World Singles First Leg - Match Report
Tom won the spin and was first off, but Ben was ready and pounced to take the service and then three quick points. Tom responded with five points of his own to lead 5-3, normal service was resumed. But Ben dug in and ground out a point here then a point there, throwing in the occasional drop shot to keep Tom sharp. After four hands from Ben the score had crept up to 11-5 to Ben’s advantage. Tom was serving just a little too high and onto the back wall; with the quick court, Ben was able to capitalise. Two points from Tom were followed by three from Ben, to reach game ball at 14-7. Tensions ran high with the return of service too strong before Tom inched closer. But this was always Ben’s game, taking the necessary point to win 15/8, and a one game lead.
Tom needed to regroup and the second game was incredibly tight. Ben opened with a brace, before Tom pulled one back. After further tentative play and great returned, it was Tom who nudged ahead to 4-2 and then 5-2. But now the game was deadlocked, but it was Ben who inched back with a point every other hand, finally levelling at 5-all. Again, Tom served high putting Ben in the box and he really made it count, reeling off nine straight points to lead 14-5. Tom again failed to score and Ben scored the vital point on the next hand to win 15/5, mostly on a single hand, and establish a two-love lead.
The third game was pivotal and Tom needed to take back some control – and he did, making the early running to take a 4-1 lead, then 5-2. Points were tough to win with both players picking up shots off the back wall and scampering around the front, but again Tom continued to hold a slight advantage and take his lead to 8-4. Ben wasn’t giving up and pulled back a couple of points, and a further point apiece saw the score reach 9-7 in Tom’s favour. On the pair battled, always in the best of spirit, calling their own shots down as gentlemen, reaching 11-8 to Tom. It was now or never, but it was Ben who clawed back to 10-11, then 11-all and then, finally establish a 12-11 lead. Both then gained a single point on service to leave Ben 13-12 up. With the gallery wanting more, Ben found the answer and secured the last two points, winning 15/12, and surge ahead three games to love.
An injury break then followed and both players took a well-earned breather. They shared a point apiece on the opening round of serves before Ben made a couple of short breaking to lead 5-1 and then 8-2. Tom now found his range on the service, keeping the ball lower and off the back wall; would this be enough as Ben struggled to pick up points. Tom fought back, 4-8, then 6-8, but three points from Ben against a further two from Tom left Ben ahead 11-8, then 12-9. Ben then took the game to match point but incredible defence by the Champion kept him in the game and creeping ever closer to trail 10-14. But it was all to no avail, despite defending two match points, Ben triumphed on the third, taking the game 15/10, and a four love lead back to Queen’s in a week’s time.
Final score: Ben Cawston beat Tom Billings 15/8 15/5 15/12 15/10 (Points 60-35).
Tom now needs to reverse the score line at Queen’s and win convincingly as well, limiting Ben to less than 9 points a game overall. A tough ask for anybody, but stranger things happen at sea! A straightforward match for marker, Conor Medlow, and referee Jonathan Larken, due to the respect between to two players.