Did you hear about the one about the guy who reversed down a narrow lane in the desperate hope of saving a few quid on parking only to crash his car and end up costing himself a small fortune?
Well you have now. Not the best way to start semi-finals day at the $15k Futures Men’s Irish Open. Anyone who noticed me constantly muttering to myself in disgust now knows why.
Anyway, first up were second seed Miloslav Mecir against the highest ranked Irish player in the draw, James McGee.
The previously mentioned drama meant I missed a first set that McGee took 6-2 and when I got there he was serving at 1-2 in the second. I felt like I’d jinxed him when he got broken from 30-0.
In the following game he raced to 40-0 lead on the Mecir serve and looked to have broken straight back when a backhand landed six inches wide but there was no call and the Slovak eventually held on.
McGee wasn’t exactly pleased and when the same line judge correctly called one of his shots out in the following game he couldn’t resist a sardonic “yay, good call!”
Or maybe he’d felt a bit guilty about questioning her competence and was offering a genuine compliment by way of apology? Right.
His frustration was understandable and when he found himself trailing 3-0 in the third that call looked like a real turning point.
It was only one of many however and a pumped up McGee got back on level terms by reeling off three games in a row. It was almost four with Mecir holding from 15-40 in the seventh game.
McGee staved off a 15-40 of his own in the eight game but that was nothing compared to what he faced in the twelfth of the deciding set where he saved four match points.
Although Mecir will be kicking himself, the truth is that McGee played those points like a player who has been winning a lot of matches lately.
The first was saved with an ace, the third and fourth with big first serves that went unreturned. Only on the second did Mecir have a real chance, sending a flat powerful cross court backhand just inches wide.
It was by no means a gimme, but a shot he would have expected to make.
McGee eventually held after seven deuces and took a strangle-hold of the tiebreak when he consolidated a mini-break on the first point with two more big serves for a 3-0 lead.
When a stunning backhand pass gave him a double mini-break lead at 4-1 he was in a commanding position he went on to seal the breaker 7-3 with a delicious half-volley on match point.
Although the crowd of I guess about 150 people were firmly on the side of the home player, Mecir would be an easy player to root for in other circumstances.
He has an attractive game to watch with flat strokes, nice variety and some delicate touches around the net. Furthermore he’s ice-cold on court and generally responded with a wry smile, rather than a moan to the umpire, when calls went against him.
At 23-years old we can safely say that he’s never going to reach the heights his father did, but he’s improved his ranking by almost 100 places in the last year and looks to have enough talent to continue that upward trend.
The second semi-final was much less dramatic with top seed Charles-Antoine Brezac securing a comfortable 6-0, 6-4 win against an injury-hampered Barry King, who has been on pain-killers for a hip problem since before the Davis Cup tie against Tunisia.
Brezac exploited his opponent’s limited movement ruthlessly with his hard flat strokes constantly keeping King on the move.
The Irish player took a medical time-out at the end of the first set and showed a lot of heart to fight so hard in the second when it would have been easy to throw in the towel.
Next up was the doubles final with James Cluskey looking to defend the title he won last year with Colin O’Brien.
McGee was his partner this time around and their opponents were 19-year-old Frenchman Albano Olivetti and Louisiana State collegiate player Neal Skupsi, a younger brother of British doubles specialist Ken.
It was a match that didn’t have a whole lot of pattern to it. Team Jimbo quickly went 2-0 down but looked to be in complete control when they reeled off five games in a row before hitting a wall.
They were pegged back to 5-5 and probably would have been broken again in the eleventh game only for some generous home town line calling.
Home bias wasn’t a theme of the match as a whole though and both teams were frustrated by plenty of late, unsure and downright hopeless calls – the pick of which came when one line judge yelled “fault!” for a serve that was dumped into the net.
The look of disbelief on Cluskey’s face was priceless.
The Anglo-French pair took a tight tiebreak and secured the vital break in the second game of the following set.
It came down to Olivetti to serve it out and he definitely isn’t a player you want to be trying to break to stay in a final. His serve is massive.
The final game of the match summed it up. With the Irish pair still fighting hard, Olivetti fell to 0-15 as he attempted to serve out for his first professional title.
Nerves? No chance. Three aces in a row and then an unreturned bomb and it was all over.
I have no idea what speeds he was hitting but some of his flatter deliveries down the T must have been in the region of 135 mph.
Given his age and the potential to improve, it will be an absolutely devastating weapon in future for him.
Many thanks to Stephen Findlater for the photos. There’s more from the doubles final here.
The singles final between McGee and Brezac tomorrow begins at 14:30 and should be a cracker.
Anyone with a couple of hours to spare could do worse than heading to Fitzwilliam to check it out and you can’t really argue with free entry.