Last Sunday saw Bromley Lawn
Tennis Club contest their final group stage fixture of the 2011 AEGON National
Team Tennis Championships against Sutton T & SC.
With Sutton currently 3rd
in the group and Bromley sitting in 4th place, the defending
National Champions knew that this was a “must win” match for both sides. Only
the top three teams in the group can progress through to the next stage of the
competition, and whichever team lost on Sunday would be out.
With the rain at the weekend
and Sutton having no indoor courts at their venue, the match had to be played
down the road at David
Park. This didn’t bode
well as it was on these super fast indoor carpet courts three weeks earlier
that Bromley lost 6-0 to the host venue.
Playing at number one this
week was Kent’s
No.1 and GB No.17, Sean Thornley. He was up against a formidable opponent in
Josh Goodall, ranked seven places higher than Thornley in the country at No.10.
Carrying a niggling injury,
at 2-2 in the first set Thornley couldn’t continue comfortably and decided to
sacrifice his singles rubber and save himself for his doubles match. Bromley
were 1-0 down already……….
Bromley’s number two was
Jean-Rene Lisnard, the current French No. 21 who still plays on the
international stage and achieved a career high ATP Ranking of 84, reaching the
third round of the Australian Open in 2005. Competing against Sutton’s Nick
Lester, “JR”, as he is known on the tour, was taken to a tie break in the first
set but came through to win 7-6, 6-2.
Andrew Richardson, Bromley’s
Head Coach and Britain’s
former No.3 was up against Andrew Bettles. The first set went to a tie break
lost. Drawing on his wealth of experience, Richardson re-grouped and overwhelmed his
younger opponent in the next two sets to win 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.
Completing the line-up against
Sutton’s Oliver Hudson was Britain’s
former number 8 and Bromley’s Team Manager, Oliver Freelove. Again the match
didn’t go to plan with the first set being decided on a tie break which went in
favour of the Sutton player. This was a crucial match in the tie and nerves
were being shown by spectators from both sides as the second set also went to a
tie-breaker, which Freelove won to level the match at one set all. The third
set was incredibly close with just one break of serve, but Freelove closed out
the match 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 to take Bromley into a 3-1 lead going into the doubles.
Thornley and Lisnard paired
up for Bromley to take on Lester and Bettles. Losing the first set again on a
tie-break, the Bromley pair levelled the match by winning the second set 6-3.
It couldn’t have been closer going in to a Champions Tie Break to decide the
match, but the Bromley paired pulled through to win 6-7, 6-3, (10-7).
Contesting Bromley’s other
doubles rubber were Freelove and Richardson against Sutton’s Josh Goodall and
John Richards. After losing the first set the Bromley pair dug deep to secure
the second set and, after winning the Champions Tie-break, emerged victorious
4-6, 6-4 (10-8).
Bromley win overall 5-1.
Freelove was thrilled after
the match. “This was such an important tie for both teams. With so many
tie-breaks and first set losses the final score of 5-1 doesn’t truly reflect
just how close a call it was for Bromley today. Sutton has been one of our
biggest rivals for a number of seasons and, whilst we realise that we have put
them out of the competition for this year, we are absolutely delighted to have
qualified for the play-offs on July 2nd and then hopefully on to the
National Finals in Bournemouth”.
With Bromley, Raynes Park
and Ipswich all on the same number of points in their group, Bromley will have
to wait until Sunday when Ipswich contest their last match of the season to
discover if the play-off will be a home or away fixture. They could have to
travel to compete against one of the teams from the North, the Midlands or the South West of the country.