Nottinghamshire Ladies, playing once again in Division 3, travelled to Surbiton for this year’s Aegon County Cup. With Jocelyn Rae going stateside to try and improve her world ranking and injuries for Emelia Box and Stephanie Barling the team saw 2 newcomers to the summer event- Nina Luiggi and Lynsey Cover for what turned out to be one of the most dramatic, and possibly hottest County Weeks I’ve ever been to since my first one 33 years previously.
This year’s group, on paper, was going to be extremely tough. Day 1 saw us against Essex who had been in Division 1 only a couple of years before. After round 1 Notts led 2-1 with wins from Sarah Wright and Charlotte Phillips and Bec Wood and Emily Crowe. This was levelled after the second round after a gruelling fought battle between the 1st pairs which Essex won 7-6 (8) 7-6 (9). However the final round saw us losing all three and with Sarah Wright falling badly on her wrist in the final set and a night in Kingston A&E ensued.
With the all clear from a fracture and a splint in place Nottinghamshire arrived to play favourites Middlesex on Tuesday morning. However, Captain Sarah Usher was met by the referee to say that Essex had made a clerical error and had played a player that hadn’t been nominated in their 3rd pair. According to the rules, any player that is not nominated on a certain day is ineligible to play and therefore the 3 rubbers were awarded to Nottinghamshire giving us a 5-4 unexpected victory.
Middlesex fielded a very strong young team including Junior Wimbledon players Harriet Dart (who almost got to join our own Sarah and Charlotte in the elite 15/15 club for winning all 15 rubbers in a county cup) and Holly Hutchinson, as well as National u/14 champion Lauryn Jean-Baptiste. Nottinghamshire lost the day 8-1 but the match was played in good spirit.
Wednesday we played North of Scotland who had brought in Captain and doubles expert Claire Birnie to play in the first pair. After the first round we trailed 2-1 with a close 3 set battle between the 3rd pairs. Drawing level at 3-3 after a very fast round 2 Nottinghamshire had everything to play for. Lynsey and Sarah U lost to the North 1st pair putting us down at 4-3 and needing both of the other matches to edge the win. Emily and Bec won a comfortable 6-1- 6-3 to level and 4-4 and Sarah W and Charlotte battled a tie break first set winning 7-2 and then closed out 6-1 to take the 5-4 victory. So – 2 wins and 1 loss going in to Thursday.
Opponents today were West of Scotland – a mixture of experienced doubles players and very good ranked juniors. And in a case of déjà vu we went 2-1 down with a win from Sarah and Charlotte. Sarah Kate O’Grady was feeling very sick and had to be subbed with Nina going in to play the final 2 rounds. Levelling again at 3-3 the third round saw us very quickly at a 4-4 tie with Sarah and Charlotte played for the win against the very canny experienced Heather Lockhart and big hitting junior Paige Denholm. West took the first set on a tie break (5) and then went into the lead 6-5 40-15!!!! In the words of Sarah Wright to her partner ‘Charlotte, it’s now or never!!’ as she sent a winning topspin backhand across the net to save the first set point. Having clawed back the set points and helped by a West double fault to even the set for another tie break the Notts pair took control winning 7-2 on the tie break and a magnificent 6-1 final set to gain another 5-4 win.
So going into the Friday –and with little sleep due to a very very sick Sarah-Kate (gastroenteritis) Nottinghamshire needed to beat Sussex for promotion. Rain was forecast for lunch time so we knew it could be a long day. Sussex had managed to get ranked player Natasha Kahn to play and Nottinghamshire were 3-0 down after the first round when the heavens opened and a 2 hour rain break scatted with storms dampened the heat of the week. Back on the hard courts Nottinghamshire lost the match 5-1 to guarantee their place in Division 3 with Sussex again next year.
Overall we were delighted to stay in Division 3 but are also aware that the odd point here or there meant the difference between relegation, staying or promotion. And it was really great to see how many junior players relished the excitement, camaraderie and experience of county week as much as the older experienced stalwarts. County Week remains the best team event in British Tennis.
Team (left to right):
standing: Lynsey Cover; Sarah Usher; Srarh wright; Emily Crowe; Nina Luiggi
seated: Sarah-Kate O'Grady; Charlotte Phillips; Rebecca Wood
Not pictured: Isabelle Tyrrell and Maia Dunn
Sarah Usher, Sarah Wright, Charlotte Phillips, Emily Crowe, Bec Wood, Sarah-Kate O’Grady, Nina Luiggi, Lynsey Cover, Isabelle Tyrell, Maia Dunn
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