Young stars shine at National Deaf Tennis Championships
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Esah Hayat and Phoebe Suthers continued their recent domination of the LTA's National Deaf Tennis Championships to claim the men’s and women’s singles titles over the weekend at the National Tennis Centre, joining Lewis Fletcher by ending the 2020 event with two titles apiece.
Top seed Hayat eased to his third men’s singles title after the 18-year-old beat 13-time National champion and second seed Peter Willcox 6-1 6-3.
After a 6-1 6-0 semi-final win over Jack Clifton, Hayat raced to the opening set of the final against Willcox, the player who beat him in the 2018 final. From 2-1 down in the second set, Hayat then won five of the next six games to retain his title.
Hayat added his third successive men’s doubles National title alongside Fletcher.
World silver medallists in team and individual championships in the last two seasons, Fletcher and Hayat won all three of their round-robin matches across the weekend at the NTC, defeating the previously unbeaten pairing of Clifton and Willcox 6-2 6-3 in Sunday’s decisive contest. Hayat said: “I had a great time this weekend and am very happy to have won the singles and doubles titles again.
“It's been a lot of fun competing in deaf tennis again for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic and I want to thank the LTA and all the organisers involved for putting the event together, despite the current restrictions. The tournament was very Covid-secure, yet still seemed totally normal, so it feels great to be back in competitive tennis again.”
Suthers comfortably maintained her unbeaten record against Valerie Copenhagen to win the women’s singles title decider 6-1 6-0 and later partnered Fletcher to claim their second mixed doubles National title together. The World Championships silver medallists beat Copenhagen and Hayat 6-0 6-1.
Suthers, who had previously partnered both Fletcher and Hayat to win the mixed doubles National title, said: “It was great to be back on court and winning and I feel very pleased to win both titles again. I served well and was consistent, despite the difficult conditions. Lewis is a very good doubles player, we communicate well on court and know each other’s games and movement and that helps. We didn’t miss much and played really well.
“It was a well-organised tournament and felt very safe at the NTC. I’d like to thank tournament director Claire McCulloch for arranging everything and all the people involved did a great job.
“I’ve really missed competing in the Slovenia Open and European Championships this summer, as both were cancelled, so this is the first competitive tennis I’ve been able to play since lockdown. I’m hoping to get some hearing competitions in before Christmas, depending on the lockdown restrictions.”
After winning his third men’s doubles title with Hayat and his second mixed doubles titles partnering Suthers, 35-year-old Fletcher said: “It was very refreshing to be back in competitive action after so long out and great to see all the other competitors. I had a lot of fire in the belly to compete and felt great going into both doubles events. The atmosphere was, no doubt, a bit different from normal, but I was happy to play some very solid tennis and add more titles to the collection. I count myself lucky to still be able to play.”
There was a change of champion in the junior singles this year as Charlie Denton got the better of Nathan Carmody. Carmody arrived at the NTC having beaten Denton to win the last two junior singles titles, but their title decider this time produced the exact opposite result to their head-to-head in 2019 as Denton claimed the spoils 7-5 6-0.
The annual National Deaf Tennis Championships are just one of a series of local, regional, national and international disability tennis competitions staged and supported by the LTA across Britain each year. With competitions for beginners right through to some of the world's leading disability tennis players, the events provide anyone with an opportunity to compete at their level, whatever their ability.