Little Local Larrikins Part Four: New-Found Form in a Tight Finish

The bitterness and complete chill of the cool air in autumn is enough to make me wish that I never leave my comfortable bed again, as the prospect of getting up at 6:30 on a freezing Saturday morning doesn’t sit well with me. After 15 minutes of my mind rebelling against my body’s will to stay wrapped up in my blanket, I rise like a zombie and slowly start to awaken. An hour and a half later my hands and fingers are red all over, the frostiness of the clear morning making the swing of a person’s tennis racquet a reflex reaction, as nothing below our wrists is responding enthusiastically. After the usual warm-up that comprises many shots either flying into the net or into the fence with a few winners mixed in, we split into our groups; Lewis is the one team member who avoids the morning of terrible chill. Today we play Eaglemont at home, and I play my first doubles with Hamish, whose first serve kicks off the proceedings.

Straight away from the start everything becomes tense. Long rallies last a solid 20 shots and are ended by a winner from the person at the net or a high-quality baseline shot. Many games go to deuce, but Hamish and I are on the wrong side as we go down 3-1. Momentum is wrestled back as we change sides at 3-2, only to see Luke and Stephen already bagging the court as they have gone down 1-6 in their doubles encounter. The two players that Hamish and I face are both skilled — one can rally with strong baseline shots, while the other is the coach’s son at Eaglemont Tennis Club and can hit a forehand hard despite his tiny frame. The score goes down to 4-2 before Hamish and I finally get ourselves stuck back into the contest, levelling it 4-4 before going up 5-4 at the change of ends. Yet again, I am left with the task of serving for the set. This time, I am lucky enough to fall on the right side of the coin, as we pull through and complete a great comeback with a 6-4 win.

I then watch Hamish and Luke go about their business in their singles matches while Stephen and I talk about anything under the sun. Finally Luke pulls through 6-4 in what is a fantastic game. Hamish can’t quite find another gear as his high-quality opponent wins 6-2. Stephen and I then begin. I focus on beating the coach’s son, who hasn’t lost a singles match this season. Luckily enough, today seems to be my day. My serves start clicking, my forehands produce more winners than normal and in a huge shock, my backhand, once my best shot, clicks and reignites itself, so I can finally adjust and start hitting it cleanly again. I’m up 3-1 and motoring along; an ace and a few winners get me up 6-2 in what is a surprising yet great result for me.

After walking off feeling pretty chuffed, Luke and Hamish commence their doubles match as Stephen’s match is locked at 4-4. I watch the end of that game, as Luke and Hamish’s game is going quickly. Stephen just can’t get over the line, going down 6-4, and a glance at the scorecard shows just how tight proceedings are today. None of that can take away the excitement of me finally playing my first doubles match with Stephen, as we have been laughing and joking all day. We enter the court just as Luke and Hamish go down in a tiebreaker on the other court and hear the news that we must win 6-2 or better for a win, or 6-3 for a draw. Stephen takes a while to find his range, as the score sits at 0-2 and we are in serious trouble. It doesn’t help when the score goes to 1-3. The tension is rife; everyone who has any concerns about this match has tumbled down to the end court, where we play. Stephen starts to get himself into the game, becoming a presence as he returns brilliantly and gets the score back to 2-3. A few minutes later and it’s 3-3, and we have a higher level of belief then we did 10 minutes ago.

I can finally start to pick off a few points, as so far I have had to settle for rallies, which have resulted in long yet winning points for me. I find it a lot easier to get a few deep returns back and then set up the point for a winner. We go up 5-3 as a great serving game by Stephen then a fantastic returning game by both of us puts us on the brink of an unlikely rescue. After all of this, guess who is left to serve for the entire day’s play again? That’s right. Me. It starts off well, as we go up 30-0 with an ace right down the middle, which was quite lucky considering it only just caught the line. At 30-15 I serve at the same place and the same result occurs, except for a call of fault. Fault? That surely hit the line. They circle a random ball mark, but I can’t complain as they have already gotten their parents into the action. The anger pours out as we go from 30-30 to 40-30 with a backhand winner up the line from yours truly, as I put all of my distaste from the previous point into the shot. I serve it slightly more away from the line, and the return is short and out wide for my backhand. After the previous few games, the player at the net for Eaglemont still hasn’t pushed out wider, so I go for the backhand winner yet again and see it curl back in and hit the line. We’ve done it. It’s been rescued.

We walk off the court, furious calculations occurring in everybody’s minds. The only solution is a draw. 37 games apiece. That’s only the second time it has happened for me, the other time when I was 11 in a section that only played four sets of doubles. The result doesn’t hurt us too much as they were third and we were second, so our places remain the same. Next week a home game against Mill Park, whom we played in the first round, will then be seen out by school holidays. More farewells and a laugh with the mighty Bearded Man see the conclusion of the day’s proceedings, as all jokes must be left to school or tennis the next week.

Eltham 4 (37) – 4 (37) Eaglemont
1-4/ Luke-Stephen 2-6 Eaglemont 1-4
2-3/ Hamish-Sean 6-4 Eaglemont 2-3
1/ Luke 6-4 Eaglemont 1
2/ Hamish 2-6 Eaglemont 2
3/ Sean 6-2 Eaglemont 3
4/ Stephen 4-6 Eaglemont 4
1-2/ Luke-Hamish 5-6 Eaglemont 1-2
3-4/ Sean-Stephen 6-3 Eaglemont 3-4

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