First match for the day: Mike Happell and Jeremy Rackham versus Chris Chapman and Kieran Booth. Right from the start it was apparent that Chapman and Booth were intent on targeting Happell’s inexperienced partner Rackham, peppering him with shots at the galleries. However Rackham was effective at preventing easy gallery chases and although he made a few racquet errors, he was able to repel most attacks. As Happell patrolled around the back court punishing any lose shots and retrieving well, Chapman and Booth would have realised that this match was not going to be a walkover. Chapman and Booth were noted to have strategized late into the previous night, so they were tactically well prepared, if a little sleep deprived. First set to Chapman/Booth 6/3.
The second set saw Happell and Rackham stuck down the hazard end for some time and struggling to make inroads on the scoreboard. Second set to Chapman/Booth 6/2.
With the match appearing to be headed for a regulation straight sets result, it was a surprise to suddenly see Happell and Rackham jump out to a 4/1 lead, threatening to take the match to a fourth set. This was a result of Happell’s consistency at the back of the court and Rackham’s improved volleying at the net, combined with a drop in intensity from Chapman and Booth. Keen to finish the match off quickly, Chapman and Booth responded, taking four of the next five games to win the set and the match.
Chapman/K Booth defeated Happell/Rackham 6/3 6/2 6/4
The second semi-final featured tournament favorites Ruaraidh Gunn and Rob Fahey, taking on Mark Mathias and Peter Estcourt. On paper, you would assume that a quick match would ensue with Gunn and Fahey the victors, but Fahey was seriously struggling with injury and illness. With his mobility totally restricted, Fahey inadvertently invented a new position on court. Similar in concept to ‘the coffin’, real tennis can now add the ‘the corpse’ to our vernacular. Playing the corpse to perfection, Fahey was targeted by Mathias and Poolman, surely for one of the few times in his highly decorated career. Gunn was also struggling for penetration and Mathias and Estcourt were unlucky not to sneak over the line. First set to Gunn and Fahey 6/4.
The second set was notable, Estcourt showcasing some very good demi-piqué serves, and Mathias racking up many successful winning gallery shots. Second set to Gunn and Fahey 6/2.
The third set upon us, Mathias hit his 4th winning gallery, quickly followed by his 5th, 6th, 7th , 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, whereupon this correspondent lost count. Suffice to say Mathias’ ability to find the winning gallery is truly astounding. Unable to move on court, Fahey was nevertheless able to provide a constant flow of entertaining banter for the side gallery crowd. Gunn and Fahey completed the match with a 6/3 third set, thus booking in a final against Chapman and Booth. It remains to be seen if Fahey can recover in time, to provide more support for his partner Gunn, or more significantly, for the singles final tomorrow evening.
Gunn/Fahey defeated Mathias/Estcourt 6/4 6/2 6/3
With the Vigrass sisters already progressing to Tuesday’s final, the last match of the day saw Kate Brown and Susan Castley compete against Amy Hayball and Eryl Raymond. Raymond should probably have been a little nervous playing in an Australian Open semi-final, but three shots into the dedans in the first game of the match indicated otherwise. Brown and Castley were very consistent, and Brown’s demi-piqué was particularly damaging. Hayball was retrieving well and fighting hard, but was unable to prevent the first set going to Brown and Castley 6/3.
The second set unfolded with Brown and Castley extending their dominance. The highlight of the set was Brown’s amazing defensive backhand volley finding its way into the winning gallery. The second set was won by Brown and Castley 6/0. No doubt their opponents in the final will provide a step up in intensity as the Vigrass sisters attempt to engineer their first Australian Open doubles title.
Tomorrow we see both singles finals.
5pm Sarah Vigrass v Claire Vigrass
Robert Fahey v Ruaraidh Gunn