Warwickshire narowly miss out on inter-county promotion to Herfordshire
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Warwick and Coventry players dominated the side as Warwickshire Men’s team came agonisingly close to a second successive promotion in the Winter Inter-County Championship, battling it out in the strong Group 2B to finish a narrow second behind the solid Hertfordshire side.
The two counties ended on two wins apiece and an identical rubbers win-loss score of 16-11 and a single set separating them, with the Bears losing out to Herts on the head-to head match-up which their opponents had won 6-3 after a series of cliff-hangers.
The highly-motivated team captained by Gavin Henderson of Warwick Boat Club began the championship at Edgbaston Priory Club with an impressive 7-2 victory over highly-fancied Buckinghamshire.
The Midlanders’ top singles player Luke Simkiss was in dominant form as he survived a 3 and a half hour marathon to beat Michael Shaw in a tight three-setter, then combined well with the fluent Mason Recci (Solihull) to squeak through against the Bucks first pair 12-10 in a thrilling championship tiebreak decider. County champion Richard Partridge from Coventry won convincingly at number 4, quickly followed by former national junior champions Harry Lazell from Warwick and Luca Pow who each pulled off accomplished singles victories then paired up to dispose of Gavin and Calum Mckinlay for the loss of just 4 games.
Sadly several tight matches went against Warwickshire the following day in their match with Herfordshire. Simkiss, who is enjoying a fine run on the European circuit, lost from 4-1 up final set against Charles Broom who is ranked around 500 places above him in the world. The Bears trailed 2-4 after the singles when only Mason Recci and rising star Ferran Redza, 16, from Warwick, a recent semi-finalist in the Men’s British Tour event at Edgbaston recorded wins, Redza producing a superb final set fightback. Harry Lazell and Mason Recci scored the only doubles victory, though Simon Ferguson (Four Oaks) and Alex Griffiths came close, just edged out in a championship tiebreak.
Even Warwickshire’s final day heroics, thrashing the previously unbeaten North of Scotland 6-3 were not quite enough to seal victory. Luke Simkiss, Harry Lazell, Mason Recci and Ferran Redza all won their singles and Recci who won 6 rubbers out of 6 over the weekend, partnered Lazell to another fine doubles win. Stratford-on-Avon’s Cameron Malik, a coach at Warwick Boat Club played a canny game as he and Simkiss dismissed the Scots first pair in straight sets.
“The boys played superbly,” said captain Gavin Henderson, from Warwick Boat Club. “We had come into the championship knowing we’d have to fight to stay up, so to come so close to winning promotion was amazing, though it’s frustrating that it should all have come down to our head-to-head record against Hertfordshire.
"I’m lucky to have a great mix of seasoned experienced players and some very talented younger ones and they all played their hearts out. The team spirit was brilliant. We won our second promotion in a row at Summer County Week in July, so we’ll be in Group 2 next year – and this performance has shown us that tare capable of reaching Group 1 of the Winter Championships too.”
Warwickshire women, severely depleted by injury and tournament commitments, were unable to follow suit and despite battling hard, the inexperienced young side were relegated from Group 3B at Grantham, their ultra-close 4-5 loss to west of Scotland on the final day sealing their fate. Despite the defeats, fighting performances from several players including Lois Porter, Lucie Butler, Shennai Chehal and Marina Beckinsale provided hope for the future.
For captain Katie Shaw, the former British international player and a respected coach at Edgbaston Priory Club, who will shortly be retiring after 25 years as county captain, it was a frustrating experience to exit on a losing note.
However her string of Group 1 Championships victories, over the last 40 years makes her the most successful county captain of the modern era and a dedicated Warwickshire player. The LTA’s Competition Manager Rory McCutcheon presented her with the prestigious Paul Hutchins Award for her services to Tennis, a well-deserved accolade for her long and distinguished contribution to the game in Warwickshire.