A fortnight ago the Hobart team of PETE BOYLES, HILTON BOOTH, PAT DUNNE and GRAEME BRADFIELD tarried forth to the RAT district of Ballarat for the annual match against the best of Ballarat under the team slogan (and appropriately designed t-shirts) WHACKARAT.
The Ballarat team consisted of DAN WILLIAMS, DAVID PARKER, WAYNE SPRING, MICHAEL WILLIAMS and MARK HARTNELL.
The Friday night commenced with two hours of scheduled team practice starting late, due to the Tassie team being mesmerised by the labrynth of freeways emanating from Tullamarine and the weight of four navigators. This was followed by carbohydrate loading with the opposing team with the ingestion of beer and pizza. The weekend beer special being a local beer named the RAT.
We were all well-billeted by the Ballarat team and the first match kicked off the next morning at 10am. We played matches in team order, with Graeme Bradfield taking on the hugely improving Michael Williams.
The first three games took over half an hour to play and both teams were dreading a five-set match at this pace. However, despite having a 5-2 lead in the first set, Graeme managed to lose it 6-5 and the next set followed with Michael hitting his targets hard and often to take it 6-3.
Graeme rallied well and took a early lead on third set and was 4-0 up in the final set but despite this managed to lose that 6-4 as well. The match took over three hours and was not an inspiring start for the team.
The next match was the Hobart enigma Patrick Dunne playing the timeless O-55 doubles champion, Wayne Spring. Pat, despite being down 2 sets to 1 and 3-0 in the 4th, managed to claw his way back to take the match 3-2, after another 3.5 hour epic. Patrick managing to finally contain his see-sawing game to overcome Wayne’s consistency.
The third match commenced with Hobart’s Hilton Booth playing another World’s over 50 player, David Parker. Hilton, from the beginning, showed his new style of relentless and consistent retrieval and tight shots to take the first set 6-0 in a long set and to streak in the second set to a 2-0 lead before our ephemeral coach, Patrick Dunne, had a few words to him, where upon he lost 2 games. He recovered well and won in straight sets but still in 2.5 hours.
This left the last game of the day with HRTC Club Champion, Pete Boyles, taking on Ballarat’s club champion, Dan Williams, commencing at 3.30pm.
The match was of a high standard, with Pete initially struggling to find form in his first truly competitive match in months. Pete, having the more experienced head, soon worked out that Dan was more at home with the pace game, which Pete has used so successfully on others. Pete then reverted to a reasonably boring slow-paced game which Dan tried to resist with continuous forcing which led to increased number of unforced errors. Pete managed to become more consistent as the match progressed with his line, length and pace which only served to make Dan’s game less and less comfortable. Pete came back from 2 sets to 1 down to eventually run out a very tired winner in five sets, finishing just before 7pm.
The team showered and then relaxed with the Ballarat team at a local restaurant and, whilst Hobart was at this stage 3 rubbers to 1 up it could have been so easily been the other way given the events of the day. Whilst most of the team started the night with high hopes of an intense party atmosphere, within a couple of hours the energy levels faded and apart from Patrick Dunne looking for a MacDonalds at 1am, the teams headed home early.
The next morning Pete and Graeme took on Dan Williams and Mark Hartnell in the first doubles and after another marathon 3.5 hour match, with Graeme finally getting his tennis act together, the Hobart team won in 5 sets.
The next rubber between Hilton Booth and Pat Dunne against Australia’s best (or at least longest serving doubles team) Wayne Spring and David Parker, became a testimony to young guns blasting experienced guns off the court in three sets. Whether it was the dead rubber or the accomplished, rarely viewed skills of Pat Dunne at the net, will never be known, but Hilton continued his weekend of being a model of consistency and the crowd watched in wonder as Patrick pirouetted amongst the galleries. The reality may have been that later it was found out that it was the first time that both Wayne and David’s wives had turned up at the same time to watch them. It had been a joke the night before amongst Carmel Parker and Marcia Spring that whenever one of them came to watch, their husbands would lose. Sadly, this probably means that David and Wayne will never be watched by their wives again.
So, at the end of a fantastic and long weekend of tennis, Hobart retained the Widmer/Bradfield cup 5 rubbers to 1, but if the five set matches had gone Ballarat’s way, they would have beaten us 4 rubbers to 2.
In summary, it was agreed that the Cup is a testimony to the competitiveness of the two clubs and this is to be looked forward to in years to come. Especially as the Melbourne Tennis Club is currently far and away the largest and best standard of amateur players in the world and it is difficult for either club to mount a serious competitive challenge in the near future in this format.
Written by Graeme Bradfield with assistance from Patrick Dunne