Team: Zac Orr-Ewing, Fraser Reeves, Charlie Berens, Millie Day, Ashni Sangha, Aneka Patel
The Aegon 9u County Cup this year moved to August from its regular July slot. The Bucks team included players who’d recently had some individual tournament successes, most notably Fraser, who’s started winning tournaments at green ball already! The opponents for the day were Herts, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Essex.
Zac Orr-Ewing made his Bucks debut in the team, playing at #1, and looked unfazed from the off. Oxfordshire were first up, and Zac was determined to make his mark straight away, racing to win the first set 7-0. The Oxford player was to come back strongly though, raising his game impressively to take the match eventually 0-7 7-4 7-5.
Fraser roared through his opening match with the confidence you’d expect of a player on such a hot streak of form, taking it 7-4 7-5. With Charlie holding on to win his first rubber against Oxfordshire’s #3 7-5 4-7 9-7, it was the best start the team could’ve hoped for.
The girls were equally impressive; Millie, Ashni and Aneka made small work of their Oxfordshire opponents, with each coming through in straight sets: 7-3 8-6, 7-2 7-3 and 7-5 7-3 respectively.
The only blot on the copy book was defeat in the boys doubles, with Fraser and Charlie going down 8-6 7-2. However, by that stage, the team were riding high, with both Millie and Ashni (7-4 10-8) and Zac and Aneka (8-6 5-7 7-4) coming through their doubles, albeit after great scraps – both rubbers brought real entertainment to the parents and coaches watching.
Next up were mighty Herts, who were rightly seen as pre-tournament favourites. In fairness, they showed just why this was the case, displaying inspirational tennis at times that still managed to bring out the best of the Bucks players. Unfortunately neither Zac (7-2 7-2), Fraser (7-5 7-2) or Charlie (7-4 7-2) could even get a set from the Herts boys, despite throwing the kitchen sink at them. Millie fought valiantly in her 3 set loss to the Herts #1 girl – arguably playing her best tennis of the day in the second set before finally going down 7-3 1-7 7-3. But with Ashni (7-3 7-2) and Aneka (9-7 7-5) scoring vital Bucks wins, a shock was still possible going into the doubles.
It almost seemed on the cards when Millie and Ashni won their doubles 7-5 7-9 7-4. The 2 were starting to build a real understanding as a pair, after having comparatively little doubles experience between them.
Alas it was not to be overall, as Fraser and Charlie lost the decisive rubber 7-4 7-1 against a very strong Herts boys pair. This was a shame, as Zac and Aneka came within a whisker of making the tie interesting, narrowly losing out themselves 7-4 6-8 9-7 in the mixed.
Unabashed, the team looked for better fortune after lunch. They found it in style after thrilling performances against Gloucestershire – in particular from Fraser (7-2 3-7 7-5), Charlie (7-5 1-7 7-5) and Ashni (5-7 9-7 7-4), who all managed to come out on top in gripping 3-setters. With Millie also winning in straight sets (7-2 7-2), Zac’s tough 7-2 7-4 loss, and that of Aneka 7-5 8-6 meant Bucks were still in pole position going into the doubles.
Fraser and Charlie were still trying to find that elusive win, but just couldn’t find it here. Gloucestershire’s boys pair were solid at the net and denied them 7-3 7-3.
There was no such trouble for Millie and Ashni though, blitzing their opponents aggressively in the girls doubles 7-4 7-0, in a win which clinched victory for Bucks. Zac and Aneka’s marathon 3-setter 7-9 7-0 10-8 was the icing on the cake. It meant a victory over Essex would at least guarantee the team second place.
The Essex fixture saw the most emphatic victory of the day, and rounded off a fantastic event for Bucks. The players seemed to have a second wind, and a steely determination that simply blew their opponents away. This was especially impressive as Essex had recorded some excellent individual wins against the other counties, and not to mention some eye-catching performances.
Zac finally got the singles win his battling displays had deserved. His 7-2 7-5 victory was met with as much relief as it was joy from his teammates! Fraser followed that up with an equally determined 7-0 7-5 win of his own, and although Charlie’s closely fought 7-4 8-6 defeat made the overall score tight, the girls were to dispel any nerves going into the doubles with an outstanding series of singles victories: first Millie came through 7-4 8-6 in a win that could have been even more comprehensive if it wasn’t for a dogged late rally from the Essex #1, before Aneka (2-7 7-4 7-2) and then Ashni (7-3 4-7 9-7) won in heroic fashion.
The Bucks team still wanted to end the day strongly, even though victory was secured. Fraser and Charlie produced their best doubles play of the day to finally get a win themselves, seeing off the Herts boys pair 7-3 9-7. Zac and Aneka made short work their mixed opponents, defeating them 7-2 8-6, which left Millie and Aneka to round it all off with the most convincing Bucks set of the day – smashing the Essex girls’ pair 7-0 in the third with the rubber deadlocked 7-4 4-7.
So silver medals for Bucks, which was an excellent achievement for a promising squad. With all the focus for the players now going towards playing green ball competition from now on, the team can look back, both individually and collectively, at orange ball-level competition of this standard as a significant and successful stage in their development as tennis players.
Tom Edis (Captain)