Cotton sews up Team Handicap title in epic

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SUNDERLAND and District Division One champions Thompson Insurance A are the new Team Handicap Cup winners after overcoming a strong St Gabriel’s B challenge in an entertaining best-of-nine-sets final, writes Chris Blake.

Thompson brought in Marc Cotton for Darren McVitie, teaming up with Andrew Wilkinson and Diane Cartmell against Saints’ Dave Revell, Stephen Young and Geoff Young.

Cartmell had a six-point handicap against Revell, whose steady, controlled game focused on stemming his opponents’ forehand drive. The tactic worked perfectly and he took the first end 21-17.

In the second end, Cartmell slowed the speed of her backhand pushes down before picking out forehand winners with ease to level, winning 21-7.

In the deciding end, it could not have been any closer with the score reaching 17-17. The score alternated until Revell had set point at 20-19, but he missed a forehand smash to enable his opponent to save match point.

Cartmell took heart from this miss and edged the next two points with excellent attacking play to close out the set 22-20 and give Thompsons first blood.

Next up, Geoff Young had a 14-point handicap against Cotton, who used his serves to good advantage, fighting back to 19-15 before eventually losing out 21-17.

In the second end, Cotton continued to dominate his serves and brought into play his backhand topspin, coupled with impressive retrieving, to win 21-18.

In the final end, Young opened up a nine-point lead following an excellent backhand return and forehand kill.

But steady backhand topspin enabled Cotton to level at 18-18.

A backhand-winning shot by Young gave the Saints man match point.

A brilliant rally ended when Cotton just missed a forehand return by the smallest of margins to hand his opponent the set, levelling the match at 1-1.

In the third set, Thompson’s had Wilkinson up against Stephen Young, who had a 14-point lead.

Wilkinson, unbeaten all season, took the first six points before levelling at 15-15 and going on to win 21-18 with two excellent top and side-spin serves.

Wilkinson impressed in the second game to level the score, before winning five points in a row to give him five match points, which he won at the first time of asking to give Thompson’s a 2-1 lead.

The fourth setsaw Geoff Young open up a lead against Cartmell (+1). Powerful forehand drives saw Young dictate the game, but Cartmell opened up a 20-16 lead after a breathtaking forehand winner off the bounce from Young’s attacking drive. She duly took the end with the next point.

Consistent attacking play by Young level the game with a 21-15 win, but Cartmell opened up a 14-8 lead in the decider. An excellent diagonal forehand smash gave Young hope at 19-15, but Cartmell held on and closed out the set 21-16 to put Thompson’s 3-1 up.

Revell had a 13-point advantage against Wilkinson, whose exceptional play saw him claw back the handicap to level the score.

Despite a valiant effort by Revell, retrieving powerful returns from Wilkinson’s attacking play, the double Sunderland and Northumberland Closed champion won the opener 21-17.

Wilkinson quickly pulling back the handicap in the second, sealing a 21-15 victory for a 4-1 Thompson’s advantage, one point short of overall victory.

They duly grabbed a 5-1 success when Cotton avenged his narrow defeat earlier in the match, overcoming a 13-point deficit to beat Stephen Young.

A tremendous forehand smash saw Young go 15-5 ahead, but Cotton dug deep and clawed his way back. Four third ball attack winners gave him game point, which Young saved before he unleashed a superb return of his own to give him game point.

But it wasn’t to be and Cotton held on to win 23-21.

Cotton played a fine backhand loop down the line to cut Young’s lead to 16-8 in the second game.

Two winning shots eventually saw Cotton level before eventually closing out an excellent game 21-17 to win the set, and the match.

H The league’s presentation evening will be held on Friday, May 16, at Ashbrooke Sports Club (7.15pm).

Tickets are £8 (adults) and £5 (under-15s) and can be purchased from Dave Bissett.