Having lost to a strong Royal Tennis Court side in the first round of the 2014/15 Pol Roger trophy, a slightly below strength Manchester team took on Petworth for the right to remain in the top division. Missing Alex Duncliffe-Vines due to the Montreal amateur rackets and also Number 1 player Richard Owen, but bolstered by the return from injury of doubles specialist Mark Openshaw-Blower the team was nearly at full strength but would nonetheless have to be on top form to beat the Sussex side, who have won the competition on numerous occasions.
First on court was team captain Simon Shenkman against former Bathurst Cup player Andrew Page. Clearly struggling on a foreign court, Page struggled to make an impact on the game and was blown away with consummate ease by Shenkman– serving to a particularly good length and retrieving with speed and athleticism in a 6/0 6/2 win. The next match was between Robert Shenkman and Adam Dolman in the first string singles. In a match he could have easily taken to three sets, having points for five all in the first and losing two set points in the second set, Shenkman could not shake off his more experienced opponent and fell 6/4 6/5 in a close match where the key points did not go his way.
The first string doubles pair of Adam Holloway and Mark Openshaw-Blower had been playing particularly well in the weeks leading up to the match and were on formidable form against Harvey Rawlings and Charles Fuente. Holloway’s lightning reactions at the front and Openshaw-Blower’s powerful retrieving at the back of the court was too much for the Petworth pair who never got a foothold in the game, losing 6/1 6/2. After increasing Manchester’s lead to 2-1 after the doubles, Andrew Mossford made his singles debut for the team and had been in reasonable form leading up to the match, shown by his fast start against the hulk-like figure of Nick Harris. However ultimately, the strength and target hitting of the Petworth player began to tell as although Mossford contributed to many long rallies Harris always had one more shot and he succumbed 6/2 6/1.
Despite the close situation of the overall match, a debacle involving stalwart Jamie Bebb had been causing the team captain to fret over whether there would be a second doubles match at all. Having broken down outside Banbury, it was touch and go as to whether he would get to Manchester at all, but after picking up a hire car he managed to arrive on time for his crucial doubles match with Mark Seymour-Mead. The first set was a nail biter, with three set points squandered at 5/4 40-love to the Manchester pair to leave the set at five all. However, two timely backhand dedans from Bebb stole the set from Petworth’s grasp and brought about some momentum which resulted in a 3/1 lead in the second. However, Calder-Smith and Draffan were not to be outdone and fought back to four all, at which point many spectators were struggling to watch. Yet, sparkling volleys from Mark Seymour-Mead, interspersed between an outrageous winning gallery from the first gallery line inspired the team to victory, our first over a ‘Premier Division side’ as coined by Steve Brockenshaw!
On a weekend of FA Cup upsets, with Chelsea and Manchester City both falling, the MTRC team could include themselves in the same frame as Bradford and Middlesbrough in winning as the underdog. It is hoped that there shall be even more dramas next season in the Pol Roger Trophy.