AEGON 10u County Cup 2016 – National Finals, Sunderland Tennis Centre, 10/06/2016 - 12/06/16
Bucks Team: Millie Day (Chesham Bois), Ashni Sangha (GXBL), Aneka Patel (GXBL), Amber Razzaq (GXBL)
Captain: Tom Edis
Assistant Captain: Hannah Russell
Two short weeks after qualifying from Group C to progress to the national finals, the Bucks girls travelled north to Sunderland to compete in the 3-day event amid much excitement. The competition involved seven other counties divided into 2 groups of 4, with each match, as with the qualifying group, consisting of 3 singles rubbers and one doubles. Each county would then face the equivalent-placed county in the play-off rounds on Sunday morning.
Avon, Lancashire and South Wales awaited Bucks. The standard was, as expected, very high from the outset, but Bucks were determined to make their mark. However, Millie kicked off proceedings on Friday afternoon with arguably the toughest opponent she could wish for: Avon #1 Aryana Bartlett. Aryana was one of a handful of girls there who had a yellow ball rating already, and Millie struggled to handle the pace the Avon girl put on the ball. The 4-0 4-0 defeat was hardly the ideal start, but Ashni would then record Bucks’ first victory of the weekend in an impressive 4-2 4-1 win versus #2 Sophie Hunter. Aneka then faced #3 Zoey Starke who was in no mood to miss much at all – Aneka could find no way through losing 4-0 4-1.
This left the doubles where Amber stepped in with Millie to face the mighty Aryana and her partner Poppy Rickwood. Again Aryana was dominant and seemed to blitz the Bucks pair single handedly. In no time at all the Avon pair won through 4-0 4-0 to condemn Bucks to a 3-1 overall defeat.
Lancashire would be no easier the following morning. Even so, Bucks put up a great fight and were very unlucky to come out empty handed; first Millie played a marathon against #1 Vlada Kozak, really finding her form and causing the Lancastrian all sorts of problems. Her 1-4 5-3 10-7 reverse could easily have gone in Bucks’ favour. This made Ashni’s subsequent 3-5 4-0 10-5 defeat to #2 Jade Cole even more frustrating because it was becoming clear that Bucks were creating real chances, but just not being able to take them. Amber then faced Lancashire’s very strong #3 Hima Fernando who managed to over-power her to win 4-0 4-0 and therefore ensure Lancashire had an unassailable 3-0 lead going into the doubles.
Millie and Aneka fought bravely and showed a good understanding - much as they had done 2 weeks previously in the qualies – but narrowly lost out in the end to Jade and Hima 4-2 5-3.
South Wales remained. Bucks were highly motivated to make up for their narrow defeats earlier in the day, and their sense of urgency was highlighted straight away with Millie making short work of #1 Iris Plane 4-1 4-2. This was followed up with an identical result from Ashni over #2 Rhea Makesar, leaving Aneka to make the overall result safe should she beat #3 Erin Passmore. Such was the tension on court from the desire to secure victory for Bucks, the rallies were often exhausting and brutal. Both players at different times looked like they were going to seize the initiative only for the other to snatch it straight back! However, Aneka kept her composure brilliantly at the right time, coming back from 3-1 down in the second set to take the match 4-2 5-3. Victory at last!
Amber and Ashni could then relax in the doubles rubber that followed, losing an entertaining dead rubber 4-0 0-4 10-6. It mattered not though, as Bucks celebrated on Saturday night with pizza and very much looking forward to what awaited them the next morning.
It meant that Bucks would enter the 5th/6th playoff against old local rivals Herts, who themselves were unlucky not to have done better in their own group. Their team consisted of entirely regional and national standard girls, and it showed; #1 Hannah Read put in an impressive performance to defeat Millie 4-2 4-0 – their second encounter in as many months, after meeting at the Lionel Cox on May Bank holiday. Ashni continued to impress with her attacking play against #2 Mafalda Almela-Lozano, but could just not put the clever Herts girl away – eventually losing out 5-3 4-1. Aneka then took on the precocious #3 Erin Pearce, who was simply far too consistent, the Bucks girl losing 4-1 4-0.
Amber and Ashni would then contest the doubles in the last match of a thrilling, as well as a mentally and physically draining weekend! Erin teamed up with Alazne Hopwood-Martin to be the opponents. Great net-play and combinations followed from both sets of players, and victory for Bucks would have provided a nice extra momento to take away from the event. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and Herts recorded their 4th and final rubber victory to achieve 5th place overall, and push Bucks into 6th.
Regardless, this was a hugely successful competition for Bucks. Of all the players in the girls’ event, the Bucks girls had the least tournament experience, with the fewest amount weekly training hours between them. The fact they managed to go toe to toe with players who spend double the amount of time on court a week in some cases, is to their immense credit. It’s hoped that reaching the national finals here can inspire them to continue their development as tennis players, and work even harder to try and repeat the feat in future years.