Lionel Cox 2014 – Bucks 9u/10u
U9 – Calum Fairey, DJ Mentiply, Josh Oakley, Annie Townsend, Yi-Toong Yee, Millie Day
U10 – Miles Groom, Josh Bright, James Pearson, Bethan Miles, Natalie Bell, Amelia Howie
The expansion of the Lionel Cox weekend (3/4 May) this year to include under 9 players made for a very busy but thoroughly enjoyable weekend for players, parents and coaches. For the first time in a long while, the event was treated to (for the most part) fantastic sunshine and very little in the way of wind which really benefitted the quality of the tennis.
Many of the under 9’s had only recently moved up from red ball events, so this was most certainly a step up for them in terms of both the grade of mini tennis and also the calibre of opposition at mini orange. The Saturday saw the boys rise to the challenge superbly as Calum, DJ and Josh tore into first opponents Berkshire with reckless abandon! DJ and Josh easily overcame Thomas Aston and Arda Dramali respectively in straight sets, with Calum needing 3 sets to dispatch the monster-serving Alex Okonkwo. This performance set the tone for the rest of the day for the u9 boys, as Calum, DJ and Josh went on to thrash first Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, and finally Cambridgeshire all by 3 rubbers to 0 to set up an intriguing final against an extremely strong Essex side. With Josh impressively defeating Essex #3 Ralph Bartlett 7-1 7-4 and DJ valiantly going down to Essex #2 Tibet Hanedan 7-5 7-2, the tie was poised precariously as Calum went toe to toe with Essex #1 Anthony Wright. Despite once again executing his aggressive game superbly, Calum couldn’t quite keep Anthony at bay and eventually lost 7-3 7-2. So a second place finish that was extremely encouraging and well deserved for the Bucks boys; roll on the County Cup in July!
The 10u boys were looking to go one better after a magnificent start on the Saturday. An opening win against Northants 3-0, with Miles heroically overcoming Henry Grayson 11-9 in the match tie-break, set up an equally enthralling win over Oxfordshire, with Miles again needing a match tie-break - this time to see off the dangerous Xavier Mohindra. Josh and James had really found their form by now, and recorded straight set wins over Aiden Casey and Christian Yeates respectively. James seemed almost nonchalant in his win here! By the time Norfolk were defeated 3-0 on the Sunday morning, Bucks had a chance to reach the final. Once more it was Essex that stood in their way, and this time the Bucks boys would have to adjust to the clay having played all their matches up to now on the super-fast astro. Miles came from a set down to beat Essex #1 Adam Groves 10-4 in yet another match tie-break and James unfortunately lost in straight sets to #3 Peter Eriksson. That left Josh to fight it out with Anthony Weingarten in a brutal encounter which saw both players take the initiative at various stages. Josh showed real heart and determination and was desperately unlucky to go down 10-7 in the match tie-break, meaning Bucks would have to face Suffolk in the 3rd/4th place play-off. With the players by now suffering a bit with fatigue due to both the heat and long matches, Bucks struggled to maintain the intensity of their previous fixtures. Moving back to the astro also didn’t help, with James and Josh suffering defeats to Joel Sheldon and Josh Stokes respectively. That left Miles to bring some final cheer to the team, which he thankfully did in a straight sets win against Suffolk #1 Adam Rudolph. So a slightly frustrated 10u Bucks boys team can look forward to the County Cup, knowing they came mighty close to the top prize at Lionel Cox, despite coming 4th in the end. There was certainly much to be encouraged about.
The girls 10u team had a new look to it, with only Bethan having played matches for Bucks before. With the ‘acquisition’ of Natalie from Middlesex, and Amelia Howie coming in at #3 following some recent impressive tournament performances, things were boding well for the girls going into the weekend. However, a 3-0 defeat in their opening fixture to Suffolk was a shame, as all 3 girls had chances to win their respective rubbers and certainly did not look overawed by the occasion. They came even closer against Essex, with Amelia almost taking the match to a deciding set against Grace Leigh. Amelia would go on to record the girls’ first rubber victory of the weekend, with a 4-2 4-1 win over Bedfordshire’s Elizaveta Verzhbitskaya in Bucks’ third fixture of Saturday. Both Bethan and Natalie were disappointed in their defeats here to Jaquelyn Ogunwale and Jessica Matthews respectively, although both looked far more comfortable on the clay and started to show their best tennis. A revert to the astro for the girls’ final group match on the Sunday against Northants failed to change Bucks’ fortunes, as all 3 girls suffered losses which meant a final chance to show their true colours in the 9th/10th play-off against Norfolk. Amelia convincingly dispatched Elissa Wood, having noticeably grown in confidence during the weekend; Natalie was desperately unfortunate to lose 4-0 5-3 against Hannah Wilson-Kemsley as she showed great courage, battling back in the second set. This left Bethan to fight it out with Mia Bartram to make sure Bucks wouldn’t go home with the wooden spoon! A tense encounter followed between the two evenly-matched girls, but with Bethan’s desire to finish the points quickly from the net, the Bucks #1 was rewarded with a fantastic 4-2 5-4 victory. All 3 girls admitted they learned a great deal from the experience, and will be determined to go into the County Cup with renewed hope that some of these close-run defeats can be turned into victories.
The 9u girls included Millie Day, who was part of the victorious mini red County Cup some weeks previously, so it was hoped that with all 3 girls on their County ‘orange debut’ that winning magic would continue at the Lionel Cox. In fact it was Millie who showed the way in Bucks’ opening fixture against Norfolk, recording the girls’ first win by defeating Rebecca Henden 7-6 7-3. Yi-Toong’s 7-6 7-6 loss to Ava Field was harsh on the team following Annie’s defeat to Annabel Hampsheir as the Bucks girls were so keen to get off to a good start. Even so, Millie again produced some inspired tennis to defeat Suffolk’s Emma Williamson in match 2, coming from a set down to win 3-7 7-4 7-4. Annie and Yi-Toong were desperate to follow suit, but despite finding their feet on the astro, couldn’t quite find the right formula to beat Tilly McLoughlin and Louise Booker respectively. As all 3 girls suffered straight sets defeats against a mighty-strong Berkshire, it was important they didn’t lose heart going into their final group fixture against Bedfordshire. So, with added determination, the girls pulled out all the stops, with first Millie, and then Annie coming from a set down to record wins against Emily Petrovska and Grace Storton respectively. Yi-Toong’s eventual loss to Megan Brook did little to dampen spirits as Bucks went into their 9th/10th play-off match against Northants. The girls seemed to go up several gears in these last rubbers, as all 3 came through victorious, with special mention going to Yi-Toong who’d been frustrated all day after going down in all her previous matches despite playing courageous tennis. Her victory over Sophie Lloyd 7-3 7-2 was a fantastic reward for her battling displays.