Little Local Larrikins Part Five: Strong numbers and a strong showing

Beep. Beep.
The shaky awakening and complete befuddlement about my current situation is pushed out of my mind like smoke on a windy day as I come to and realise that it is time to play some tennis. Except for one realisation; my throat feels like it’s on fire. By ‘on fire’, I mean ‘like a knife that has been charred by fire has scratched my throat and left the open scars there to wither’. It takes me a few minutes before I realise water only masks the annoying pain, so I attempt to move on from the irritation in a positive matter; by eating breakfast. Surely the throat is just taking its time to awaken and will stop throbbing when it realises I have three sets of tennis to compete in? Wrong, this cheeky little bugger despises me and lets me know about it by constantly niggling me. Oh well, nothing a bit of crisp Melbourne morning air to soothe the cauldron.

The clouds hover over Eltham Tennis Club as if suspended by a string from outside of Earth’s atmosphere, as the chill of the early morning is reinforced by the enclosing cloud cover. I am the only player at the club who isn’t wearing a jumper on court, as I somehow feel immune to the frostiness that causes every person who exhales to look like a smoker with the plumes of white carbon dioxide rising into the air. I exchange pleasantries (“G’day, how’s your week been? God, it’s freezing! Ready to kick some butts?”) with Stephen, Luke and Lewis, before Hamish rocks up while the four of us are warming up. The realisation hits Stephen that he forgot to clarify who was playing during the mumble jumble that was figuring out the rosters during the week. After five minutes Hamish is alerted to the fact that he can go back and catch up on some sleep, as we farewell him with both jealousy and relief in our voice, with the chance to play with the proper amount of players relieving us even though we still harbour the miniscule dreams of curling up in a warm bed. After ten minutes the latter of the feelings are completely expelled as Lewis and I walk onto Court 4 to play our first doubles set.

The set starts off shakily, as the customary smoothness and consistency of my hilarious and cheerful Scottish partner is slightly off, with flat forehands floating wide while guileful backhands just smack the net tape and roll back onto our side of the court. We go down 3-2, as the game eases into an ebb and flow until it is broken when the score reaches 5-5. In all common knowledge of North Eastern Junior Tennis Association’s rules, 5-5 signals tiebreaker time. Suddenly the chirpy Lewis who eats opponents for breakfast comes back, as we come back yet again early on in the tiebreaker to rush home for a 7-5 win in the tiebreaker. With Hamish being rostered out for today’s match, I stay on court to play my singles match in the number two position.

I watch Luke and Stephen go down 6-4 from my court, as my opponent walks on and play begins. The first few games are as close as New Zealand and South Africa when it comes to World Cup Cricket, with long testing rallies resulting in the score being 2-1 my way. Suddenly the dam bursts, and New Zealand and South Africa turns into New Zealand and Australia, as I slam on three games in a row to go up 5-1, before winning 6-2. I’m pleased, as my opponent was quite skilful and could return almost any shot back. I relax, as the sharpness of my throat comes back. Sadly enough for the bacteria that is attempting to sabotage my day, it is too late, as I am off and running with no care in the world.
I watch Luke win 6-2 in what was a powerful set, as Stephen wins 6-3 and Lewis pulls through 6-4 in an entertaining and exciting set of strong tennis. Mill Park is now behind the eight ball, as we lead five sets to one, which already gives us the victory. Luke and I walk onto court to begin our last doubles, knowing that the last two sets are a key opportunity for us to boost our percentage and distance ourselves at the top of the ladder. But the two opponents that we play handle the stresses of doubles a lot better, as they reel off strong shots crosscourt that can only work in the doubles game. Luke and I rally through, eventually going down 6-4 in what is a lengthy and gritty set. Stephen and Lewis achieve what Luke and I can’t, as they are successful in a 6-3 victory. Overall we have conquered Mill Park yet again (we played them in the first round), as we now sit two points on top of the ladder with a healthy percentage.

Jokes are exchanged between the four of us, as we all agree to have a hit during the school holidays while helping out the parents in clubhouse duty. Safe and fun holidays are wished, as we all leave Eltham Tennis Club a lot warmer and more cheerful than we did three hours earlier. My thoughts turn from one sport to another, as my tickets to the World Cup Final are already being envisioned in my mind. But that’s another story…

Eltham 6-2 Mill Park
1-4/ Luke- Stephen 4-6 Mill Park 1-4
2-3/ Sean- Lewis 6-5 Mill Park 2-3
1/ Luke- 6-2 Mill Park 1
2/ Sean- 6-2 Mill Park 2
3/ Lewis- 6-4- Mill Park 3
4/ Stephen- 6-3 Mill Park 4
1-2/ Luke- Sean 4-6 Mill Park 1-2
3-4/ Lewis- Stephen 6-3 Mill Park 3-4

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