Aegon County Cup 2013 – Bucks 10U Girls
Mild and slightly windy weather greeted the Bucks team on arrival at West Middlesex tennis club on the morning of Saturday 1st June 2013. The team of Ellie Stopps, Gaby Ireland, Manasi Kumar and Sarah Ewart Smith faced a tough weekend ahead, after being placed in a group featuring Essex, Middlesex, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
The first fixture was against Berkshire. The girls were slow out of the blocks, with Gabby and Manasi both going down quickly in straight sets, and Bucks number 1 Ellie Stopps struggling against Berkshire number 1 Isabella Shirley – clearly one of the best players on show during the weekend.
However, despite the disappointment of losing a tight first set on a tie break, Ellie recovered magnificently to take the second set 5-3, which gave her crucial momentum going into the match tie break decider. The rallies were intense, with neither player giving an inch in this absorbing encounter. It was nip and tuck all the way with spectators from every county by now engrossed. Yet sadly for Ellie, despite saving 3 match points, she eventually lost out 13-11. However, that performance against a higher rated player that she knows well from training, showed all the team, not least Ellie herself, what can be achieved with a never-say-die attitude in the face of adversity.
In Bucks’ second fixture against Oxfordshire, Manasi and Sarah found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer consistency of Oxon pair Jana Cooper Marcos and Gemma Taylor. The Bucks players battled admirably, and Sarah showed great heart in her county cup debut. Both though, would come off second best, despite Manasi winning her first games of the weekend.
That left Ellie to continue her blistering form against Oxon number 1 Lara Frank. Once again, Ellie showed the guts and determination that makes her such a tough competitor, roaring back to take the second set 4-0 after dropping the first 1-4. The match tie break that followed showed Ellie at her best, playing aggressively and without any inhabitions. Unfortunately, Lara was not in the mood to be denied herself, and dug in impressively to claw back a 5-8 deficit, and then to go 9-8 up, and thus match point. The crowd held their breath as both girls slugged it out from the baseline, with the decisive shot from Lara leaving Ellie bitterly disappointed. It wasn’t to be.
Defeat in the 2 doubles rubbers that closed play on the first day left the girls frustrated, yet determined going into the Sunday, with Ellie’s performances in particular offering the team a great source of inspiration.
Sunday was warmer, sunnier and helped to give the Bucks girls a real sense of purpose for their remaining matches. Gaby put in a fantastic effort against Middlesex number 3 Charlotte Tatham, narrowly going down in 2 closely fought sets. Sarah had arguably the toughest match of the 3 Middlesex singles rubbers, coming up against Andrea Pineda – one of the best orange 1* players nationally. Even so, the Bucks number 4 was unfazed here, showing the courage to play her most aggressive game. It was the Middlesex player who would ultimately prevail though in 2 straight sets.
This again left Ellie to show what she was made of as the team were desperate for something to cheer. Against hard-hitting Middlesex number 1 Louise Adams Pirmpool, Ellie matched her opponent stroke for stroke in the first set; her previous days’ experience clearly instilling some urgency in her play.
Yet after once again coming off second best in an opening set, Ellie’s tiredness began to creep in as she couldn’t maintain her impressive level of rally intensity, finally losing 4-2 4-0.
The fourth and final round of singles was against Essex, who themselves had been on the wrong end of some gruelling matches. By now fatigue had affected all the girls as the midday sun intensified. Sarah went down fighting against Ella Madle, despite playing some of her best tennis of the weekend. Manasi too, was beginning to play without any sort of hand-break, as the pressure was off with Bucks at this stage having no chance of progressing through this group of strong counties. With Evie Smart of Essex recharged after a mornings rest, Manasi was always up against it here, and in spite of some determined net play, the Essex number 2 triumphed convincingly.
Ellie by this stage was on court against arguably the best player on display all weekend, Essex number 1 Sarah Skaria. The Essex player had a monster serve and an uncompromising baseline game that Ellie did well to combat at all. Another battle royale ensued to the delight of everyone watching who’d witnessed Ellie’s heroics the previous day.
Ellie in fact managed to break Sarah’s serve in the first game (to her great delight), but was unable to capitalise, defeated in both sets by one telling break in each 4-2 4-2.
The remaining doubles rubbers against Middlesex and Essex were played in a fantastically relaxed atmosphere, with Bucks having nothing to lose. Gaby and Sarah made a great team in their match against the strong Middlesex pair of Louise Adams Primpool and Tania Freire Gavilanes losing in 2 entertaining sets 4-2 4-0.
Ellie and Manasi fought valiantly against Essex pair Evie Smart and Deniz Soyer, which saw all 4 girls frequently involved in electric rallies at the net. Their straight-sets defeat was a shame, but did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Bucks team as a whole, who were inspired to improve to bridge the gap between themselves and many of the high-level players they were up against over the weekend. For Gaby, Manasi and Sarah there was very little previous experience of playing matches of this standard, so huge credit must be given to the players for their fantastic attitude and spirit throughout the event. They all realise how much better tennis players they are for it.
Tom Edis - 10U County Team Captain