Doubles, First Round, Hyde Park, London.
Team Warrington bt Team MaMinett 6-4
After the opening round of the prestigious 2012 Centaur Open was postponed due to a last minute withdrawal from the top seeds Chris Watters and Salvatore Pellitteri, the record crowd of one was treated to an entertaining encounter on No.1 Court.
As well as the prospect of seeing long-term singles enemies Julie Minett and Sylvia Ma become unlikely allies, the main draw for the non-existent crowd was the shock return of Natalie Chillington, who quit the sport aged just 14 to pursue a career in music journalism.
Owing to their high singles ranking form, team MaMinett are now the highest competing seeds in the draw and as such were the favourites against team Warrington, who received a wildcard for the event.
So it proved, as after a bright start breaking Minetts serve in the opening game things soon fell awry as the Anglo-American duo found their rhythm going on to take the next three games.
Both Minett and Ma were solid, making few errors, with Ma’s serve in particular – low and plenty of spin – proving a weapon.
Minett – with a first serve percentage of 77% was punishingly consistent.
Warwick’s questionable 2012 form continued here, with unforced errors coming thick and fast from ground-strokes and particularly the serve – usually a weapon for the 26 year old which instead reaped no less than five double-faults and just one ace.
It was Chillington who proved the catalyst, quickly finding her game of old after a tense start and routinely turning defence into attack with crosscourt forehands and a powerful double handed backhand with relentless almost metronomic fluidity.
There was controversy, Warwick appearing to strike Minett in the fifth game, causing an injury time-out and seemingly a break in concentration for the leaders who duly sacrificed their 3-1 lead in a matter of minutes.
With tempers beginning to fray and the light forever fading, team Warrington found themselves with three break points at 4-4. A rare but vital forehand winner down the line from Warwick and a long forehand from Ma sealed the break after a titanic seven minute game with no less than five deuces.
Warrington then held serve to triumph.
‘It’s a double whammy today, having come so close to victory and then to have sustained the injury, but my singles form is keeping me motivated for next week.’
‘This totally sucks man, I hate this game! It’s not my t-shirt’s fault.’
‘Disappointing today but glad to have won in the end, it was touch and go as to whether I’d even make it today after my chauffeur swallowed my travel card.’
‘I’ve got cramp…’
With world number 4 Matthew Moore joining Pellitteri and Watters on the sidelines, the Centaur Open field remains depleted, in a press conference yesterday, when asked about the validity of his own injury amidst rumours of a secret golf tournament Chris Watters simply answered “…awkward”.