Team Tennis National Open Finals: first-time champions, an inaugural award and a team diary...
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From Friday 6 to Sunday 8 September, Britain's best club players battled in Bournemouth for Team Tennis National Open Finals crowns.
The weekend's action saw the top eight men’s and women’s teams from the Team Tennis season (April to July) take to the clay courts at the West Hants Club. World-class players from clubs up and down country took part, including doubles world No.24 Joe Salisbury (the Roehampton Club), doubles world No.147 Beth Grey (Halton Tennis Centre), doubles world No.194 Scott Clayton (David Lloyd Raynes Park), former GB Fed Cup player Naomi Cavaday (Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club), and former British No.2s Jamie Baker and Josh Goodall (both David Lloyd Raynes Park).
Quarter-finals took place on Friday, the semi-finals followed on Saturday and the finals were held on Sunday. Each day, a 'clash' would comprise of four singles rubbers and two doubles rubbers.
The men's team from the Roehampton Club dominated over the course of the weekend to win the title for the first time. They only lost one match on Sunday, reaching the final without dropping a match in the quarters or semis.
Team Captain Nikolai Snapes said: “This feels extra special after losing on tie-break shootouts to the winning team in two of the last three seasons.
"For us, Team Tennis is the pinnacle competition in the year and plays a major role in connecting players of all ages at the club - from our juniors in our 8&U teams all the way through to the pros and former pros in the our men’s 1st team that won the National Finals today.”
David Lloyd Raynes Park's women's team also prevailed - they have won the title just once before back in 2010. Team Captain Tash Starling said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be Team Tennis National champions for 2019. As well as some high level tennis, this success really came down to a fantastic team spirit and support from everyone both on and off the court.
"This win is thanks to the commitment from the entire squad of 13 players throughout the whole season and culminated in a hugely enjoyable and successful weekend thanks to such an awesome team.”
The weekend also saw debuts for men's teams from Thorpe Bay Lawn Tennis Club and Cardiff Lawn Tennis Club, with the latter bringing an army of 20 fun supporters to add to the weekend's excitment.
New for 2019... the Paul Hutchins Commitment Award
Team Tennis - originally known as the National Club League - began in 1993 and was set up by British tennis legend Paul Hutchins. Since 1993, it's gone on to become the biggest team competition in the country - 25,000 players have taken part this year alone.
In memory of Paul, who passed away earlier this year, the LTA introduced the ‘Paul Hutchins Commitment Award’ to recognise individuals who have shown true dedication to Team Tennis. The award was presented at the draw ceremony on the eve of the Finals and was presented by Paul's son, Blake.
Tony Lawson from Holcombe Brook Sports Club was the inaugural award-winner. In the very first year of the competition, Tony led his team to victory to win the Finals and he's never looked back. Over the last 26 years, Tony's entered teams of all ages and abilites, and has provided endless support to them all, regardless of the divisions they've played in.
Tony said: "I was highly honoured to receive the award in memory of Paul who was a very good friend of mine and I've known him a long time - since 1992. He was a pure gentleman and no words can express how sad I was of his passing. At the end of the day, he will live in my memory very much so."
Blake added: "We as the family and on behalf of Dad, are so proud that the award is there and I think the word 'commitment' is such an apt one. Dad was so committed to this event and to British tennis so I think it's fantastic.
"I told my mum that Tony was going to win the award and she had a very warm heart hearing that. She said Dad would have thought it went to the rightful person, so we're really proud and delighted that Tony is the first winner of the Paul Hutchins Commitment Award."
A day in the life of a Team Tennis team...
We spent Friday following defending men's champions David Lloyd Raynes Park. From pre-match burgers to support from the sidelines, find out what their team spirit is all about...