This weekend saw the players from Bromley LTC, sponsored by Southern Motor Factors, travelling to the West Hants Club in Bournemouth and who over three days successfully retained their title of AEGON Team Tennis National Champions for 2010. With over 900 clubs fielding over 2,000 teams in this prestigious competition, which is the tennis equivalent of the FA Cup, winning back to back championships in 2009 and 2010 is a massive achievement for the club. Bromley LTC also won the championship in 2005 which means that the team has now claimed this coveted national title in three out of the last six seasons.
Luckily this year the Bromley players remained free from injury and managed to field their strongest side for the finals which consisted of Jamie Delgado, Matt Illingworth, Sean Thornley, Nick Cavaday, Rob Searle and Tom Higgins, all of whom are either current or former British top 20 players.
The first day of competition on Friday saw Bromley LTC take on Mackintosh LTC from South Wales. Despite the opponents having a strong side, after the four singles rubbers had been contested the Bromley team lead the opposition 3-1 with Matt Illingworth having lost to an impressive Joshua Milton who is currently ranked 15th in the country. Despite dropping the first set 6-4, the experience in the doubles pairing of Rob Searle and Tom Higgins proved too much for their Welsh opponents who went on to claim the second set 6-4 before edging the Bromley team into the semi finals by winning the third set Champions Tiebreaker 10 points to 5.
With the top and third seeds of David Lloyd Raynes Park and Sutton T & SC having lost unexpectedly the day before, Saturday’s semi-final against the home club of West Hants looked a formality in order to take the Bromley team into their third successive final. However this didn’t prove to be the case with Matt Illingworth, the Bromley number one, quickly finding himself 3-0 down in the first set. Experience kicked in though and Matt then only dropped one other game, winning the match 6-3, 6-1. With Sean Thornley having lost a very close match to Dorset’s number one Ben Pritchard, the team were once again leading 3-1 after the singles with Nick Cavaday extending his unbeaten match run to 11. Victory in one of the doubles matches would ensure Bromley’s progress to the final, which was achieved by the excellent pairing of Delgado and Higgins who closed out their match, and ultimately the tie, in two straight sets.
Sunday’s final was against Loughborough University who, having the luxury of being able to select a young campus team from amongst the most talented up and coming tennis players in the country, had done brilliantly all season and like Bromley LTC had remained undefeated all year. With such an impressive record and having defeated the number one seeds on Friday, the Bromley boys certainly didn’t under-estimate their opposition and fielded their strongest players to contest the singles matches. With wins for Delgado, Thornley and Cavaday (despite Nick developing a back injury) it was down to the doubles pairings of Illingworth/Searle and Delgado/Higgins to push home and secure the 2010 title. The first sets in the doubles matches were very tight indeed but Bromley’s depth of experience over the youngsters was telling and Illingworth/Searle eventually won their match 7-6(1), 6-1 with Delgado/Higgins winning 7-5, 6-3.
Team Captain Oliver Freelove was elated. “Not only has the club become AEGON Team Tennis National Champions for the second year running, the team has done so without having lost a tie all season. This certainly reflects the team’s spirit and effort which is second to none and every player has played their part in what has been a truly memorable year. The contribution also made by our club members and sponsors who have supported us throughout the year can’t be under-estimated either. It was really amazing to find that we had more Bromley supporters when we played the home team of the West Hants Club than the West Hants team had themselves. This really inspired the guys to perform well and we can’t wait for the 2011 season to start when we hope to make it three in a row. Bring it on……….”