Interclub title decided in marathon encounter

James Spence and Matt Meredith. Photo: Geoff Sloan
James Spence and Matt Meredith. Photo: Geoff Sloan
James Spence and Matt Meredith have played more matches against each other than they can remember, but they will be talking about their match to decide the Christchurch premier interclub title over beers for decades.
The two friends couldn’t have dreamed of scripting how the premier men’s interclub final between Waimairi and Cashmere would play out on Saturday.

After starting the tie at 2pm, Spence (Waimairi) and Meredith (Cashmere) were the last two on court at 9.30pm with the title in the balance in their second set tie-breaker.

"It was probably the best tie I’ve ever been a part of whether it was national junior events, school tennis, college tennis or interclub," said Spence. 

"It was just on a knife-edge the entire day.

“It was a boisterous crowd with the decibels rising as the beer consumption lifted.”

Earlier that day the two sides split the two opening doubles results. In singles, Waimairi No 1 Connor Heap took care of Johnny McHarg in straight sets, while Cashmere ace James Meredith did the same to Finn-Emslie Robson.

When Waimairi’s Remi Fendeon defeated Tim Meredith 7-5, 6-7, 12-10, it meant the only way Cashmere could win the tie was if Matt Meredith defeated Spence in straight sets.

Spence went up an early break in the first set to lead 3-1. However, Meredith won five straight games to take the first set 6-3.

Meredith continued his form early in the second set and led 5-3 before Spence clawed his way back to take the set to a tie-breaker. Spence went down an early break, but battled back to win 9-7 and give Waimairi their second straight title.

Knackered and with the tie already decided, they opted to go to the pub instead of playing out the match.

"It was what club tennis and club sport is about," said Spence. 

"Two guys just loving playing the game and giving it their all with great support."

Meredith, 38, and Spence, 36, may both be beyond their best years on court – however, the effort wasn’t lacking.

One of the highlights of the match was a rally in excess of 20 shots that saw Spence sacrifice his body while diving to reach a Meredith drop shot.

"It’s hard to be disappointed when you’re involved in something that good. It was special to be honest,” said Meredith.

"We’ve played a lot of tennis together and against each other. We’re just a little bit heavier, less hair and don’t move as well. It’s hard to remember them all, but we won’t forget that one."

The win also completed a double for Waimairi after the club won the women’s interclub final earlier in the day.

A dominant performance saw them overcome Te Kura Hagley 5-1 in matches.