Match 5: Mike Drain def Al Warwick 7-5, 7-5, 6-4
Yes, welcome to cliché city! Forgive the all-too-frequently used phrase in the title, but in this instance it is necessary.
In a match that began at the tail end of the Wimbledon first week and finished only yesterday it is not surprising that there existed a momentum chasm.
The first encounter, played in perfect early evening conditions on a pristine Colchester turf – was of the highest quality and one of the most rewarding matches of this season.
In a tight first set, serve dominated but so too did grass-court tactics, the difference this time being that such dinks, slices, chips and drop volleys were all coming off.
Whilst such fancy racquet work comes more naturally to me and my tendency to showboat, my opponent has deftly added the entire repertoire to his own back catalogue and was more than equal.
I did arguably have Mike on the ropes in that opening set, pressuring his serve and facing little response to my own. But come a sprinkling of mental pressure at that all important business end at 5-5 and a couple of netted backhands from yours truly allowed Mike to steal.
This and a Djokovic-esque moment from Mike of shifting up several gears when it mattered, had he been toying with me the whole time with plenty in reserve?
The second set was a more familiar grass-court story. As my opponent relaxed and tried some variation his concentration clouded. Thanks to a banana or five I was able to keep my energy up and more surprisingly a positive attitude.
Suddenly I was hitting drop shots and forehands down the line with ease and soon raced into a 4-1 lead with points for 5-1 then 5-2.
But before I could close out the set Mike rediscovered some calm and his trusty defence and running forehand, not to mention an improved serve saw him roar back to 5-5.
Match resumed- welcome to the oven.
It was a brave choice amidst the storms but we took to the grass again in suffocating temps yesterday. A lengthy (and rusty) warm-up pointed straight away to an ugly war of attrition- there would be none of the sparkle from a couple of weeks ago.
And so it proved, Mike hitting his stride early on merely had to keep the ball in play against a man who lacked movement and any clear gameplan.
The second set suddenly over in a flash, my mountain had suddenly grown in size.
Despite what can only be described as a rowdy fathers for justice tennis meet on the neighbouring court (complete with an Italian fellow who resembled some caricature from Allo Allo) we gamely played on.
There were some glimpses of quality and competition, particularly at the end, but an early break in the fifth game was enough for Mike whose serve was a lesson in placement over power and consistency and confidence especially on the rare occasions he had to deploy a second.
Overall then, hugely enjoyable stuff as always, I for one will be insisting on more matches on the green stuff. For Mike, this was the perfect way to banish an iffy grass season last year.