With due deference to the advancing years of the participants, County matches played between “seniors” have a match tie-break if any rubber should reach one set all. This proved to be an inspired rule for Norfolk men of a certain age in 2019.
In 2018 the Norfolk Mens Over 65 team finished third in Div 2, so would not have expected promotion. Somehow the gnomes of Roehampton decided they should be promoted anyway, so for 2019 new skipper Rob Ollman found himself in charge of a Division 1b team with matches against Kent, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Berkshire and Middlesex.
Things did not start well with a 5-0 home loss to a very strong Kent side, who fielded the national No1 man at Over 65. Mike Hutson secured the only set won by Norfolk in the match. With Mike away for the next match, away v Staffordshire, Philip Tye was drafted in, playing down from the Over 70’s for his one match. Unfortunately, facing a very strong Staffordshire team, the result was similar – a 5-0 loss.
Undeterred, the team travelled to Cheshire, the 2018 champions, during the heatwave of County week. Playing indoors in 30+ degrees heat and on the alien surface of carpet seemed to suit the Norfolk men and a 5-0 win was secured thanks to four of the five rubbers being won on match tiebreaks. Next up was a home match v Berkshire. This was always likely to be a tight affair, and Norfolk squeaked through thanks to two singles wins from Ollman and Hutson and a doubles win from stalwart pairing Arnold & Henderson (aka the brick wall). And yes, all three rubbers won were on match tiebreaks.
With two wins under their belts and a Div 1 place for 2020 all but secured the team headed to Queens club in London for their final match v Middlesex, to be played on clay the week after all members of the team had played Cromer Senior on grass. Not at all perturbed by this Mike Hutson won his singles in two very tight sets, and then the fun started. Arnold and Henderson edged their first doubles on a match tiebreak, after saving two match points at 7-9 down. So Norfolk required one of the final two doubles rubbers to take the match. Unfortunately the “brick wall” crumbled a bit leaving the outcome on Hutson and Palmer in their doubles. Of course this match went to a match tiebreak. Just to make things even more interesting they went 4 match points down at 5-9, but thanks to some positive play and perhaps some nerves from their opponents they won the next 6 points to take the rubber and the match.
In the three ties they won Norfolk took all nine of the match tiebreaks they contested. 2019, year of the match tiebreak!
Squad: Rob Ollman (captain), Keith Arnold, David Henderson, Mike Hutson, Richard Palmer, Philip Tye.