week earlier and this time went into the match with a different serving plan which was to create as much indecision off the penthouse as possible serving fast cut serves rather than high serves. The resulting serves gave me more opportunity to get into some rallies and get Rob on the move and the 1st set quite a harsh scoreline if I don't say so myself. 1/6
2nd set started much more promising as Rob started to serve some railroads of which I was hitting some nice quite volleys and Main-wall dedans in a way fighting fire with fire... at 3/0 to me Rob as all good players do was able to change the course of the match by now serving some unplayable caterpillar serves. I couldn't do too much about Rob winning 10 games on the bounce to lose the 2nd set 3/6 and go 0/4 down in the 3rd set. Finally Rob's serve was no less effective which I was able to get some better returns in and forced my way back to 4/4 with 4 games on the bounce to myself. It was short lived to a certain degree as I'm sure Rob had spent long enough on court and did not want to be forced into a 4th set and put the foot down and took the 3rd to take the match 1/6 3/6 4/6.
A better showing than last weeks European Open Semi final but still disappointing to a certain degree not being able to pinch that set I'm chasing to start getting my foot in the door.

Rob went on to face Camden Riviere in the final after he defeated Ben Matthews in also a rematch of the other European Open Semi final. Camden went on to defeat Rob in a tough 4 setter.

The next tournament is the biggest tournament of the year the Neptune British Open at Queen's 17-16 November - the draw to be out any day..



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

European Open 2013 - MCC

Well last night didn't quite go so good. Taking on the best player to have ever picked up a racket in our crazy game in a Semi Final of the European Open. Rob Fahey was awesome last night and try as I might I couldn't find a way to stop him and make things easier for me.

Funnily enough I felt more nervous for my 1st match against Jon Dawes on Sunday as I did last night. I think it was the fact I was generally looking forward to the challenge of taking on Rob in front of a healthy crowd. It didn't start so good. I knew I had to stay away as much as possible from his big return's, my 1st serve a high serve of which he fizzed a cut volley and couldn't believe how much it moved in the air and kicked off the floor as I understandably miss timed it into the net. I then double faulted on the 2nd point and before I knew it the set was lost 0/6 and other than those 1st two points I didn't feel I did much wrong.

With how well and relentless the hitting was from Rob - hitting dedans after dedans after dedans - I did well to weather the storm a little better in the 2nd set and was able to keep my chin up as much as I could. I plugged away and after looking back feel I did well to win a few games, 3/6 and two sets down.

Unfortunately Rob was on a mission! And after taking the 1st game and should've/could've taken the 2nd game of the 3rd set it was again one way traffic. I've never experienced relentless hitting like I was forced to try and deal with tonight. 1/6 and the match was done. I also reckon for every dedans Rob hit I hit a bandeau - above the grille, the dedans and the galleries - as I just couldn't take a trick tonight.

Rob in ominous form will now take on Camden after he managed to out tussle Ben Matthews in a tight 4 setter. Final to be played Wednesday 9th October.

I now move on, lick my wounds and prepare my mind and body for a new tournament and thankfully a new opponent in Andrew Fowler Thursday 10th October at 2pm in Manchester for the 1st round of the IRTPA Championships.

Stay tuned...


Monday, 7 October 2013

European Open 2013 - MCC

This weekend 5th/6th October saw the start of the European Open at MCC. An 8 man draw which sees the top 7 enter straight into the main draw and the next 4 to fight for the one qualifying position.
I was due to face Bryn Sayers (3) in the 1st round/Quarter Final but he was forced to pull out of the tournament with an injury which opened up the draw a little for me as the winner of the qualifying position was pitted to play myself and the runner-up of the qualifying to face Camden Riviere (2).

So my new opponent is the very consistent Jonathan Dawes Head Pro at Hatfield House. A very solid player who recently won the Category A 0-9 tournament at Oxford. Playing off a handicap of 0.5, it wasn't a full gone conclusion by any stretch. He defeated David Woodman (4) in last year’s European Open on the same court.

The 1st set was going to plan pulling away to a 5/2 lead. At about this time I was really feeling comfortable on the court. Although I wasn't forcing very well I was reading the court and playing the court well. The court at MCC is a very lively court and one tends to play the court well when almost anticipating something weird, as soon as you relax even the simplest of things feel like they surprise you. My return of serve all of a sudden wasn't as potent and was I miss hitting and making un necessary errors and Jon almost made me pay. He drew level at 5/5 and took 0-40, I was able to hit 1st gallery after being pinned to the hazard end for far too long. I defended the chase. Jon got himself a chase which I was very lucky to win. We swapped again after I hit 1st gallery at 30-40. A good serve and another well defended chase to take it do deuce and won the following points to take the 1st set 6/5.
We traded games at the start of the 2nd set, I did well to stop Jon going ahead 2/4 and leveled at 3/3 and was able to take the next 3 games as well to take the set 6/3 a commanding 2-0 lead.

I raced to a 4-0 lead before Jon cramped but even he admitted there was too much to do as I took the remaining games to take the set 6/0 and the match 3-0 which I would of taken at the start of the match. I didn't play my best tennis but Jon is a tough player and very happy to win through to the Semi Final of the tournament and now due to face the World Champion Rob Fahey this afternoon Monday 7th at 4pm. The other Semi is Camden Riviere vs Ben Matthews which is a rematch of last year’s semi final where Ben almost took Camden the distance in a very good match.

Will keep you posted.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

World Doubles Championship 2013 - Paris


My partner for the 2013 WD Championships was Rich Smith, Head Pro at Newport Rhode Island.
As in my singles we missed out on being the last seed (4 seeded for the WD) and was dealt a tough hand... Drawn to play against the number two seeds Camden Rivière and Tim Chisholm. This was the first time Rich and I had partnered each other in a doubles event. The same can't be said for Cam and Tim as they've won at least a handful of Open doubles championships.

It didn't stop us getting out there and having a bit of fun against very good opponents. We started strongly racing to a 2/0 lead before they got the better of us and ran away with the set, temporarily stalling them getting our 3rd game to stop the rot at 3/5 before losing the 1st set 3/6. We felt we'd played some pretty good doubles but Cam was having a field day hitting winners at will. 
We again were having trouble winning points at the start of the second set. Cam and Tim again, hugely of the racket of Cam, raced to a 1/4 lead before we finally tried our hardest to keep Cam out of the play. We were now trying to hit to Tim at almost every opportunity (no disrespect as Tim is a great player and had beaten Bryn in the quarter finals and was due to face Cam the following day in the semi final) and we had results almost immediately as we clawed back to 4/4 before losing two close games to fall behind 0-2 in sets.
We now had some momentum and we took it and ran racing to a 5/2 lead in the 3rd set having more luck winning points at the hazard end with both of us forcing well. Cam and Tim definitely didn't want to be forced into a 4th set by two guys ranked quite a few places below them and that's exactly what we did. Taking the 3rd set 6/5 after being forced to win a deuce game at 5/5 which was very exciting.
Although we couldn't find the same rhythm and we couldn't stop Cam and Tim taking the 4th set 0/6 to put up a very good fight going down 3/6 4/6 6/5 0/6.

On a personal note I was dealt a tough draw in the French Open singles drawing number 3 seed Steve Virgona and drawn against the number 2 seeds in the World doubles. Matches in the past have been easy(ish) wins for opponents of that quality. I/we taking a set in each match against such tough opponents.

I now move my attention onto the European Open at MCC on Sunday 6th October at 1pm where I face Bryn Sayers in the 1st round which is a repeat of last years tournament. I will be looking to add to my performances here in Paris. Following the European we head straight up to Manchester for the IRTPA Championships where I have been seeded 6th and face fellow aussie Andrew Fowler on Thursday 10th October at 2pm. Draws for the upcoming tournaments can be found at www.irtpa.com


Saturday, 14 September 2013

French Open singles 2013 - Paris


And we're off and running into another my 4th season since moving to the UK. Kicking off with the Super Series at the start of the week I travelled to Paris the following day Tuesday 10th.

I got straight into some practice and before playing my 1st match I had been able to get 5 hours on the very bouncy Paris court.

My draw just about couldn't be any harder whilst just missing out on being seeded at number 8 by 1 place I was drawn to play number 3 seed Steve Virgona. 
A challenge to say the least but I also had some unfinished business here at Paris against Steve. Two years ago, the last time I played on this court and against Steve, I was chasing as I am now to win a set off one of the top 5 players in the world. Two years ago I found myself with 3 set points in the 3rd set only to stretch into the F/H corner at the service end on the 3rd of said set points to tear my hamstring and end the match right then and there.

Last night Friday 13th non the least I went on court at 6pm to face Steve. I went in with a game plan which I've become more attentive to planning for. 
I couldn't of started better suffocating Steve with my railroad and playing a very smart floor game only going for a target when it was the obvious shot and having great success. I had a number of 'lucky' flush backwalls but I believe in sport especially when you're playing positively and playing well you make you're own luck. I took the 1st set 6/1 in quite quick time. I started the 2nd set strongly and went 3/2 up although Steve was now starting to respond as good players do. I had my chances in so many games but couldn't take them as you have to when playing at the top level. 3/6 and 1 set all. I kept at my game plan and again had chances to win games but couldn't capitalise. I was having the most trouble all match on keeping down the service end with Steve happy to hit a gallery on the 1st loose ball off my racket. 3/6 and down 1-2 in sets. Steve really got a head of steam and I panicked in few rallies and gave him time and space to hit a number of Grilles and Dedans and when Steve is up and running few can stop him. 6/1 3/6 3/6 0/6

A lot of positives to be taken out of this match! being able to take a set 6/1 off a player of Steve's calibre is no mean feet. It took him until the 4th set and after two hours of tennis for him to have it the way he would of wanted from the outset.

Doubles is next up on Monday 16th at 6pm which is actually the World Doubles Championship rather than the French open doubles. My partner is Rich Smith from Newport plays off about a 2 handicap and again we have missed out on being seeded 4th by 1 place with only 4 seeds in a 8 team draw and have been unlucky being drawn against the very tough pairing of Camden Rivière and Tim Chisholm. The 1st time Rich and I have partnered up and look forward to the challenge of taking on two great players.



Playbrave Super Series


It has been a while since my last update. Between the completion of the British Challenge and now I have been away in Australia for two weeks for my little sisters wedding - Which was an amazing day! I along with dad walked her down the aisle and I also made a speech at the reception. 
We at RTC said good by to the 'King'. Stef will be missed by many and I personally hope that his move into teaching is a successful one. We have since said hello to Josh Smith who has come in as a trainee Pro which has meant I've moved into Stef's shoes (and vacated apartment) as senior Pro. Josh is a very good acquisition to the team at RTC and I hope he enjoys working in the game of Real Tennis for many years to come.

Now about the title 'Playbrave Super Series'.
Is an exciting new concept dreamt up by the ever forward thinking Ben Matthews. Ben and I played as a team sponsored by The Dedanists a few season's back in the Premier Division offering our home matches to other clubs to try and give the game of Real Tennis some exposure to clubs who don't get to see top line tennis. We played our home matches at RTC, Manchester, Moreton Morrell and Bridport.
With crowd support down at every club other than RTC for the Premier Division and the usual suspects less keen on the idea of playing National League and a few young guys still a little time from playing Premier Division Ben has come up with Playbrave Super Series.
The top 4 tournament playing Pro's currently in the UK (minus Rob Fahey) representing ourselves and offering out the matches to all clubs in a similar way as mentioned by Ben and I as The Dedanists.
Bryn Sayers, Ben Matthews, Ricardo Smith and myself are the 4 players and on any given night there will be two 10 game set singles matches and a doubles but only the singles counting towards the overall prize.
Playbrave is the same brand that supported the British Challenge back in June and I thank them for their new and ongoing support of Real Tennis.

The 1st of these nights was held at Prested Hall on Monday 9th September. I kicked off proceedings against Ben in a tight tussle with Ben just getting his nose in front and taking the match 6/10. It's by far the best I've played on the strange Prested Hall glass backwalled court and first outing for the season so was very happy to blow out the cobwebs.
Next up was Ricardo taking on Bryn in an exciting match in front of Ricardo's loyal supporters who made a lot of noise when there boy went 6/2 up and held on to win 10/9. 
Bryn and I teamed up for the doubles to take on Ben/Ricardo in what felt like a very entertaining doubles with them just pipping us 10/7.
In the spirit of history of our great game I do believe at least for the singles there were a few wages placed by a select few of the vocal crowd.... 

The next match in the Playbrave Super Series is to be held at Leamington on the 1st November. A list of the confirmed dates can be found via the National League website at realtools.biz



Thursday, 4 July 2013

2013 British Challenge - Middlesex Uni



Day 1 Tuesday 25th June, sets 1-4 - 2/6 2/6 3/6 2/6
I came up against a guy playing the best tennis of his life. After defeating Ricardo in our last two meetings I probably didn't pay enough respect to the fact that he took out last year's British Open Champion Bryn Sayers in the Semi Final.
My game plan was to get Ricardo on the move getting him changing direction. But he was more than ready for my boasting and when I did boast the ball back to his B/H side from the Hazard end he made the Grille look and feel the size of the Dedans. I was also trying to serve one bounce Railroads but the newer balls didn't really help me out much and he was able to hit plenty of Dedans. I lost my line and length while also making a few errors and all 4 sets were lost and very very much on the back foot. I kept battling hard as the sets tumbled by but on this day Ricardo was just too good.
I did for the 1st time in my career hit a bounce winning gallery from close to the net which put a smile on my face and a very loud cheer from the spectators.

The great thing about playing a best of 13 set match is that even though Day 1 didn't go to plan in a normal best of 5 final it would be all over and the title lost. In this format I've had the chance to look at a couple of things and also to some degree put them into practice by having a 2 hour hit at Middlesex on Wednesday. Mostly working on using my cut volley return to better effect. What makes this game so complicated is that for me to make the court wider you need to hit straighter... As in when hitting the cut volley return to the F/H corner instead of hitting the sidewall 1st which actually brings the ball back towards the middle of the court giving your opponent less work to do, I straightened my cut volley up so that I was aiming for floor-backwall-sidewall making the opponent run all the way across the court to the opposite wall.

Day 2 Thursday 27th, Sets 5-8 - 6/0 3/6 4/6 6/5
I came out off the blocks and played the best single set of tennis of my career, taking it by strong play and executing my game plan perfectly. My cut volley was making him work a lot harder which meant that he wasn't able to hit quite so many winning openings, I also didn't boast anywhere near as much as in the 1st days play. I tried my hardest to keep it going even winning the 1st game of the 6th set but unfortunately try as you might you can't control what your opponent does. Ricardo almost instantly found a way to get back into his stride from day 1. I kept to the game plan and even though the 6th and 7th sets didn't go my way I felt like they could've if a couple of things went my way. Margins when playing at this level are so small. A missed Grille by an inch here an inch there, a loss of a chase by half a yard and so on. Now the challenge was to send it into a 3rd day as I trailed 1/6 in sets and Ricardo was only one set away from winning the match, a match that for me was very winnable going into the 1st day's play. That's exactly what I managed to do. In a very tight 8th set in which I was forced to save a match point 4/5 30-40 down from the Hazard end and a chase 3&4. I hit a ripping cut volley half a ball stitch above the net cord and way out of reach from a lunging Ricardo. I went on to win the next two points and the 5/5 game to 15 to end the days play at 2 sets all.

The rest day between the 2nd and 3rd days play was used very much for recovery. I had an ice bath after getting home the night before and again 1st thing friday morning as well as friday afternoon. I kept trying to draw inspiration from the 2002 World Championship match where Tim Chisholm trailed Rob Fahey 2-6 in sets going into day 3, Tim won the first 4 sets of day 3 to send the match into a deciding 13th set but it wasn't to be as Rob held on and continued his stranglehold on the WC title. I prepared my body and mind as much as I could in order to play all 5 sets required to win.

Day 3 Saturday 29th June - 3/6
As much as I could I tried to completely forget about the scoreline and take as the cliche goes, one point at a time but it just wasn't easy. In the back of your mind somewhere you're aware of the scoreline and the knowledge that Ricardo only needed to win a single set to claim the title. With that pressure and nerves my ball striking just didn't quite feel right and after scrapping a little to 3/3 Ricardo was able to win the required 3 games and take the title.

Quite disappointed at the time but I have to remember I have played some really good tennis this tournament. A gutsy, hard earned victory over Tom Durack from 1-2 down in sets and also a really solid and mentally tough Semi Final victory over Ben Matthews 6/5 6/5 6/5. I feel I've gained a great deal of experience playing in my 1st best of 13 set match which will stand me in good stead next time, hopefully in a WC Eliminator or WC Challenge match.

The tournament was supported by Play Brave a new (ish) clothing brand who supplied some tennis kit for each of the players. I have to say that the polo shirt which I wore in each of my matches is the comfiest shirt I've ever worn.

Last but not least big thank you to a handful of RTC members that made the journey up to North London to show their support during the Tournament and a special mention to my Fiancee Carly who looked after me during the long couple of weeks.



A few pics taken by Carly

Monday, 24 June 2013

2013 British Challenge - Middlesex Uni


Well... I have managed to make it through to my 1st big (ish) final with my 1st victory in a tournament over Ben Matthews. Before this season I hadn't even taken a set off Ben and I also now have two wins in National League.
Friday's match in the very warm and muggy conditions at Middlesex Uni was won by the closest of margins... A victory over the number two seed 6/5 6/5 6/5

Ben is always a tough competitor but I was able to keep my nose in front leading 5/3 in both the 1st two sets and out to a 4/2 lead in the 3rd before training 4/5. To close the match, a Semifinal no less, in straight sets was such a satisfying feeling.

Winning 5,5,5 gives me great confidence and if I can stick to the game plan and keep a cool yet focused head then I know my tennis can match it with the top players in the World. The next challenge is a best of 13 World Championship format match against the very talented Ricardo Smith who amazingly enough defeated last year's British Open Champion Bryn Sayers in 4 sets.

The opportunity to play in a World Championship format best of 13 set match is so exciting. It is such a different concept to get your head around. Knowing regardless of how things go on Tuesday, the 1st day's play, we'll come off court after playing 4 sets, stretch, shower and prepare for another 4 sets on Thursday. A very weird concept but as I said such an exciting one.

Not many of the current tournament players have managed to play in a best of 13 set match let alone win one. Rob Fahey obviously the leader of the pack with multiple times defending his WC crown, Steve Virgona has won two best of 13 Final Eliminators against Camden and Bryn to reach the last 2 WC challenge matches against Rob and that possibly only leaves Tim Chisholm having played in a best of 13 also against Rob on a number of occasions. So this will hopefully be great experience for what I hope will be the 1st of many best of 13 matches.

Again it would be great to see some RTC members down supporting because I know Ricardo will be bringing a rowdy Essex crowd from Prested Hall.
Tickets are available via http://www.irtpa.com/upcoming-events/


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

2013 British Challenge - Middlesex Uni


Well last night's (Monday) match against Tom Durack in the quarter final of the Middlesex University British Challenge was one hell of a battle. As I said in my last post I would be happy to get a win and even though I didn't quite play as well as I know I can I had to battle for my life, down 1-2 in sets and 2/3 in the 4th set on a very hot and muggy court, I was able to trust in the work I've been doing off court to get through probably the toughest match of my short career. Winning 6/1 3/6 3/6 6/4 6/2.

Tom to his credit played exceptionally well. I have in the past battled against Tom and for some reason he has a game that doesn't quite suit mine. I stuck to my guns and was able to get through it in the end and boy am I paying for it today.

Thankfully I've got a few days to recover and this Friday the 21st June at 6.30pm I play Ben Matthews in a Semi Final. To recover from a tough match like last night I've been keeping myself hydrated, stretching, using a foam roller as well as having cold baths and wearing compression clothing which helps with circulation, all in order to help aid in the recovery of my muscles that were worked so hard last night.

Draws and Ticket sales can be found at www.irtpa.com or for more information please don't hesitate to speak to myself or the Pro Team at RTC.

It would be great if some RTC members could come and support me this Friday.



Sunday, 16 June 2013

2013 British Challenge - Middlesex Uni


I can't believe it's been a tick over a month since Melbourne and the Aus open.... In that time I've been preparing for the British Challenge starting on Monday 17th June.

A brand new tournament in the calendar, The 2013 Inaugural British Challenge at Middlesex University Real Tennis Club is for the top 8 players that enter but only open to British residents Professional or amateur as well as any UK resident Professionals like myself. The draw contains 3 top 10 players, a handful of experienced players and a talented youngster.

This tournament is like no other! The Quarter and Semi Finals are played over the usual best of 5 sets, The Final however with the backing of the World Champion as well as the International World Championship Committee is being played over the best of 13 set challenge format.

The 1st round is with 8 players straight into quarter finals. (1) Bryn Sayers vs Jon Dawes, (4) Ricardo Smith vs John Lumley, (3) Chris Chapman vs Tom Durack, (2) Ben Matthews vs Matty Ronaldson. 

My first match is at 4pm Monday 17th vs Tom Durack of Petworth/Holyport with a handicap of 1, Tom can be a tricky customer as he is a good retriever he also isn't a massively attacking player so doesn't give away as many loose balls as even higher ranked players. I will be looking to go into this match nice and fresh and be confident in the work I've been doing in the gym to get the job done.

The draw and tickets can be found on the IRTPA website at www.irtpa.com. It would be great to see some familiar faces in the crowd cheering me on.
Finally, all profits from this tournament will be given to Myeloma UK, so please help to do all you can.

A word from the World Champion on what it takes to win a best of 13 set match;
“The physical, mental, emotional, tactical and tennis demands of a best of 13 set match are unlike any other format tennis players compete in. There are no “secret weapons”, no “brilliant night out” that will get you through a best of 13. Whereas you might surprise someone with something on the night of the British Open final, by day 2 of a World Championship match that “weapon” has been worked on and solved, that “brilliance” has faded and you are back to the drawing board. Best of 13 is a true test of tennis, if you have any weakness – it will be found, if you like to play to a strength – it will be taken away from you, it comes down to who has the best all-around game, the strongest body, the strongest mind, the biggest will to win and the nerve to stick with it all. At 2 sets all in a best of 5 matches there are still some questions to be answered and the natural ebbs and flows of a match can decide the outcome. At 6 sets all, in the best of 13 sets, there is nothing left unanswered. It is 2 players looking at each other, looking inside themselves and deciding who has the heart to win from here. There is nothing in Tennis that can compare to this!”


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Aus Open 2013 - Melbourne


Tonight was my Quarter final match up vs number 3 seed Kieran Booth.

It was a really warm day today in Melbourne with the temperature around 25 degrees. The match was at 6.30pm and I had all day to get prepared for the match keeping hydrated and fueled for the match.
I took a wet towel to cool my face and neck as well as a dry towel onto court. I was far less nervous than I was on Monday night for my 1st round match and struck the ball well in the knock up. We got stuck into the 1st set and it could of gone either way with Kieran taking it 6/3. 

I raced away playing probably my best tennis of the match to lead 4/1 in the 2nd set before Kieran rallied back and I just couldn't get a constant length or width on my shots. I especially struggled to hit a good main-wall Dedan and Cut Volley return of serve which added more pressure on other shots and made too many unnecessary unforced errors. I found myself 4/5 down and facing the prospect of going 2 sets to love down in a match I was desperate to win. But was able to grit my teeth and win some clutch points to sneak the 2nd set 6/5.

It was again nip and tuck in the 3rd set but I lost a little momentum and a drop in concentration mid set and I couldn't stop the rot and Kieran took the 3rd 2/6 and I again trailed in sets going down 1-2. 
I was really struggling now with a seriously tight right hamstring after tweaking my lower back on Monday night and I found myself 2/5 down in the 4th. It was up to me to grit my teeth again and got back to 4/5 and was so close to taking it to 5/5 but wasn't able to and Kieran took the match 4/6 in the 4th set and my 4th loss in a row to Kieran which is a little hard to swallow, not only are we mates who compete against each other but a semi final was up for grabs for the winner and would of taken me tantalisingly close to the 100 points required for my official world ranking.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be and it has been a disappointing singles event without playing anywhere near my best after having two great results back in the UK before heading over to Melbourne. But the sun will always come up tomorrow and with that the Doubles event starts for young John Lumley and I against Ballarat Head Pro Brett McFarlane and Prested Hall Assistant Lewis Williams tomorrow Friday 10th at 12pm local time.


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Aus Open 2013 - Melbourne


Well..... 1st match complete. Not my best match by any stretch of the imagination. 

The match was the only one to be played on Monday 6th May in conjunction with the welcoming cocktail party which attracted 90 odd RMTC members. I faced local assistant Pro Nick Howell. I felt good in preparation and while warming up on the squash court at RMTC although the closer the match time drew the more the nerves grew, which isn't too dis-similar to most matches where I do have nervous butterflies but as soon as I walk on court and start hitting up they usually disappear. Last night was slightly different for some unknown reason. I was taking some really good winning form after defeating Ben Matthews and Ricardo Smith in National League. But the nervous feeling never really left my stomach the entire match especially late in the 4th set.

I wasn't quite seeing the ball properly and I put that down to the nerves and potentially still a little jet-lag, but was able to get out to a 4/1 start. Nick played a couple of good games but I took the opening set 6/4. Again I took an early lead in the 2nd again getting to 4/1 before taking the 2nd set 6/3.
I still wasn't quite feeling myself. I had been eating bananas and drinking plenty of water but felt a little shaky like I was low on sugar. The 3rd set was going to script getting to 5/2 40-30 up with a short chase to try and win, during the rest I attempted a backhand boast and just tweaked a little thing in my back which didn't give me too much trouble during points but at this same stage Nick started having a lot of trouble with cramp and was given an injury time-out at 5/3 to me. I mentally shut off a little almost thinking about finishing up this match with only going through one set of strings and onto playing a match potentially against Kieran Booth on Thursday. 

What a big mistake that was. Nick kept fighting and kept cramping which was now causing a break in play after almost every point which really broke up the rhythm and tempo to the match and I fell off the pace that I want to play at to play good tennis. Nick kept hitting winners and because of the constant cramp he kept lacing the ball genuinely straight down the middle of the court. I somehow managed to lose my lead and Nick took the set 5/6 to bring it back to 2 sets to 1.

Nick's cramp continued. He was given another injury time-out which without getting too much into and nothing against Nick personally but a player should never be allowed to have injury time for cramp. It is not an injury it is either lack of preparation for a best of 5 match or dehydration from not taking in enough food and water during the match. During this 2nd injury time he took in some salts which started to have effect as he started to cramp less. I got it into my head that he was about to retire and by this time I had dug myself into a deep hole and lost just about all concentration and was making unnecessary unforced errors and found it hard to serve to him. I always thought I was going to win the match because I didn't travel all the way to Australia as the number 5 seed to lose in the 1st round. I got to a 5/4 lead and it was again mine for the taking. Nick had other ideas and I managed to lose the 4th set also 5/6 to make it 2 sets all...

I raced to a 3/0 lead and his body finally shut down on him and he had to retire. It was unfortunate for Nick as  he was playing the match of his life. I was very relived to say the least. I think its been the best part of 18 months since I played so far below my best tennis. 6/4 6/3 5/6 5/6 3/0 ret

Today I have spent the day having a massage and relaxing at a natural hot springs down on the Mornington Peninsula in preparation for Thursday's match. I have a practice with Mike Happell on Wednesday and have now completely put the 1st round out of my mind.

This weeks Link Pumps Australian Open is being streamed at justin.tv



Friday, 3 May 2013

Aus Open 2013 - Melbourne


As I start this post, I'm currently sitting on flight SQ217 from Singapore to Melbourne heading for this years Link Pumps Australian Open held at my old club the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club.

The two Melbourne courts are very difficult to get used to. They are quicker and livelier than any other court in the world.
I was talking to Rob Fahey the other day before leaving for Melbourne about this very subject. Even he believe's that the Melbourne courts are the toughest of all courts to get familiar with and even though I worked at RMTC for the best part of 2 and a half years I've made sure to book about 6 hours practice before my first match on Monday evening against local Assistant Pro Nick Howell.

On Friday morning 3rd May just over 12 hours after landing I'll be heading down to my old masseur Gary McDonell or as most people on the Mornington Peninsula (south eastern side of Melbourne) know him only by 'Dr Death'. Gary specialises in deep (DEEP) tissue massage and has a tiny little studio in town called Rye (1 and half hours from CBD) and would have a daily schedule that most city masseuses and physio's would be jealous of. Whether you've got a neck problem or ankle trouble his massages always start on the right calf and the pain begins....
In Gary's own words the human body is the greatest of god's creations which runs on blood and oxygen. Hence why he get's in so deep to get blood and oxygen flowing to the muscles. It's something I have done monthly in London but especially after such a long journey to Aus it's key to getting over jet-lag.

I'm very excited to be home in Melbourne for the best part of 2 weeks although it is a strange thing coming back 'Home' more as a visitor, relying on lifts from Mum and Dad to ferry me around.

I will be updating after my matches and Nick and Stef will update the scores on the notice board and in the Pro Office.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

National League 2012/13

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS... Is not only the famous song by Queen but it applies to Nick and I. Representing RTC in the Premier Division National League this season, we have taken the title at home in front of a full house of some 85 people, Defeating Prested Hall 2/1

The 1st match on was the 2nd string singles match up of Nick vs Tom Durack. On paper this match was looking like a very close affair with Nick only ahead on handicap by as little as 1 point, and Tom having a very solid season to date. Nick came out of the blocks the faster of the two and got off to a great start. Nick was really rolling back the years and as I have never seen Nick in his prime I was able to get a glimpse of what it would of looked like. Smooth moving and an even smoother stroke play Nick quickly took the 1st set 6/0 and was not giving Tom a look in. Game by game kept flying by and to the shock of each of the 85 people the match was over! 6/0 6/0....

After a short break for supper the 1st string singles was up next with myself facing Ricardo Smith. Ricardo has been a bit of a bogey player of mine. I hold a 2/1 advantage in tournaments but a 0/2 record in National League with a total of 4 games won in those two matches.
I started at the Hazard end after losing the toss of the racket and subsequently lost the first game in a carbon copy of last weeks match against Ben. I soon took control of the match courtesy of spending the majority of the time down at the service end. Railroad was my choice of serve and was able to get it kicking back nicely. I was able to take the first set after stringing 4 games in a row to grab it 6/2. I was then 2/0 up and to say cruising would not be a true reflection of the match. I was just able to win the most important points. Ricardo then came to his damaging best and was able to start reeling off some devastating winners of his own and a few errors off my racket saw Ricardo leading 3/4 in the second set. It was now my time to dig deep and a change in serve to the Demi Pique was one of the most important decisions I made in the match. I took the match 6/2 6/4 to give RTC the win without needing the doubles.

Again after a short break for the MVP awards for the other National League grades it was time for the doubles. Ricardo showed again why he is in the top handful of doubles players in the world and Tom supported him perfectly as Nick and I went down 6/8. Prested Hall definitely deserved their win in the doubles.

On came everyone for the presentation. Nick and I receiving a bottle of Pol Roger each and most importantly the Premier Division Trophy.

A massive thank you to all the RTC members that watched us win the title on Wednesday night, and any of our other home matches. But a special mention to Richard and Judy Gilbert who watched everyone of our 8 matches this season always sitting in the front row of the Dedans.

The reason I took up Real Tennis was to be a player and travel to tournaments to ply my trade. It always makes it special for me to receive the support of the RTC members whether it be National League or the various tournaments held in the UK.


Thanks to Tim Edwards for the great photo's.