Sebastian Jerome Kay reports as the Connaught Club suffered a tough loss at the hands of a much stronger A1 Pharmaceuticals LTC in the second round of matches in the AEGON Team Tennis National Premier.
The two clubs kicked off the match with the doubles rubbers with Connaught fielding four UEL players. Mikey Suleau and Lewis Thompson at number one took on Marcus Willis and Matt Short, while Julian Belair and Patrick Eichler played at number 2 facing Neil Pauffley and Piers Herfet-Jones.
Suleau and Thompson really took the match to the pairing of Willis and Short by not letting them settle and find their rhythm and breaking the Short service at 4-3 leaving Suleau to serve out for the first set, which he did under a great amount of pressure securing the set on the fourth advantage.
In the second set, Willis and Short found their feet and were starting to put the Connaught pair under pressure in each service game and finally found the break at 4-3 again, meaning Willis had to serve to take the match into a deciding third set tie break. He held his nerve and served it out to love. During the tie break, Suleau didn’t miss a first serve, with all six serves not coming back and fittingly, hitting an ace on match point to take the match 6-3 3-6 12-10.
Poor service game
The second doubles match was a bit more routine for the A1 pairing of Pauffley and Herfet-Jones, who comfortably dispatched Belair and Eichler. The returning of Pauffley caused problems to the Connaught Duos serve who struggled to hold on to it enough to put any pressure onto the less experienced Herfet-Jones. They eventually succumbed to defeat 6-2 6-3 to take a share of the doubles points heading into the singles.
Mikey Suleau took on Marcus Willis at number one singles and proved to be a tough match for the former number 322 in the World Willis who couldn’t break down the serve of Suleau. The first set, went on serve the whole way to the tie break, where Suleau failed to capitalise on a short forehand on set point to let Willis recover and take the last five points to win the set 7-6. The second set proved the same, until at 3-3 one bad service game from Suleau proved fatal as Willis then held his next two service games to win the match 7-6 6-4.
The gulf in quality between World number 565 Pauffley and formerly ranked Julian Belair was on show in the number two singles match up, with Belair never really finding himself in this match. He struggled to make many first serves and the returning of Pauffley was critical of the Canadian’s second serve. Pauffley’s serve was also on fine form as he didn’t face a single break point and won 6-2 6-3.
Lewis Thompson struggled to make any sort of impact at number three singles against Matt Short. Both players had a similar style of player, but Short had a slight edge when it came to variation of his matchplay. Both sets were a double break, with Thompson not able to make an impact on the solid serving performance of the former number 708 in the World concluding in a comfortable 6-2 6-2 victory and this rubber secured the victory for the Pharmaceutical team.
The last match saw the German,Eichler taking on Herfet-Jones in an equally contested tie. Herfet-Jones however, started off much brighter of the two racing to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but Eichler refused to throw in the towel and battled back to take the set on a tie break. In the second set, neither player could make inroads on the others’ serve and the match crawled along to 6-5, where Eichler played a fantastic return game to take the match and the second rubber for Connaught 7-6 7-5.
After the match, Connaught Captain Andrew Foster said, ‘It was always going to be tough to get something from this match when they [A1 Pharmaceuticals] turn up with 3 players that have or had World rankings, but I’m really pleased with how the lads played and they can take a lot from these matches.’