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Match for history books

History will be made tomorrow when Martinborough and Carterton take to Wairarapa’s first clay court for their third-round Regional One Interclub fixture.

The clash between the two leading teams in the Gawith Shield Championship is believed to be the first interclub fixture to be played on clay in New Zealand.

The red clay court has been developed by tennis coach Jacob Emery and his partner Teresa Ross on their property south of Martinborough and will present a new challenge for players, with the ball coming off the surface slower and bouncing higher.

Wairarapa Tennis senior interclub coordinator Matt Spooner, who plays for defending champions Carterton, has been practising on the court and is relishing the prospect of playing a competitive match on it.

“The ball certainly reacts a lot more to any spin that you impart on it, and if you don’t put any spin on it, it has the opposite effect, and the ball just sits there asking to be hit,” Spooner said.

“If you put a lot of topspin on it, it really kicks high but not a fast kick, and it sits up and is quite difficult to get your timing, but conversely, a really good cut shot almost stops. I went out there yesterday for a hit to try and get my head around it.”

The clay court won’t pose any problems for Carterton’s German exchange student Mara Beyerle, who has grown up playing on the surface in her homeland. Spooner said her experience of playing on the traditionally slower courts has been invaluable.

“Mara has played on clay a lot in Germany, and she said a lot of it is about your movement as well, not hitting the ball when it’s high and getting off balance, and not trying to win the point too early.”

Beyerle is likely to play at number four in the men’s singles, and Spooner expects her to be a nightmare for her opponent. Emery, who will play at two or three, gives Carterton a further edge with his experience of playing and coaching on clay.

Carterton will also have the talented Alice Whitaker back to take the number one women’s role.

Martinborough won their second-round encounter 8-1, but Spooner predicts a closer result tomorrow.

Carterton were to play Opaki last night in a scheduled fixture. There is still doubt, though, over the rescheduling of fixtures abandoned because of the unseasonable wet weather, and Spooner hopes that all deferred fixtures can be played over the next week.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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