Leaving it up to someone else to determine your season’s Slims partner was always going to be interesting. That said, the mark of a good doubles player is their ability to adapt to any given situation or in this case, partner. Let’s take a look at the teams…
First up, you have Monica Seles (Jarrod Green) and Paul Yung. It seems this season saw Monica’s renaissance and a return to her glory days, she’s played herslf in to some awesome form and now also has a Peter Deacon A Singles and A Doubles title to her name. She still throws in the odd double fault (or three), but her aggressive style and new found speed around the court has done wonders for her game. Equally as accomplised in singles as she is in doubles, she was probably a good partner to put with Paul in his Division 2 debut. Paul himself has developed into such a crafty doubles player and is not at all afraid of the pace of the driving ground strokes that some of the harder hitters belt at him.
Next, there is Kim Clijsters (Peter Wright) and Dinara Safina (Dean Matterson). Kimmy and Dinara both have regular partners that they were both separated from for this season, but on paper they definately make a dangerous pair. Both are very dangerous singles players and can also mix it up at the net where it counts most in doubles play. The other difficulty with these two is deciding who to focus play on when they are both on court. You just have to hope that one of them is having an off day and pray for some luck. Unfortunately for the two girls, they werent able to capitalise on the necessary matches and failed to qualify for the semi-final play offs. Not that it mattered, Kimmy is now in Dubai lapping it up in style at the Burj Al-Arab and Dinara is on the prowl for fresh meat – so clearly they were both distracted.
Duddy Apriadi partnered up with Adrian Caspar. Adrian is not just a debutant to Div 2, but to the Slims Circuit as well. Given Duddy’s effortless groundstrokes and incredible precision, he was good match to Adrian’s maiden campaign with the club. They managed to start their season of really well with an early win over the combination of Monica and Paul, but unfortunately for them, a few costly round losses saw them finish just sixth on the ladder. That said, Duddy was able to finish his singles record in second place, only losing two matches.
Glenn Ball and Billie-Jean Moffat (Ross Sinclair) played together this season and were a difficult team to over come. Glenn’s immense power on his forehand is such a weapon and his serve is quite often unreturnable. Billie-Jean unfortunately was not able to win any of her singles matches, and although they were able to draw several of their rounds, unfortunately, despite’s Glenn’s 5-2 win/loss record in his matches, they weren’t able to string together enough doubles wins to make it in to semi finals territory.
Next is Bryce Watana and Owen Gallagher. Again – two very confident doubles players who have no problem making their way to and winning from the net. Not only that, but both are also very consistent singles players. Owen was able to make it to the top of the Player #2 ladder only losing once. Bryce was only able to win one of his five singles matches, but that said – it wasn’t really a problem since these two were able to make it to the top of the Division 2 Table by one point.
Victoria Azarenka (Mark Jones) and Tsukasa Ishida were probably the team who were most similar in playing style in the whole division. Both have very extreme forehands and can also produce some cracking backhands given the perfect ball. On paper, another very good team (both are previous Slims and Tournament placegetters), but unfortunately, they were unable to consolidate their pairing and didnt make as big an impact on their doubles record as they would have hoped. Victoria was last seen stumbling out of Court 3 and collapsing in the parking lot of Moore Park Golf Club, on a fresh 14 degree spring evening, mind you. But the good news is, her ball toss is now where it should be and I think she will be in tip top shame for the Summer season.
The next team was Mary Pierce (Sean Whelan) and Evonne Goolagong (Simon Graham). If I had to choose a team to beat this season, these two would have been it. Mary is just a powerhouse on court and does not give you any hitting room and Evonne has also played herself in to some tremendous form having made it to the Semi-Finals of the Peter Deacon tournament. Not only that, but they were also able to pull it together in their doubles matches. Traditionally, Mary relies on her regular partner Kim, to take the volley crosses, but I think she’s added a new dimension to her game and now manages to pull some insane volleys out of her bag when she needs it most and least expects it! Mary finished on the top of the Player #1 ladder for singles and Evonne, the tricky leftie, was second out of the #2 players.
Stephen Clarke started the season with Al Ryall, but due to injury, Al had to step aside, and Wendy Turnbull (Brian Wilson) took over. I think if they had been allowed some time to get to know each other’s play, Stephen and Wendy might just have snuck in there with a 4th place finish at the end, but they needed five points from what they ended with to be able to qualify. It was a shame for them considering, they were a very tough doubles team to play. They are both very able volleyers, and excellent with placement of the ball.
Finally, there as myself, and Brian Heavin. Brian and I had never played together before, but you can imagine my relief when the draw was released and I saw that I was playing with a forehander. And what a forehand it has turned out to be! This season was Brian’s first in Divison 2, but a few of us were already aware of his crunching forehand. Brian moved up from Div 3 after winning a previous season with ana Ivanovic. These days though, his forehand has become such a weapon and is far more consistent than it used to be. After a slow start where we only drew the first few rounds, we were able to finally find our groove as a doubles team and held on to the top spot on the Div 2 table for most of the season, only being pipped at the end after our only loss of the season. We finished second.
So, the Semi-Finals ended up being Bryce & Owen (1st) versus Monica & Paul (4th) and Daniela & Brian (2nd) versus Mary & Evonne (3rd). Bryce and Owen beat Monica and Paul in the rounds, but something tells me that the latter pair has the ability to step up to the challenge and are looking for revenge. The round match up between our team and Mary/Evonne was a draw. We split the doubles and singles matches, but I doubt that will be the case in the rematch. Interesting semi-finals to look forward to, and no real early “favourite” to mention, but one thing is for sure, there will be plenty of shrieks & squeals and thrills & spills, and in Owen’s case… plenty of moon balls. Those fruit bats better watch out.
Best of luck to the other semi – finalists 🙂