JUNIOR DEVELOPMENT DIVISION 1 – 06.01.18 – DAY 3
LEAD CHANGES HANDS AT THE HALF WAY STAGE
Tandridge A on 15 points led the Division which had split into two after Day 2 of the competition. Darenth A were three points behind, just one ahead of Tandridge B. There were only three points covering the other teams - Cleeve Park A weren’t so far away on nine, Amherst A had seven and South Croydon A six. There were several important matches scheduled so a lively afternoon’s play was expected, and the teams didn’t disappoint.
This round brought a top of the table clash between Darenth A (Henry Morrell/Joshua Tate) and Tandridge A who were without their lead player Jack Coyne, the only unbeaten player in the Division so far. William Ainsworth and Matthew Woodgate teamed up for them instead. There was plenty to play for, every point secured was virtually worth double. Morrell began well against Ainsworth building a good lead in the first game, but Ainsworth pipped him on the post 13-11. The lefthanded Morrell got busy top spinning in game 2 and it paid off so sensibly he stuck to his game plan, cruising to a four game victory. Tate looked a little ring rusty and Woodgate kept him at bay to level. A very close doubles went to Darenth 12-10 in the fifth after Tandridge had led 2-1. Darenth took both the reverse singles to secure four very valuable points.
The match between Cleeve Park A (Devan Vadukul/Callum Ho) and South Croydon A (Dominic Faulkner/Nicolas Ito-Aramendia) contained some high quality play and plenty of interesting rallies to boot. South Croydon were first on the board with Faulkner beating Vadukul in straight games. The next set between Ho and Ito-Aramendia was the best of the day, a five game thriller which drew lots of applause from appreciative spectators. Ho went behind 1-2 but fought back, taking the fourth 13-11 to get to two games all. He got his nose in front in the fifth and managed to stay there, taking it 11-8 to level the match. Cleeve Park got a flying start in the doubles, wobbled a bit in the third but getting home 11-8 in the fourth to go into the lead. Ito-Aramendia and Vadukul had a tremendous duel but Ito-Aramendia held him off 13-11 in the third. So, back to parity and down to Ho and Faulkner to decide the issue. Ho started well and maintained the pressure to make it a 3-2 victory for Cleeve Park A.
Amherst A (Yiannis Papdopoulos/Stein Russell-Jones) began well against Tandridge B (Ryan Bailey/Thomas Byrne) with Papadopoulos holding off Bailey 15-13 in the fourth. Byrne had too much know-how for Russell-Jones who has not been playing that long. Tandridge took the doubles and with it the lead. Papadopoulos challenged Byrne strongly from 0-2 down and levelled at two games all. It was so close in the fifth and Byrne just edged home 11-9. Bailey wrapped it up for Tandridge B with a win against Russell-Jones so it ended as 4-1 to Tandridge B.
At the end of the first half of the season Darenth A had thus pulled level with Tandridge A on 16. Tandridge B were on 15, three ahead of Cleeve Park A. Amherst A and South Croydon A were level on eight points apiece.
The first of the return fixtures come in this Round and often bring with it domestic derbies. There was one here between Tandridge B (Byrne/Bailey) and Tandridge A (Ainsworth/Woodgate). It was a lengthy match with four of the sets requiring a fourth game and the other going the distance. This was to be expected with everyone familiar with their opponents’ styles. The opening sets were shared, Ainsworth defeating Byrne in four and the left hander Bailey chopping his way past Woodgate. The A team just about held the B off 13-11 to win the doubles in four and take the lead. The B, nothing fazed, got their heads down and tried even harder. Byrne levelled the match for them with a four game win over Woodgate so it was down to Bailey and Ainsworth to decide the outcome. There was an interesting clash of styles here as Ainsworth has a very powerful forehand hit and Bailey who anticipates well and can defend. It was a tremendous battle reflected by the scores 11-7, 10-12, 13-11, 10-12, 11-7 to Bailey giving the B bragging rights.
There was an even longer match between South Croydon A (Ito-Aramendia/Faulkner) and Darenth A where Konrad Johnson replaced Tate to partner Morrell. Four of the sets required a deciding game. Johnson had his hands full with Ito-Aramendia from the outset and although Johnson led 2-1, Ito-Aramendia wasn’t giving up and bounced back to take the fourth 13-11. Johnson got out of the blocks fast in the fifth and scorched home 11-4 Another of the many fine sets played came from Faulkner and Morrell. Morrell held the lead, but Faulkner changed tack to take the fourth and scraped home 12-10 in the fifth. The Darenth boys got themselves into a pickle in the doubles and went 0-2 down. Some sensible placements brought them the next two games and they had built up a solid lead at the change round. South Croydon then mounted a charge but were held off 11-9 in the end. Darenth therefore led 2-1 and this became 3-1 with a narrow three game win for Morrell over Ito-Aramendia in the battle of the lefties – 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 just about sums it up. Johnson took a 2-1 lead over Faulkner but then lost his way, retreating from the table. He took up station again in the fifth and it paid off. It therefore finished as 4-1 to Darenth A.
Amherst A (Papadopoulos/Russell-Jones) were finding points hard to come by the Cleeve Park A boys, Vadukul and Ho weren’t feeling very generous post-Christmas and romped away with a 5-0 victory with the loss of only two games.
At the close of play there was nothing to choose between the first four teams. Darenth A had jumped into the lead on 20. Tandridge A and B were equal second on 18 points and Cleeve Park A had moved up to fourth on 17. South Croydon A and Amherst A might be on nine and eight points respectively but they are no pushovers and under-estimating what they can do could cost the leaders dearly.
There are some very young, inexperienced and quite small players in this Division but they are grabbing the opportunity to get out of their own pond and stick a toe in someone else’s puddle. The standard they are producing is quite remarkable.