The U18 age group are always the first County Cup event of the year and this time the team were to travel to Welwyn Garden City to compete in Div 3a against Leicestershire, Suffolk and Gloucestershire.
Day 1 Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire
First up with Mark Jarratt (at 6) ; Daniel Blackburn (at 5) and James Chester (at 4), this on paper looked like Leicestershire just had the edge, but on the court however we lost like we were picked up in a whirlwind and thrown aside! Mark and Daniel lost their first sets 1-6 ; and James had a little more fight but lost 3-6. We could only hope that hope the next sets go better! Dan started well but just fell short 5-7; Mark lost 0-6 and James lost the second set 3-6 so all 3 matches were over in really quick time.
Eban Straker-Meads (at 3) was up next and at last we had a match to get behind. Eban at times was all over his opponent but a few big first serves at key times saved his opponent. Eban lost a close match 4-6 6-7(4). At the same time Pierre Luigi (at 2) had his hands full with his opponent who was looking like he could have played at number one for most teams. Pierre just couldn’t get a hold of the match and lost 1-6 3-6. With the day already lost 5-0 within 3 hours, we could now play our ace in the pack, Marcus Walters (at 1). Of course, Marcus showed the whole venue his class and he never really looked like losing and cruised to a 7-5 6-1 win. Now for the doubles with Daniel and Taylor Hursthouse in at 3 who made too many easy mistakes to lose 2-6 3-6. Pierre and James Wood at 2 also lost by the same score, but Marcus and James Chester won a great game to watch 5-7 7-5 (9-7).
We took a real kicking today and it was one of my hardest days in the 11 years I’ve taken the team away. (Day 2 is not looking much easier, as Suffolk won with ease 9-0 on Day 1)
Match result 7-2 to Leicestershire
Day 2 Nottinghamshire v Suffolk
We decided to keep the same singles line up for day 2
Mark, Daniel, James went on first but I’m sad to say it was the same outcome. Mark made too many errors and lost 1-6 3-6; Dan lost 2-6 3-6 and James played a guy on the top of his game who had a huge serve and lost out 4-6 0-6. Eban had been in pain with a bad foot which is why he didn’t play the doubles the day before. As much as he tried, the guy just made too many balls for someone with a bad foot and Eban lost 3-6 2-6. Pierre went out hard and fast and took a great first set 6-3 but the second was so tight. He did have a few chances at the back end of the set but lost in the tie break 5-7. Onto to the 3rd set and it was close up to 3-3 but then, with a few good winners from his opponent, Pierre lost 3-6. Yet again we had lost the first 5 matches so the day was already over before Marcus went on and just got passed the post 7-6 (4) 7-6(5) against a 6 feet 6in massive server. Daniel and Taylor were already on at this time playing at 3rd pair they lost 2-6 3-6. So with the day already lost, we let the last 2 doubles go as walk-overs.
So it’s down to the last day for survival v Gloucestershire who have lost 9-0 and 7-2. We have both lost in similar ways on the first 2 days. We need a fast start!!!
Match result 8-1 to Suffolk
Day 3 Nottinghamshire v Gloucestershire
With this start of the day looking key to our success at staying up, I had a change at number 6 with James Wood coming in. It looked to be paying off with both Dan at 5 winning 6-0 in his first set and James winning 6-3, the Gloucestershire team then dug in Dan’s match - squeaky bum time as it was so close and he just made it over the line in a tie break 7-6(3) as James Wood was just falling behind to lose the second set 4-6. Come on, James! If we can get this match, victory should be ours - James started strong and hit his way to an early lead then pressed home his early advantage to win 6-2 in the third!!
James Chester and Eban to go on next and I hope there form can pick up!!! I’m sad to say they found it hard going again. James losing out 2-6 0-6 and Eban lost 2-6 1-6. Pierre played a great match and won is style 6-0 6-0 and Marcus went on to make us 4-2 in rubbers, I’m happy to say. It was a hard fought win and close all the way - 6-4 7-6(5) - so 4-2 up and onto the doubles!
Taylor and Eban had already made a start as Marcus was playing they were just about to win the first set at the time same time as Marcus finished. The second set was a long set and each team was in the lead then pegged back. Pierre and Marcus got paired together to make sure we got the one win in the bag that we needed. Taylor and Eban got into the tie break to see if they could get the win for us but got thrashed 0-7 in the breaker, so on to the champions tie break. But it’s not looking good after such a bad last tie break and we then went behind early in the first to 10 points. OH NO!! But from nowhere, we came back and didn’t miss a shot to win 10-6 - the great escape really did happen! Marcus and Pierre at this point had raced to a 6-1 first set win, Dan and James Chester had just started their match and it was 1-1 in the first set. As we had the all-important 5 rubbers on the day, Gloucestershire team captain was happy to retire their players, so we had been awarded the lost 2 matches and we could make our long journey home.
Nottinghamshire 7 – 2 winners
This year was a close call and over the past 11 years, it was the closest standard between all the teams as I’ve ever seen. It was so close but yet great fun and when it came down to it, the boys stood up and played their hearts out for themselves and our great county.
Many thanks to my vice captain, Callum Chivers, as without him this report might have a much sadder ending.
Simon Ashmore, very proud captain!!!