21/05/2018 QUALIFYING RD1 - ROB DOWNER vs RUI SOARES

This match started with a very high pace from the start, instigated by Downer seemingly trying to burst the ball at every opportunity. Soares was able and seemed happy to absorb the hard hitting with his relaxed style proving effective, racking up points quicker than expected on a hot and bouncy court.

At 1-7 down and aware of how things were running away from him, Downer slowed the pace and began to pull back into contention with two lovely nicks to the front corners and two unforced errors from Soares. Downer continued with the more sensible pace and closed to 7-9 with some tight play but a stroke against him followed by a heavy smash into the tin gave the first game to Soares, 11- 7.

The second game started scrappily and edged towards the midpoint with plenty of errors and the odd stroke thrown in. At 6-6 a heavy slip left Soares on the floor leading to a 3 mins blood injury break. Returning on court with a bandaged left knee which was clearly irritating the Portuguese player, this didn’t stop him hitting two beautiful nicks after Downer had returned to his attempts at beating the world’s hardest ever shot. Soares sneaked into a small lead again, making consistent use of his working backhand boast and looked favourite to take the game at this point.

However the working boast started finding the top of tin and at 11-10 and game ball to Downer the players produced the best rally of the match so far with Downer’s outrageous retrieval skills making Soares hit winner after winner with no reward, culminating in a forced tin to give the game to Downer, 12-10.

Starting the third, Downer continued the theme from game two with his retrieving continually forcing errors from Soares. This combined with upping the quality of his shot saw him storm to a 4-0 then 6-1 lead. After a few niggles with the ref from both players, proceedings remained tense to the end and at 10-7 the crowd was treated to another huge rally with more unbelievable retrieving all round – Downer coming out on top this time with a lovely drop, 11-7.

Into the fourth and at 5-1 to Downer there wasn’t much coming from Soares, it looked like the writing was on the wall for the Portugese. However Tournament Director Mystic Noakes, lurking quietly, predicted Soares taking it to 5, messing up his schedule. Almost immediately as Chris spoke, an unforced tin from Downer followed immediately by a class smashed nick from Soares saw the momentum change as we got to 7-7. With Soares now turning screw and extending the rallies, there was only one winner of the fourth – 11-7.

The final game unsurprisingly saw a tense start with Downer getting everything back nearly everything Soares could throw at him. Both players looked to give it one last big push, it seemed that Downer the more ambitious player and carrying more confidence, however they traded point for point to 8-8. Then we saw the two points which decided the match. At 8-8 another huge huge rally ended with a lovely drop shot from Soares, followed by Downer watching Soares picking himself up from the floor mid rally and winning the next point to get match ball, 10-8. A wild shot from Downer saw the ball out of court and a relieved Soares through to Qualifying Finals.