Tennis Saturday showdown

WELLINGTON Gippsland Tennis Association’s grand finals will be held on Saturday.

The juniors will hit the en tout cas at Sale Tennis Club, while the seniors will head over to the grassy expanses of Maffra Lawn Tennis Club.

In the seniors section one grand final, Maffra Vets will take on a determined Seaspray side on its home turf.

Saturday’s semi-finals saw Maffra Vets, after a season on top, manage to navigate a direct route to the grand final, winning 5-57 to Maffra Weirs’ 3-48.

Oppressive conditions made life hard for both teams, particularly evident in a lengthy doubles match in the women’s.

After plenty of drawn out rallies and scrambling from both sides, Weirs’ Kaylene Runciman and Jenny Luke managed to claw back some ground in the heat, clambering from 1-4 to 6-5.

A medical time-out resulted in an unconventional but necessary cold shower break at the hour and a half mark, and Vets’ Debbie Kaandorp and Sarah Luke found second wind to surge and take the win 8-6.

With the door closed on a Weirs victory, the team set its sights on saving legs for Sunday’s preliminary final and the decision not to play the number two mixed was made.

In the other section one semi-final, Seaspray managed to surprise association newcomer Bairnsdale in a grippingly tight final, winning not on sets but games to snatch the win, 67-63.

Of the five sets Bairnsdale won, two were tiebreaks at 9-8, and the other three were tight at 8-6.

As points are purely a determinant for the ladder and don’t carry any weight in finals, more convincing wins from Seaspray amassed into victory, and saw them shoot through to Sunday’s preliminary finals.

Outstanding play by Seaspray’s number two man Daniel Harkness saw him named as a three set winner on the day (9-7, 8-5, 8-4), and the team will feel a Harkness-shaped hole heading into play tomorrow.

Sunday’s preliminary final had oppressive conditions of another kind — wind that was certainly damaging to ball tosses and lobs, and morning showers that washed out Maffra’s lawn, shuffling players to the new synthetic courts.

In the wind and on a harder court surface, conditions replicated Seaspray’s coastal stomping ground, and may have been detrimental in inching them across the line into a grand final spot.

Despite handing over all but two sets, a grand final chance was still alive for Weirs headed into the mixed, nursed by a crucial 8-5 steal by Jake Weir and Zali Stevens in the number one mixed against Seaspray’s Nicole Bauer and Tim Dunnett.

Seeing the ball like a basketball, Bauer proved a force to be reckoned with at the net, service and baselines, but against all odds, a sprightly Weir dynamically negotiated his opponents’ efforts with a stiff upper lip, despite his crippling knee injury.

The final flame was soon extinguished as Seaspray’s Aaron Kennedy and Jo Mactier defeated Andrew Ross and Jenny Luke 8-6 in the number two mixed. 

The win secured a grand final position for the southerners, who will return to Maffra’s lawn tomorrow to take on the Vets.

In previous rounds, the teams have played neck and neck matches against one another, with Maffra only slightly ahead at the end of the day.

Seaspray’s domination in its women’s side is evident, managing to clinch its entire women’s draw against the Vets in round five at home, and relenting only one women’s set in round 12 at Maffra.

If the women continue their good form headed into Saturday’s game, they will pack a hard punch to the Vets’ chances of victory.