Senior British League 1st Weekend - 30 September-1 October 2023
The first weekend of the new Senior British League season, hosted by Cippenham, saw mixed fortunes for the host's two teams. The second team, comprising some of the younger players, won three of their four matches and sit nicely in second place in Division C-5. However, the first team, weakened by the non-availability of Shae Thakker and Martin Gray, won only one of their matches and are seventh out of eight in Division A-2, having won promotion to that higher echelon by virtue of winning Division B-4 last season.
The weekend started well for both teams. The Cippenham first team won their opening match against Kingfisher, local rivals from Reading. Martin Adams, making his 300th appearance for Cippenham in this competition, and Rob Hansell began in fine form, beating David Barr and Harry Randall respectively both 3-0. However, Kingfisher hit back with Hari Gehlot getting the better of Steve Munson and Ryan Chung defeating Tom Windram who was making a re-appearance for Cippenham after seven seasons and having answered an SOS call to help out. Martin and Rob duly won the doubles to put Cippenham back into the lead and that lead was extended after an easy win by Rob over Barr. Martin established Cippenham's winning lead with a 3-1 success over Gehlot and Tom saw off the challenge of Randall. Chung won the final set against Steve to make the final result 6-3 in Cippenham's favour.
The Saturday afternoon encounter with Ellenborough proved much more difficult. Tom defeated Sara Williams and Rob got the better of Tony Halling but that was all Cippenham could muster in a disappointing 7-2 defeat, giving Ellenborough what would prove to be their only victory of the weekend. Sunday morning started brightly as Cippenham raced into a 3-0 lead against Finsbury. Rob, Martin and Tom all contributed in what, at that stage, looked like one-way traffic. However, the tide turned and turned big. Steve lost his singles and then Rob and Martin were beaten in the doubles. Rob then faced Finsbury's number one Abdullah Ubaidullah and led 10-6 in the fifth and deciding game. Ubaidullah then unleashed some of his best shots and took the game 13-11. This was the point at which the momentum turned so strongly that Cippenham were unable to win another set and lost the match 3-6.
A disappointing weekend reached its logical conclusion with defeat on Sunday afternoon against Woodford Wells. Martin and Rob won the doubles and Martin got the better of Lucas Papantoniou but that was all the hosts managed in a 2-7 defeat.
The Cippenham second team had a much better time of it. Jamie Woodford got the nod as player of the first match against Isle of Wight. Jamie beat both Christos Hannides and Rod McMullan while William Saint also won both of his matches against Alex Rorke and Hannides. Jaiden Caldeira beat Gabor Bodnar but was beaten by Rorke. That all made the scoreline 5-4 in Cippenham's favour after a closely contested match in which six of the nine sets required a deciding game and the other three were all 3-1.
Disappointment was to follow in the Saturday afternoon match with the Cippenham second team losing 5-4 against Gwent to give the Welsh side their only points of the weekend. Jaiden won both of his matches while William and Jamie won one each. Jack Fletcher was the only player to defeat William all weekend and that came 12-10 in the fifth.
Rachael Iles replaced Anna Piercey for the Sunday matches and the team's fortunes took a turn for the better. Bristol Associates were the first to suffer. This was another closely-fought match in which six sets again required a decider but this time Cippenham triumphed in all six. Jamie lost to Svilen Andreev and Jaiden lost to Daniel Petit and at one time the scoreline read 2-2. However, Rachael Iles was near her best and her two wins, earning her the first of two player of the match awards, inspired Cippenham to a 7-2 victory. The final match of the weekend brought Cippenham a 9-0 win over the luckless Generation 2 side that prop up the division even though this match was a lot closer than the result suggests with three sets going to five games.