From an initial field of
over 1,400 teams across the country within the County, Regional and National
Divisions of the AEGON Team Tennis Championships, the top 8 teams gathered at Bournemouth to compete for the coveted title of 2011
AEGON Team Tennis Champions.
Bromley LTC were the
defending champions and seeded 2 for the finals. Travelling down to The West
Hants Club in Bournemouth for the three day
competition, Bromley knew that the competition was going to be very strong.
Day 1 – Friday 15th July
Bromley’s campaign was
almost at an end the previous day as the team’s number 2, Jean-Rene Lisnard,
pulled out of the weekend with a hip injury he sustained playing Davis Cup for Monaco the week
before. This effectively left the team with only three players for the first
round on Friday as Sean Thornley (Britain’s No. 17) was still playing
in the doubles of the $10K Futures at Frinton.
Fortunately for Bromley, but
unlucky for Sean, the Wimbledon pairing of Thornley and David Rice lost in the
semi finals at Frinton, meaning that he could now be at Bournemouth
in time for the first match. Drawn against Holcombe Brook from Lancashire, the Bromley squad were confident of victory.
Bromley stalwart Tom Higgins
had a tough time against Holcombe Brook’s Rob Morgan. Having had six match
points in the third set, Higgins eventually lost in the third set tie-break
7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (10).
Andrew Richardson, Bromley’s
head coach and Britain’s
former No.3, beat Andrew Davies 6-4, 6-2.
Sean Thornley, playing at
number one in Bromley’s line up, overcame Simon Roberts who is ranked 23 in the
country 6-3, 6-2.
In his first match for weeks
following a serious ankle injury, Bromley’s Matt Illingworth quickly dispatched
Chris Parkes 6-2, 6-2 and made it three singles wins for Bromley.
With the weather having
turned from beautiful sunshine to consistent drizzle, the American clay courts
became unplayable and Bromley would need to win one of their doubles matches
indoors to progress to the semi-final.
The first doubles rubber
didn’t go to plan with Higgins and Richardson losing their match against Parkes
and Davies on a third set match tie-breaker 6-3, 4-6, 0-1(5).
With the match rubber score
now at 3-2, the Bromley pairing of Thornley and Illingworth needed a win to
avoid a tie-break shoot out to decide the tie. Having won the first set on a
tie-break, the Holcombe Brook pairing of Morgan and Roberts levelled the rubber
at one set all. Bromley needed to win the third set match tie-break which was
very competitive, but Bromley edged the victory 7-6(7), 4-6, 1-0(9).
Bromley’s progression to the
semi-finals on Saturday was secure.
Day 2 – Saturday 16th July
With the weather still
against them, all the day’s semi finals had to be played indoors. This meant
that play would start at 9.30am and it could be a very long day.
Having beaten the number 4
seeds Wrexham LTC the day before, Bromley would play Barry Athletic from Wales.
First on court was Andrew
Richardson who had a tough time against Barry’s Farris Gosea. Having lost the
first set on a tie-break, the experienced former Davis Cup Player came through
to win 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-3.
Next up was Tom Higgins who
won his singles against James Hignett 6-4, 6-1.
Matt Illingworth at No.2
made light work of beating Barry’s Daniel Sidaway 6-0, 6-2.
Sean Thornley had more of a
battle against Matthew James but came through to win 6-4, 6-3.
Being 4-0 up after the
singles, the doubles were effectively dead rubbers and Bromley were through to
the Grand Final for the fourth year in a row.
Grand Final – Sunday 17th July
Back outside on the clay at
9.30am, Bromley were to meet the No.1 seeded team of David Lloyd
in the final to decide who would be crowned 2011 AEGON Team Tennis National
Champions. Andrew Richardson and Tom Higgins were first on court for Bromley.
Richardson was up against James Marsalek from Raynes Park
and, despite losing the first set, eventually overcame his much younger
opponent 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Tom Higgins was drawn
against Jamie Feaver who, ranked 817 in the world, proved too strong and went
down 6-2, 6-3 to the Raynes Park player. The tie was equal at one all after the
first two singles matches.
Bromley’s Sean Thornley and
Matt Illingworth were both up next and had very tough opponents indeed.
Illingworth played 20 year
old Marcus Willis who is ranked 677 in the world. Having just returned from
injury, Illingworth struggled to find form and lost to the Raynes Park
player 6-2, 6-1.
In the final singles match
of the day Thornley was up against his friend and Wimbledon
doubles partner David Rice. Ranked number 8 in the country and 429 in the
world, Rice was too strong for Thornley on the day and eased out the match for Raynes Park
Bromley were 3-1 down after
the singles and needed to win both the doubles to take the match into a
tie-break shoot out. With the rain setting in the doubles were taken indoors.
Andrew Richardson paired up
with Tom Higgins for Bromley against Neil Bamford and Lee Childs, whilst
Illingworth and Thornley contested the other doubles against Rice and Willis.
Both matches were very tight
with Illingworth and Thornley taking their first set to a tie break.
Unfortunately Richardson and Higgins, having incurred a couple of service
breaks, were edged out of their match 6-4, 6-4.
Raynes Park had secured the final victory they needed and were
now the new National Champions.
Bromley’s Team Captain Rob
Searle wasn’t too disheartened after the match. “This has been a tough season
for the team and to reach the Grand Final again for the fourth year in
succession has been a great achievement by the players. Whilst it is
disappointing not to have won a hat trick of successive titles, we were up
against a very tough side in David
Park today who deserved
to be seeded 1 in the finals. We are delighted for them having won their first
title in this competition after many attempts, but we only intend this to be on
loan for a year”.
Team Principal Charles
Baylis was also optimistic. “The players have done remarkably well to finish as
runners-up in the championships this year. Having won the title three times and
been runners-up twice now, our success in the competition remains unrivalled.
This has been a great team effort which includes our supporters from the club
and also our local sponsors in and around the Bromley area”.