Sports

LTA National Schools’ Tennis Finals 2019

Day 1 Millfield.  Hazel Vernon and Alexia Nicoliou, our 3rd and 4th seeds, started our campaign in the singles matches. Hazel narrowly lost in three sets, Alexia won both first and second sets. Hannah Smith and Elina Pickerd-Barua played their singles as 1st and 2nd seeds. Elina won her second set tie break putting Millfield under huge pressure to g further. Hannah’s singleswas a tight competition but she showed incredible resilience and competitive determination to win the third set tie breaker. Millfield won the 3/4 seed doubles and Hannah and Elina’s skilful teamwork in the 1/2 seed doubles meant the girls finished the afternoon as worthy winners and through to the last eight play-offs.

Day 2 Eastbourne College.  Alexia and Hazel once again opened for Prior in the quarter-finals match against Eastbourne. Alexia, with power and precision, won in two sets. Hazel, despite winning some crucial big points, lost her match in the third set tie-break. 1-1 overall. Elina and Hannah had two fantastic wins to take it to 3-1. Alexia and Hazel lost their doubles despite some incredible net play. Hannah and Elina won their tough, well contested doubles match in two sets, taking the College into the semi-finals.

Day 3 Talbot Heath.  Hazel opened the singles with a hard match that included the long rallies you would expect of a national semi-final match. Despite playing some great winning shots at the end of some energy zapping rallies, Hazel unfortunately lost in two sets. Alexia showed fantastic resilience and tenacity. Alexia’s shots of delight after saving a match point and then winning her own match point were an indication of the effort and commitment she gave to this singles match playing through searing hot sunshine. She achieved a well-deserved win as she has done in the singles in every match this week. Elina went into her match not having lost so far in the singles during the tournament. Losing the first set was going to make her task of maintaining that record really hard and unfortunately, she was unable to get the winning shots through with the precision required today, playing against a competitor 3 years older than her. Hazel and Alexia has a tough double match. Alexia suffered from dizziness and sickness half-way through the first set. After a medical time out, the girls continued into the second set but struggled to gain continuity in their play against a very good Talbot Heath 3/4 pair. Meanwhile, Hannah went into her singles playing the Talbot Heath No. 1, Esther who is also a training colleague from the University of Bath Tennis Academy. This was match of the highest quality from the first point and drew an audience of coaches from other schools. The individual sport of singles tennis demands high quality critical tactical thinking, mental toughness and skilful application of technique. This match had it all from both players! The first set went to Hannah after 40 minutes of play, a 7-5 win as a result of Hannah skilfully crafting her points throughout. Unfortunately, she lost in the second set in which her opponent served 3 under arm serve in order to get her serves in court! The match went in to a tie-break third set which she lost despite some very gutsy determined play. So, after a lot of high quality tennis played in blazing sunshine, the decision was taken to not play the 1/2 doubles match as both teams have vital matches the following day.

Day 4 Queenswood School. Our last day and it was going to be a tricky one due to the weather! At a set down and 5-3 up in the second set the skies opened and rained stopped play for Hazel’s singles. Unfortunately, Alexia lost her singles to an excellent No.4 seed from Queenswood, so, Hazel’s match would prove crucial to keep Prior Park in the hunt for that third place in the tournament overall.

As the rain stopped and the sun came out the organisers decided to take the 1/2 and 3/4 matches inside in case of any more showers. This was a complete change of conditions and was going to be a new test for Hazel and Elina who was just starting her singles. Indoors the matches continued. Hazel fought back to take the second set and then lost in another fantastic third tie-break set.

Elina went a set down but fought back in the second set to win convincingly. So, another third set tie-break set followed. Despite being 8-4 up at one point, the experience of the Queenswood player shone through and Elina lost the tie-break 9-11.

Meanwhile, Hannah won her first set in another dynamic and exciting match of the highest quality. It is difficult to do justice in words to the standard of the tennis at this Schools Tennis tournament and the No1 seed matches have been exceptional. Hannah finished her singles winning in two sets. So, at 1-3 down it was all on the doubles.

Hazel and Alexia lost their first set struggling to pick up the opposition volleys. In the second set, Alexia saved two match points but it was not to be and they lost in two sets.

So, 4th Place in the 2019 National Schools Tennis Finals! Four places better than last year and a wonderful experience for our young team. Well done to all players this week. Sophie Hunter and Bea Painter were great squad members, supporting and encouraging their team mates all week. Hazel, Elina, Alexia and Hannah were phenomenal all week!