Last year the Men’s team achieved promotion from Group 3, and so Division 2 was inevitably going to be a real challenge given the teams at this level are rated 5 – 12 in GB.
Men’s Squad: Dave Porter, Seb Jackson, Jonny Kinsella, Nick Eeckelaers, Alex Grocott, Adam Jones, Matt Chadwick & Jordan McCulloch
Day 1 v Hertfordshire: We could not have asked for a more challenging first match against a Herts team that included full time players Aljaz Bedene (highest World ranking of 40!), Edd Corrie and David Rice. This was where the strength and depth of the Cheshire team was going to be tested and it is fair to say that all the 6 singles players rose to the challenge. Seb Jackson, Jordan McCulloch, Jonny Kinsella and Dave Porter produced some great tennis and won their singles matches. Matt Chadwick and Nick Eeckelaers playing at number 1 and 2 singles could not match their opponents, however, Cheshire found themselves in the somewhat surprising position of 4 – 2 up, and therefore needing one win from the remaining 3 doubles matches to secure a memorable victory. Herts have not been multiple winners of Group 1 in the past for no reason and they came out and played some impressive doubles winning 2 of the matches quickly and in convincing style. The match now stood at 4 - 4 with Cheshire dependent on Matt Chadwick & Jonny Kinsella. They went a break down at the start of the match, but produced some great tennis to break back and to then take the 1st set 6 – 3. It all looked very promising when Matt & Jonny broke serve early in the 2nd set, however, Herts broke back which put the match back in the balance again. Some impressive returning and volleying gave the Cheshire pair another break, and they then managed to save a break back point before securing a memorable win by 7 games to 5. So it was a real giant killing act by Cheshire, with a somewhat surprising but well deserved victory by 5 rubbers to 4.
Day 2 v South Wales: Team Cheshire suffered a setback as Nick Eeckelaers was unfit to play for the remaining two days due to a serious injury, however, Adam Jones, fresh from winning his first Junior Tennis Europe singles title was now available, and was selected to play. Adam made an important contribution winning a tough singles against the 4th ranked Welsh player. One of the highlights of the other singles matches was Seb Jackson winning a marathon, and there were other notable victories for Jonny Kinsella and David Porter which meant we were leading 4–2 with 3 doubles matches to play. Seb Jackson was given a well deserved rest, and Alex Grocott was selected to play with Jordan McCulloch in the first doubles against a very experienced Welsh pair. They started off playing some fine doubles and took the 1st set in convincing style 6 – 2. Unfortunately the 2nd set was dominated by their opponents, and so it came down to a final set tie break which could not have been closer. From 7 – 8 down, with their opponents serving, Alex & Jordan played 3 outstanding points and took the match for a great win. This put Cheshire on 5 rubbers and in an unassailable lead. The final two matches resulted in a convincing 6 – 3, 6 – 1 win for Dave Porter and Adam Jones, and the closest of defeats for Matt Chadwick & Jonny Kinsella 10 – 8 in a final set tie break. The match score was therefore a very satisfying 6 – 3 win. With 2 wins out of 2 Cheshire stood top of Group 2 and needing to win their final match versus a very strong Kent team to gain promotion to Group 1…….no pressure then!
Day 3 v Kent: There were no changes to the 6 singles players selected to play against South Wales, and despite 4 tough matches in 2 days for most of the players, everyone was feeling very determined. After the first 3 singles Seb Jackson had produced another big performance winning in 3 closely contested sets, Jordan McCulloch lost the closest of matches 7 – 5 in the 3rd set, and Adam Jones gave all he could, but could not match the energy levels of a much fresher opponent and lost in 2 sets. So Cheshire was 2 – 1 down, and this soon became 3 – 1 when Jonny Kinsella lost to a very resilient opponent. Dave Porter was playing some great tennis against the Kent no. 2 taking the 1st set 6- 4, but then had the misfortune to have a bad fall which meant he could not play on. This was obviously a big setback for the Cheshire team, however Matt Chadwick then produced a big performance beating the Kent top player 7 – 6 (5), 7- 5. With the overall match score now 4 – 2 to Kent we had to win all 3 doubles matches. Alex Grocott resumed his successful partnership with Jordan McCulloch and gave Cheshire hope by winning the first set 6 – 2, however, on the adjacent court Adam Jones & Seb Jackson could not find a way to defeat a very strong Kent pair losing 7 – 6 (4), 6 – 3.
So although it was a disappointing finish to the day, it had still been a highly successful event for the Cheshire team. All eight Cheshire players gave their very best and contributed to what was a series of very impressive performances over the course of the three days. Without the handicap of 2 injuries we could certainly have been promoted again. The team thoroughly deserved to remain in Group 2 for 2017.