View Full Version : Ali's day at Barnstaple $75k

01-11-2011, 22:36
Note: Apologies for the relatively poor quality of the images, I was using my lamentable 5 year old phone with a 2.0 mega pixel camera (stop the snickering!)

Wednesday 26th of October 2011

10.05am: I arrived much earlier than I had anticipated, having over estimated the journey time down from Bristol. I pay my 1.20 (very fair, I thought) for an all day parking ticket and head into the Tarka Tennis Centre. The receptionist gave me a snazzy blue wrist strap as my day pass. The first thing I saw was Laura Robson chillin' out in the part of the canteen which had been cordoned off for the players. I'm not easily starstruck, but wow. Lol. Ok, perhaps I am easily starstruck. Walking through the corridor I got my first glimpse of Heather Watson warming up with a light hit.

Heather warming up whilst her coach Mauricio Hadad watches on

10.15am: I struck up a conversation with some other fans and asked them what they were looking forward to. No prizes for guessing what all of them replied. I took up my position behind court 2 (where Watson V Robson would take place) as early as I could to get a great vantage point before all the 'laggards' arrived. I also needed a position so I could see the score from the Domachowska V Hlavackova match as I had promised updates via Twitter.

The Sky Sports camera had already been setup

10.25am: The fact that Sky Sports suddenly made an appearance despite having no prior plans to cover this challenger was testament to the fascination which surrounded this match-up. I turned around to see Laura was now warming up with her coach Luke Milligan (courts 1,2 & 3 are seperated from 4,5 & 6 by a walkway, which is where I was standing). She was throwing what looked like a small medicine ball with her service motion. Later she moved on to a spot of skipping.

Cue Rocky music

11am: The excitement was really building now and the make shift stands that had been erected by the side of the court were now full. Bang on time, the players walked out on court to a warm applause. The lady next to me—who was wearing an orange wrist strap to signify an all week pass (suddenly my blue one didn’t seem so snazzy now)—states that Laura was lucky to be here today as yesterday (in the first round) she had been ‘on the ropes’ against Johanna Konta (Aus) whom was playing superbly. I inform her that Konta should soon be representing GBR. “Oh, really” she replies, “from when?” Ah, the $64,000 question.

Anticipation was growing as the players warmed up

11.15am: The match began and Laura was immediately the more assertive player. Her shots had more weight on them and Heather seemed, rather surprisingly, flat footed. In a heartbeat she had been broken twice and was struggling to get her first serves in. Laura is always aggressive returning second serves and today would be no exception.

Second serve, backhand down the line time

Everything seemed easy for Laura, her first serve was working well and this put her in a strong position from the get-go in most of the rallies in her service games. The ol’ Greg Rusedski saying “everything flows from your first serve” sprang to mind. She took the first set 6-1.

11.45am: “This could be a damp squid” expresses the man behind me. I contain my inner pedant. Although I do share his concern. The second set starts in the same vein, Laura breaks straight away to lead *2-0. Heather, whom I knew would not give up, is trying to pump herself up. Bouncing up and down and saying (although not shouting) “come on” after winning any point. And lo and behold, it seems to do the trick. Suddenly she is now playing like I had expected her to. Her movement seems crisp, and she starts to hit some clean winners of her own. She starts moving Laura around the court more and some forced errors arrive. Break back, hold, and it’s back to 2-2. The crowd is audibly behind Heather now as they want to see a competitive match.

Mid-day: Laura still had more weight of shot, but it didn’t seem to phase Heather now. Like in cricket when a ball is forty overs old, it doesn’t seem as fearsome anymore despite being bowled at the same pace. Crucially, Watson’s serve seemed to be working better now as well and was denying Robson the chance to immediately take control of rallies on return.

An abysmal attempt at a panoramic shot (click here for full size image) (http://oi43.tinypic.com/14o0g3p.jpg)

A few holds and the score now stood at 4-3* to Watson. And then what turned out to be the crux game of the set. One point, in particular, stood out. Laura was moving Heather from side to side and eventually got a short ball which she powerfully struck down the line to Watson’s backhand and proceeded to follow in to the net. Watson scurried after it–I thought in vain–but reached it just in time to hit an improbable (although not cleanly struck) looping backhand down the line winner which Laura chose to leave. The loudest cheer of the match erupted for an exhilarating rally. Laura, simply smirked and rolled her eyes. Possibly at her friend’s perceived fortunate shot, or perhaps laughing at herself for not taking the ball out of the air (a shot which would have required an overhead backhand smash)? I prefer to think it was the latter as, watching Laura over the years, she does ‘self-flagellate’ quite a bit when things aren’t going well.

Heather proceeded to break, aided by the ‘miracle point’, and then she duly served out to win the second set 6-3, finishing with an ace. Laura left the court to recompose.

12.30pm: During the intermission between sets the usual array of platitudes, which seem to follow these two, were being spouted:
“I think Laura will go on to have the better career as she has more weapons”.
“I’m not so sure, I think Heather is the one willing to put the work in” another would retort.
“Laura must improve her agility and speed if she is to reach the top 10”.
“Heather needs to re-balance her game to be slightly more offensively minded”.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, the dreaded “if only we could find a way to combine the two”. If I had a penny for every time I read/heard that I would be, errmm, 21 pence richer! As I was waiting for the match to resume, my attention was distracted momentarily by a BOOM on the adjacent court that Andy Green himself would’ve been proud of—Mona Barthel dismissing a Mandy Minella serve on her way to a 6-1 7-5 victory.

12.35pm: As the third set began both players seemed to now be playing at a good level. Some stirring rallies were exchanged as the match went with serve (although Laura had a couple of break points which Heather saved). One moment saw Heather drag Laura into the net with a poorly executed drop shot, which should have been put away, but Laura inexplicably netted. Drop shots were seldom used in this match, perhaps surprisingly as I thought Heather would attempt it more often.

Watson anticipating where Robson would strike the ball

The service holds lasted until 3-2* with Watson serving. This game saw a combination of a couple of lax errors from Heather, combined with some good play from Laura and, in the blink of an eye, Laura had what would eventually prove to be the decisive break. Two straightforward holds followed leaving Robson serving for the match at *5-3. Watson was again on her toes waiting to pounce, however, Laura sent down two good serves and quickly jumped to 30-0 to settle any nerves. The end arrived when Heather hit long whilst being 40-15 down–handing victory to Laura. There was no celebration from Robson and a sincere, amiable handshake at the net followed (http://i41.tinypic.com/14xgmt3.jpg) (image copyrighted to James Jordan of The Daily Mail).

Laura Robson (GBR) d. Heather Watson (GBR) (2) 6-1 3-6 6-3

The coaches, just as the players did, walked off together

Overall, I felt the score was a fair reflection of the match. Heather simply couldn’t afford to give Laura a one set head start, which is essentially what she did. Whilst she played superlatively in the second, Laura played slightly better in the third and was the one who created a few break point chances (one of which she took).

1.30pm: LUNCH TIME! And I was starving.

End of part 1.
I will bump this thread when I finish parts 2 & 3. Still to come, Broady, Keothavong, Moore, Garcia, Domochowska, 'Wabson' + other stuff.

Let me know what you think.:)

01-11-2011, 22:37
Reserved for part 2.

01-11-2011, 22:37
Reserved for part 3.

01-11-2011, 22:51
Great start, more please :) One of these days when I finish my exam rollercoaster I'll manage to get to some challengers - barnstaple would be easy for me :(

01-11-2011, 22:58
Excellent...so interesting and full of match detail. Your photos are very good. Awaiting parts 2 and 3.:thumbup::clap:

01-11-2011, 23:07
Thanks Maza for your thrilling account and great photos. I can't wait for more. :thumbup:

01-11-2011, 23:12
Yeah likewise, great reading and pics, muc better than anyting that came from the journos!

01-11-2011, 23:13
brilliant blogg!! + fantastic photos!!

thanks Maza1987 - looking forward to parts 2 and 3!!

01-11-2011, 23:14
Thanks for the replies. Pleased to know you enjoyed.

02-11-2011, 08:41
Great stuff, Maza! Roll on part 2! :thumbup:

02-11-2011, 11:01
Thanks Mazza, really enjoyed that. Did think about driving up from Cornwall but can't be away from home for long at the moment and couldn't find a sitter.

02-11-2011, 11:47
Thanks Mazza, really enjoyed that. Did think about driving up from Cornwall but can't be away from home for long at the moment and couldn't find a sitter.

Pleased to know you enjoyed it pat. Shame you couldn't come down, would have been nice to meet up with some other members.:)

02-11-2011, 15:23
Thanks Maza - interesting read and good photos :thanks:

Golden Lady
02-11-2011, 16:42
What a great read Maza, absolutely loved the match report and photos. Looking forward to the rest!

02-11-2011, 20:53
Great stuff Maza, looking forward to the next installment.

02-11-2011, 22:22
Great detail and as amusing as the tweets you were sending on the day - I'll look forward to parts 2 and 3 :-)

03-11-2011, 06:35
Was I there???.........NO!....... but it felt as though I was due to great writing & detail,great read Maza, can't wait for reports 2 & 3....Well Done!!!:thumbup:

07-11-2011, 14:54
Brilliant thanks, Maza!