On Monday night we played Milford who always seem to have a strong team. As soon as I clapped eyes on our opponents I knew we'd be in for a tough time; I recognised some faces from previous losing encounters. In the doubles I played with a young guy - twentyish - who blasts seven bells out of the ball. He's got all the shots, including deft touches at the net and a safe but effective second serve, but he can't bring himself to use anything sub-Scud. His service games were a nerve-wracking experience as fuzzy yellow bullets whistled past my ear at something approaching Mach 2, often landing beyond the baseline. I haven't won a night-time doubles match for ages and have been on the wrong end of some real hidings. Nothing changed on Monday as we went down two and two.
Due to the way we split up the team, my singles opponent was someone I didn't play in the doubles. His doubles match was a real marathon though, so after our bash-and-crash I had an hour to wait while I watched him play. He was from Eastern Europe and took tennis seriously. What else could you expect from someone whose first name was Boris and whose surname began with B? He went through an elaborate service routine, seemingly measuring the exact angle of trajectory while at the same time trying to get into the zone. This was a bit scary because I don't even have a zone. If that wasn't enough he had four rackets (clearly worth more than a grand between them) and explained that they all had different levels of string tension, acceleration and whatever the hell else. Maybe he did this just to intimidate his opponents I thought. But when I lost the first set 6-1 without playing at all badly, maybe not. If anything I was relieved to get one game. Early in the second set we had a lot of long games and long rallies. I dug deep in those points, still expecting him to thrash me but at least I'd make him thrash me. I won those tight games and when I'd opened up a lead in that set he deviated from his game plan, rushing his play and making uncharacteristic errors. I won that set 6-1 although it was closer than that really. Looking back I think he was saving himself for the third. He reverted to Plan A in the decider. I made too many mistakes (for me) and I lost it 6-1. What a crazy match!