It was a relief to hear that the 35 and Over inter county championships were to continue in their usual format over one weekend a year at Eastbourne, rather than converting to the format of the over 40s, in which matches take place over several weekends all over the UK.
After winning group 6 in 2013, Nottingham were in group 5b for the 2014 event, along with the Channel Islands, Cheshire and South of Scotland. Nottingham once again went to Eastbourne with the minimum number of 4 players (plus another player for just 1 day) , 3 of whom have been consistent team members (Lisa Knowles, Maia Dunn and Aldona Greenwood). There was also a new player this year in Bethan Mallalue, and Nadja Oliveira provided valuable contribution on the crucial final day.
First up on Friday, Nottingham were against old friends the Channel Islands, who had travelled to Eastbourne with as many teddy bear mascots as they had players. After two straight sets singles wins by Maia and Aldona, the team were 2-0 up and then Lisa and Beth in their first every county match as a pair (and Beth’s first ever match representing Nottingham) sealed the win against the Channel Islands with a nail biting third set tiebreak in the first doubles match. The remaining 2 matches in the tie were played in a more relaxed fashion, enabling Nottingham to get used to the wind and the grass and practice their doubles tactics for the matches on Saturday and Sunday. It was a very successful first day - a 4-1 win to Nottingham.
Day two saw Nottingham facing the South of Scotland; the weather forecast was for heavy rain but by some miracle it stayed dry after the heavy overnight showers and all matches were completed. It was once again a good start with Maia and Aldona securing straight sets singles wins.
However the remaining 3 matches weren’t so straightforward as Scotland seemed to have saved their best for the doubles. Lisa and Beth were on for the first doubles and the wind became a wee bit tricky! The Scots, probably being more used to the windy conditions came through 7-5
6-3 with Notts still needing one more win to secure the tie. Maia and Aldona were next up for the second doubles against the same pair that Lisa and Beth had just played.
Again the wind was a factor in the first set and the Scots quickly took the first set 6-2 and it was looking as though day 2 might come down to the final match. However, a change of tactics and serving end later, Nottinghamshire took the 2nd set 6-4 and hung onto win the final set champions tiebreak. Another win for Notts! Again the final match wasn’t required to win this tie and Scotland just edged through to win the final set tiebreak. A 3-2 win for Notts!
The final tie on Sunday 3rd August was against Cheshire who had also won both their previous matches on Friday and Saturday. With this knowledge, the Nottinghamshire team decided against hitting the town on Saturday night and instead were tucked up in their sacks by 10pm. The tennis on Sunday was tense, with both teams very aware that the winning team from this tie would win the division. Both singles matches were tense and the Cheshire supporters were more vocal than the Notts supporters! However, both Maia and Aldona, who played solidly all weekend came through to win both singles as on the previous 2 days. A 2-0 start to the third day and Cheshire appeared to become a bit dejected. Then Nottinghamshire brought in their trump card in Nadja Oliveira, who was relieved from sandcastle and ice cream duties with her 2 daughters for a couple of hours. The first doubles match was very tight, with each county having chances but Lisa and Nadja took the first set 6-4. The second set went in a similar manner and Notts again had secured the tie! Division 5b champions!
It was a fantastic weekend of sunny tennis and it is the second year in a row that the women’s over 35 team has been promoted. It was a fantastic team effort by all 5 players. Thanks must also go to the groundstaff at Eastbourne who do such a great job of maintaining the grass courts, and also to Pippa Kirtley and her amazing team of physios who kept our elbows, wrists, shoulders, calfs and other bits in working order over the weekend!
Aldona Greenwood (Captain)
Pictured left to right: Nadja Oliveira, Lisa Knowles, Aldona Greenwood, Maia Dunn, Bethan Mallalue