Published 21/05/2019 at 16:27:37 by David Wackrill.

Here we all are again, back for a 9th year with the Monday night Summer League and possibly our last in the current Kingston venue which has served us so well down the years. Another tweak to the format this time sees an 8 team second tier with the relegation/promotion issue between the divisions still to be decided.

Scores –
Howsmall 5  Aylesbury 0
Warriors 3  Spinners 2
Phoenix 3  Towcester 2
The big talking point as usual centred around Howsmall. Having emulated Spinners and London Lads by winning back to back titles last Summer, can they possibly go on to a unique treble this year? It is bound to be an interesting journey but with the ‘small’ side of the team name now back in harness they will be overwhelming favourites. Welcome back Dan after a year’s absence and playing as well as ever, I see, to help thwart the challenge of the new team from Aylesbury, featuring Tim Cheek and Ben Rolfe, with a thumping 5-0 victory. Ace defender Tim is well known in the League, having played here for over a decade but this was Ben’s first venture north of the capital. Ben is a big hitting youngster of considerable talent, having reached the quarter-finals of the County Closed last year, and then only going out to eventual winner Rob Hansell. With Top 8 champion Nick Howard alongside Dan, who can possibly stop them?
A makeshift Warriors partnership of Michael Wilkins/RickyTaiwo beat the regular Spinners duo of Alan Cherry/Pete Tillotson 3-2 with Alan taking the consolation sets. That’s win numbers 216 & 217 for the consistent Alan (with only 15 defeats) since the competition began in 2011. The much travelled Michael, fresh from his endeavours at the weekend’s VETTS National Championships at Aldersley (where our evergreen super-vet Audrey Robinson won the over 80s Singles for a third time – many congratulations Audrey), was filling in for Ricky’s beleaguered Warriors team.
Early days, I know, but one of the relegation spots must surely be coming the way of Phoenix or Towcester, making this opening day meeting potentially crucial to both sides chances of staying in the top flight. Phoenix left the venue as 3-2 winners thanks to a storming performance from Ioan Constantin who won both sets in straight games and shepherded partner Gerald Ridgway to a fine doubles win over 7 games. Ian Brown and Iain Lindsay appeared for Towcester.
Player of the week is Ioan Constantin.
DIV 2 (courtesy of Mike Ainsworth)
Sweet and Sour 1 Phoenix II 4
Classics 3 Blades 2
Stormers 3 Topspin 2
Hit n Hope 1 Tornadoes 4
There were a number of new faces as well as some returning players in the first week of the Milton Keynes Summer League as five of the teams that finished last summer’s competition were joined by three more teams in an enhanced eight team division.
And if the top two teams in the division always stood out last year this season is already looking to be more competitive, judging by early results.
Two of the contenders for the top of the table ended last summer in division one and it was Stormers who narrowly prevailed by 3-2 against Topspin to open their account for the summer. Andy Smith won a hard fought double against Russell Penn and Mervyn Kelly and teamed up with Dave Wackrill to win the doubles. Dave had a rare blank at this level despite coming back from 3-1 down to level against Russell, only to see Russell edge the decider 11-9.
On table two Sweet and Sour, who ended up last season in second place, started out their season against new team Phoenix II, who comprised MK Phoenix’s big summer signing Mervyn Phillips together with newcomer Cazacu Vali. With Mervyn Phillips fresh from winning the division 2 winter league top eight title and a dangerous looking Cazacu (well he looked OK in the warm-up!) this was a potential banana skin for last season’s runners up and so it proved as Phoenix II ran away with the match by 4-1. Terry Lau scored the only point for Sweet and Sour as his unorthodox style bamboozled Cazacu and although Mervyn had to work hard for his two wins he always looked comfortable. Julie Snowdon completed the line-up for Sweet and Sour.
Hit n Hope finished last season in third place but without big guns Marco Hahn and Ivor Howard they faced an uphill task in their first match against Tornadoes, a team against whom they have already lost heavily  twice in 2019 (league and Cup). Against all the odds it was hit n Hope who took an early lead as Andy Frearson got his campaign off to a great start with arguably his best yet MK win against the fast improving Nicolas Wong. After that it was business as usual for the Tornadoes as they were largely untroubled as they went on to win the match by 4-1. A brace here for Tanmay Tijare and a single win for Nicholas. Mike Ainsworth completed the Hit n Hope line-up.
The final match to finish on the evening was a hard fought affair between two teams who finished in the lower half last year and it was Classics who narrowly gained an early advantage this season with a 3-2 win against wooden spoon holders Blades. Nick Markham was the hero for Classics with wins against Brian Evans and Andy Phillips, whilst he has assisted by Barbara Peters, who won against Andy. Brian Evans' sole win was at Barbara’s expense whilst Blades also won the doubles.
Player of the week is Mervyn Phillips.