Alongside most people in touch with their soul, I was shocked and appalled by the treatment of Claudio Ranieri by the team he led to glory last season. Were he managing Sutton’s Mighty 5ths, how might our season finale have been reported? Perhaps a few of his famous lines could help to tell the story.
Sunday 12th February saw Sutton’s Mighty 5ths and Wigmore 3 do battle for top spot in the league in what was to be Sutton’s final match in the winter season. Wigmore still have one more fixture to play and it is an eminently winnable one for them against a team yet to register a single point so we went into the match knowing we would need a win – nothing less – to top the table this season.
Mercifully, we had a home tie – a rare treat for us and we were very glad of home comforts after the tricky conditions we faced at Woodield Grove the weekend before. We arrived early and began to practice – the manager, having tinkered slightly with the lineup, watching carefully for any signs of lack of match sharpness:
Eh – are you a zleepin’?
Eh – dilly ding, dilly dong!
Sutton lined up with David Lunn and Jake Fellows as first pair and with Mike Eaton and Callum Furmidge as second pair. We picked the clay courts for the big showdown and hoped we would have enough to win through.
First up, David and Jake played the opposition first pair. Wigmore have done very well this season and so we expected their first pair to be a tough proposition for us. They did not disappoint, taking the first break of the match but Sutton broke back immediately and took the first set 6-3. Sutton then had their service broken early in the second set and, again, a swift break back was achieved and we broke again to take the set 6-4.
1-0 to the Mighty 5ths
Meanwhile, Mike and Callum were locked in an epic encounter against Wigmore’s second pair. Wigmore took the first set 7-6 and Sutton struck back to take the second 6-4. The Champion’s tie-break always looked like going Wigmore’s way, though a late Sutton fight back made it tense. In the end, Wigmore won it 10-7.
I want to pay a pizza all my player if they keep a clin-a-sheet
But my players doesn’t want pizza
They wait, I improve
Ok, the pizza and a ‘ot dog!
David and Jake were in very fine form today and they looked like they would take some beating – each had lost his serve once in the opening rubber and neither was destined to be broken again. They, being nicely rested after their fairly quick first match, then took on Wigmore’s second pair who were pretty tired after playing for over an hour in their opening rubber. The Sutton pair were utterly ruthless as they took their visitors apart 6-1 6-0 – Jake in particular was like a fighter pilot unleashing Exocet missiles at will and you could see in the eyes of the opponents that when Jake lined up a groundstroke, they knew they were in trouble. David was at his best at the net putting away all the opportunities created by his partner’s precisely targeted firepower.
2-1 to the Mighty 5ths
And now we go straight away to try to win…
So our season came down to this – could a player only one year younger than Claudio Ranieri himself, who had just been involved in a really long first match hold out against a strong opposition first pair that was freshly rested? How would his 14 year old partner support him? Callum certainly knew he’d have some running to do and he seemed willing to run forever if it would serve the cause. Mike looked a little tired (wouldn’t we all?) but very much up for the fight. Chairs were brought over as both captains stayed to watch, the others were cold and went back to the clubhouse little realising the high drama that they were to miss.
Wigmore struck first taking the opening set 6-4. This was not wholly unexpected in the circumstances – they are the first pair of one of the strongest teams in our league and they had finished their first match at roughly the same time as Mike and Callum had finished their first set! Still, Mike and Callum were not representing Sutton’s 5th team – no, they were representing Sutton’s Mighty 5ths. If our boys are given a sniff, they generally do not need to be asked twice to find a way to win – but would they be given a sniff? Could they create a sniff?
The pivotal point came at 4-4 in the second set. Service holds had proven hard to come by and Callum was serving now. He has a reliable, quick serve and if he were to hold, and put Sutton within one game of the set, they would have a very good chance. Callum served well and opened up a 40-15 lead. That’s when things became really interesting. Despite their best efforts, Mike and Callum just could not close it out and the game became a monumental battle of more deuces than you could count (even if you’re pretty good at counting). It was such a long game that anyone watching knew that whoever came out on top was likely to be very well placed mentally to close out the set in the next game. Back and forth the advantage went, back and forth, back and forth. Mike and Callum eventually struck the decisive blow to leave Wigmore’s first pair serving at 4-5 to save the set. This was the moment to pounce and Mike and Callum pounced (well, at his time of life, Mike doesn’t exactly pounce as such but you get the picture). They broke and took the set 6-4 to set up a Champions’ Tie-Break. For both teams the whole season would come down to a single 10 point shooter. Who would blink first?
The two captains watching from the next court played every shot with those 4 players, desperately willing their men to victory. The Mighty 5ths opened up a lead but would it be enough? Would it?
It would. 10-6 was the final score.
3-1 to the Mighty 5ths.
We have won the league!!!!!!!!
Cue Andrea Bocelli singing Nussun Dorma and let the celebrations begin!
We pay tribute to a worthy opponent – Wigmore fought to the end and we wish them well in their final fixture.
With 7 promotions out of 8 seasons, we have achieved more than could reasonably have been expected of our little team (I hope my sharks would agree). That being said, if tennis were football, we might safely assume that the Mighty 5ths would sack their manager next season!
Ciao Claudio – thanks for everything.
May your name be sung from the terraces forever!
Our stats this season were:
David played 10 rubbers, with a 80% win rate
Jason played 8 rubbers, with a 87.5% win rate
Mike played 8 rubbers, with a 62.5% win rate
Callum played 6 rubbers, with a 50% win rate
Derick played 4 rubbers, with a 75% win rate
Jake played 2 rubbers, with a 100% win rate
Finn played 2 rubbers, with a 100% win rate.