A Sporting Sunday Service for Elstree’s Super Six!

Radley  Tennis Tournament 2015
Myles Ward/Ned Hine ; Angus Goaman (capt)/Andrew Holmes ; Max Findlay/ Hector Brown

 Group match v Moulsford                             LOST
Group match v Cothill                                    WON
Group match v Ludgrove                               WON
Group match v Summer Fields                     LOST
Plate Semi-Final  v Winchester House       WON
Plate Final v St Hugh’s                                   LOST

It is usually a good day if you beat Ludgrove, Cothill and Winchester House in the space of two hours : handy, and indeed wristy, work from our Radleying racketeers. However, I am certain that our best performance came in defeat to Summer Fields, who had more tennis programmed into them than us. I think the reason why we played so well is that the Summertown swingers put a bit of pace on the ball, which allowed us to be positive more easily. This is a key point with tennis : we must establish individually technique on groundstrokes in particular that allows us to swing smoothly and quickly through the ball with topspin off both wings even when the opposition are moonballing it back. That way, we do not get into a contest resembling my grandmother against Great Auntie Doris in the late 80s. We must always swing hard with topspin being the brakes. That goes for the serve too. Although this means we might lose to untechnical, gritty patters of the ball at the age of twelve, thirteen and fourteen, we will have the technique to wipe the floor with them further down the line as the Bjorn Borg bumfluff on the chin gathers momentum.

I thought the players that performed best in terms of progress against themselves were Holmes, Goaman and Brown. Everyone played well for most of the day and all started well I thought. Moulsford were strong foes in the opening match and rather like the loss to Summer Fields, it was more about the opposition’s strength and quality of their shot making than counted. Holmes and Goaman in particular did very well in halving their match 3-3. Each group match was the best of six games, by the way with two from each group going through to the semi-finals : the two schools that accumulated the most amount of games in their four matches. I thought the boys battled well against Cothill and Ludgrove and won two tight matches through superior up-for-itness and yes, that word technique. It is important to prove one is trying in one’s footwork and make it very obvious to all around. Even when some boys are doing their best, their body language betrays them; we must resemble featherweight boxers in our stance screaming out to master-in-charge and parents alike that we are on the money in terms of how much it all means. I thought against Summer Fields in our last group matches, we looked lighter, keener, meaner and wanted it more badly in the cooling climes of Radley.

We pipped Cothill to third place in the group mainly by gritty play from Max Findlay and Hector Brown. Max is a very consistent cross courter on the forehand side and should certainly be more aggressive on this wing in match play. He has a strong forehand and the odd aggressive shot at the net-man down the line would be a good move next time. I like his consistency and he is someone I’d certainly like to partner in terms of his few unforced errors and kind manner. Hector is a warrior. He has improved so much in twelve months, it is staggering. He has made that possible with a steel and desire, which has been wonderful to see. He also has a strong forehand and an ability and willingness to make the opposition play the ball one more time.

Ned Hine is a technically gifted player, who also displays true grit on the court. His wonderful concentration and fight now needs an injection of relaxation in his play without losing the perfect focus. He is getting there and is a vital player for us. Myles Ward has a beautiful technique and is the smoothest server. His groundstrokes look solid and well drilled ; he now needs to be braver and go for shots a bit more with an added buzz to his footwork. But he can really play.

Which leaves, for me, our most impressive pair of the day –Andrew and Angus. Although they won more games than the other two pairs, that is not the criteria by which I am judging them. They were the most aggressive, hit through the ball the most and seemed less concerned than others of the consequences of hitting out. Andrew needs to be more ruthless at the net and Angus needs to slow down his first serve by applying more slice but they dovetailed well and won lots of important games.

We had super wins against my old mob, Ludders and then a very good win against Winchester House, which carried us to the final of the Plate. We saved our worst performance til last in the first two pairs and the third pair continued their rise in confidence throughout the day with a good win in their battle. But we shall not dwell on this match even though it is important to note we should have won had we done what was required in terms of balance between concentration and relaxation, and shot selection.

I absolutely loved being in charge of these six polite, talented and model prep school boys on Sunday; I did not have to do very much for them at all as they got on with the job in hand impressively. Of course we can improve. And we will. But we did our best and even better than that, at key times we all did what was required.

Thank you to all parents for your support, transporting and delicious food (Mrs Findlay).

Wine for my men ; we ride at dawn.