This was the first time the school had ever reached the finals and the girls had qualified after beating Ampleforth School in a tightly fought third round before being given a bye through the regional finals after their opponents Strathallan School withdrew.
But just days before the Finals Jessie Morgan was forced to withdraw after injuring her Achilles tendon whilst involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award training.
Holiday commitments and Wimbledon tickets made it impossible to find a replacement for the full tournament but after some re-shuffling, the support of some extremely helpful parents and the agreement of the LTA, the school was able to enter a team consisting of Cordie Cavill (Captain); Bryony Underwood (Monday to Wednesday); Alice Mowforth; Bella Byass; Emma Sweeting (Thursday to Friday)
The Finals were based on a compass draw (forwards and backwards draw) with all teams having one match each day ultimately playing out for positions in the top 16 in the country. A match consisted of six rubbers, four singles and two doubles. Each rubber was the best of three tiebreak sets with the third set being a deciding match tiebreak (first to 10 by two clear points)
Heavy rain meant the whole tournament had to be played indoors and with only four available courts, the matches had to be shortened with sets being won by the first to four and matches ending once a team had won four rubbers.
The opening match against second seeds and eventual champions Talbot Heath was of an extremely high standard with some incredibly hard hitting and tactical play. Although we lost all four rubbers, Cordie Cavill (5.2 rating) was able to push their number one player for the match (Hannah Smith 3.2 rating) to a tie break in the second set – a fabulous achievement.
After a delayed start on the Wednesday 12th two outside courts became available – full matches could be played with no restrictions. Bryony Underwood was under time pressure to make a family holiday but thanks to the support of the Tournament Referee and the agreement of opponents Culford ‘B’, a slight re-ordering of games she was able to play earlier than originally scheduled.
Bryony’s rubber was very close and she played some excellent tennis, unfortunately however, due to the closeness, the rubber was not completed by her departure time 1230 and Bryony had to retire at 4-6, 0-2 as she had to leave for her holiday. Cordie was next up, playing some fabulous tennis and winning the second rubber 7-5 , 6-2. Bella and Alice worked hard in their rubbers, but the Culford team eventually came out on top. At this stage although the score was one rubber to three we were unable to field a 1st doubles pair and therefore had to concede the rubber resulting in us losing the match.
Emma Sweeting joined the team on Wednesday evening, filling the space left by Byrony, and played her first rubber against Sevenoaks on Thursday on one of the show courts. Bella and Emma worked hard in their singles rubbers making great returns and playing some of their best tennis thus creating excellent rallies which were fantastic to watch. Cordie and Alice were next up in a rain interrupted afternoon. Once again the opposition proved to be very strong and although Alice and Cordie played some great tennis in their singles rubbers, they were unable to clinch the crucial points. Nevertheless, Cordie once again managed to push her opposition to a three set rubber, losing 1-6, 6-1, 6-10.
Friday saw the matches back inside, once again playing on one court and the format being short sets (first to four games). Our match was against Cokethorpe and, despite carrying a number of injuries, the girls were determined to play their best and give Cokethorpe a run for their money. Emma played first, again, making some great shots but struggling to clinch the crucial points. Similarly, Bella hit the ball cleanly and with depth and moved around the court well putting her opponent on her back foot on a number of occasions but unfortunately not winning enough of the vital points. At two rubbers down, Alice was next up and played some great tennis resulting in a close rubber which went to three sets: 4-1, 1-4, 8-10. Cordie’s match was as equally tense, losing the first set 2-4 but after much hard work and tactical play wining the second 4-2. Cordie’s final set, a Deciding Match Tiebreak, went to Cokethorpe 5-10. At four rubbers, Cokethorpe had won the match and taken the 15th place ranking – our final position being 16th.
All in all the Team Tennis National Schools Championships Finals was an amazing experience, one that we feel privileged to have been a small part of. Well done to the girls that played in the Finals but also to those who helped us get there; Emily Boddy and Lucy Egglestone.