In the Men’s bathroom of the indoor centre of The Northumberland Club there is a poster on the mirror with a quote of Lleyton Hewitt.
It says- “you’ve got to grit your teeth and hang in there and try and find a way to win when you’re not playing your best tennis - that’s what I can be proud of”.
For the chosen five playing on Wednesday 22nd February 2017, gritting their teeth and finding a way to win was exactly what they did. Shoot out tennis does not get better than this, as whoever won this fixture would win the league and gain promotion.
9 out of ten fixtures won in the promotion campaign
Both teams entered the match with a sense of the unknown as in the previous fixture the match was conceded by Newcastle as two injuries struck early giving Beckett the win back in December.
The time round it commenced with the doubles, Corey Chan and Leandro Mariani partnering each other, and Oliver Warren and Tim Brazel making up the second pair. Both matches had a ferocious intensity to them as both teams understood the importance of getting two doubles wins. Chan and Mariani strolled to a 6-1 6-1 victory rarely being pushed by the Beckett first pair. Warren and Brazel didn’t have it all their own way.
After winning the first set 6-3, the second was a much closer affair. Getting an early break, it seemed that Newcastle were about to go 2-0 up in the tie but at 5-4 with Brazel serving, a number of unforced errors allowed Beckett back into the set.
Now 6-5 down, a hotly contested line call caused for a five-minute discussion that ended up being fiercer than the arguments of old when your parents wouldn’t let you stay up past the watershed. Beckett capitalised on the break in play to close out the second set. The champions tiebreak was won by Beckett 10-7.
“The pair knew exactly what sort of tennis was install”
At the end of the match, all drama and tension was put to bed with a gracious handshake, as the players realised the quality of the doubles was too high to let an argument get in the way.
The score stood at 1-1 overall, with Newcastle needing three wins in the singles to guarantee victory and promotion. It was then time for gritting teeth and competing like never before. Corey Chan and Leandro Mariani continued in their clinical fashion from the doubles, as both players dispatched their opponents 6-3 6-0.
The number one and two singles players have had a superb season, with Chan only losing 2 singles ties from 10, and Mariani recording the unbelievable achievement of going the season unbeaten. Both Chan and Mariani have been indispensable this year, playing at the top of order all year.
The third singles was between home friends Warren and Nick Joannou. The pair knew exactly what sort of tennis was install as Warren took the initiative playing attacking tennis. Having suffered from injury since December, Warren had a set back the morning before so it was touch and go whether he would take part at all in this match.
Fuelled by paracetamol, Warren stormed to a 5-0 leave. After winning the set 6-2, Warrens injury struck again as points grew longer, and the match got tighter. At 4-3 down in the second set, Joannou breaks Warren’s serve to try and finish the second set on Beckett’s terms.
168 GD better off than Hallam 2s
Speaking after the match, Warren said “I knew then, if I didn’t break him straight back, I would not have won the match in a third set”. Against all odds, Warren broke straight back, finding a second wind and turning the screw.
Warren’s backhand found some form to accompany his dominant forehand breaking down his opponent and storming back to 6-5 to serve out the match. On the first time of asking, Warren converts to win 6-2 7-5. This was a hugely satisfying win for the player and the team as the celebrations started.
Tom Smith had the small matter of finishing off the tie. Knowing that the team had won overall, the pressure was off. Smith swinging for the hills, hitting the lines and playing lights out tennis, and in the process, won the set 6-4 having been 4-2 down. Smith continued the sublime tennis into the second set and didn’t look like letting up.
His opponent, who possessed a solid groundstroke game, was hanging in for dear life, but it all became a bit too much. At 2-2, Smith’s opponent retired with a shoulder injury, and with that, Newcastle finished their season with a 10-2 victory.
If you ask any athlete, they will tell you winning a league is one of the hardest things to do, no matter what level of sport you play at. Being only Coach Henderson’s second season in charge of the Men’s squad, the man the myth the legend has performed wonders to team unity.
“Both Chan and Mariani have been indispensable this year”
Every training session is a part of the team’s learning curve and without his time and effort; an achievement like this would be next to impossible. This year’s first team captain was Corey Chan.
Captain Chan has been pivotal to keeping the team organised and motivated. As a player under Henderson and Chan it has been an absolute pleasure learning and playing alongside them, and on behalf of the rest of the team I cannot thank them enough.
As it is end of the season it is only appropriate to give out a few awards. Player of the week goes to Oliver Warren for soldiering on through his injury to finish his university tennis career with a hugely satisfying win.
Most improved play goes to Timothy Brazel for developing a solid game plan in singles and doubles expertise. Play of the season goes to Leandro Mariani for not losing a singles match all season long.
Moment of the season goes also to Leandro for hitting an in-between the legs shot whilst being set point down and still winning the point. Thank you to everyone else who contributed to the season, your hard work and dedication has been integral to whole squad. Now, get the trebles in, head to town and celebrate in style.
MVP: Oliver Warren