10u County Cup 2019 – National Finals
Sunderland Tennis Centre 7-9/6/19
Bucks Team: Annika Shenoy (Bisham Abbey), Maisie Seedel (GXBL), Taylor Cooper (Halton), Shravanti Venkatakrishnan (Milton Keynes)
Captain: Tom Edis
Assistant: Hannah Russell
Bucks headed north to Sunderland just 2 short weeks after qualifying from Group A for the national finals of the 2019 10u County Cup. The event was to be held over 3 days, and Bucks would compete in a group that included Middlesex, Kent and Cheshire before playing their equivalent-placed county from a second group. Each match, as with qualifying, consisted of 3 singles and 1 doubles. The stage was set, and the standard inevitably high.
Up first on the Friday were highly-fancied Middlesex, who boasted some of the best players in the event. Annika was out of the blocks fast, and produced some superb tennis against Mika Stojsavljevic – a player already with the yellow ball rating 8.2. Annika was able to run her very close in a tight first set before eventually running out of steam 5-4 4-0. Maisie then went toe-to-toe with Hollie Smart who was remarkably consistent. Alas, Maisie struggled to produce her best form and the Middlesex girl remained solid throughout the encounter to come through 4-0 4-1. Taylor had an equally daunting prospect versus Alice Haddad, but showed real courage and determination to frustrate her more experienced opponent. After threatening a first set come-back from 0-3 down, she couldn’t quite find a way to get the better of Alice, though she can be proud of an encouraging performance in a 4-1 4-1 defeat.
This left the doubles – the last action for Friday. Annika and Shravanti teamed up to play Mika and Celine Ricaud. The Bucks girls’ understanding and teamwork was evident again, having been so successful in the qualies, and they were unlucky not to take the first set, but for some huge serving from Mika in particular. Losing it on a tie-break was a blow to Bucks; they sadly couldn’t regain their momentum in the second set and so lost 5-4 4-0 in the end.
So a tough first fixture for Bucks, but there was enough evidence for the girls to feel extremely positive going into Saturday.
Kent were first up. Annika again gave a creditable account of herself against Nikita Phillips, coming within 2 points of taking the first set before being squeezed out 5-3 4-0, and then Maisie produced a colossal performance against Rozella Nkereuwem – coming from a set and a break down to turn it around 3-5 4-1 10-5. It was great to finally get off the mark!
Alas, Shravanti couldn’t quite follow up with a win of her own, and went down 5-3 4-2 versus Bella Thompson; a pity as Bucks were really in the fight and showing signs that they could compete in such illustrious company. With Maisie and Taylor losing out in the doubles 4-0 4-0 to Nikita and Genevieve Jeer the overall loss was unfortunately sealed.
The next county for Bucks to face was Cheshire, who had already shown impressive form. Annika struggled in her 4-0 4-0 defeat to Susanna Thompson, who herself had managed to overcome Mika from Middlesex 24 hours beforehand. Arguably the highest level Bucks match of the weekend then took place as Maisie played Amy McMahon – a fantastically consistent and determined performer. Despite the 4-0 5-3 scoreline, the overall quality of the shot-making and rallies from both girls was incredible, and Maisie took heart from such a pleasing display.
Taylor too was getting into her stride and found the form she needed when taking on Eva Jenkins. The Bucks girl certainly had her chances in a tough encounter, but in the end Eva’s match experience made the difference: 4-2 5-3. Annika and Shravanti lost 4-0 4-1 to Susanna and Annabel Wong in the doubles, giving Cheshire a clean sweep.
Sunday saw Bucks in their play-off match against Derbyshire. After a tough and long day on Saturday, fatigue from all the players was inevitable. Still Annika played her best tennis of the weekend by defeating Jessica Peel, coming from a set down to win 0-4 4-1 10-7. Taylor stepped in for Maisie to take on Tia Dhillon and fought hard to run her close. Her 4-1 5-3 defeat was not without its opportunities for Taylor, who nearly turned it around in the second set.
Shravanti then played against Eisha Kaur Chandi – the youngest player of the weekend across the eight counties competing. It was the first time the onus was on Shravanti to dictate the rallies, as her 8 year-old opponent showed some unbelievable retrieving skills and defence from the baseline. The Bucks girl threw everything at her, but was forced to keep hitting that extra ball too many times, and she just couldn’t convert her chances. Eisha edged it in another great fight 4-2 5-3.
This left Annika and Shravanti to take on Jessica and Tia in the doubles. A win was vital if Bucks were to take it to a tie break shoot-out and finally get a team win. The match was tight, and all 4 girls showed fantastic teamwork and understanding, as well as great net play. The service breaks were crucial, as both teams were nervous. Eventually, it was to be Derbyshire that held their nerve on the key points, as Annika and Shravanti both struggled for service consistency in particular. The 4-1 4-2 scoreline marked the final match of Bucks’ national finals weekend. It was a fantastic experience all round, and an invaluable lesson and demonstration to the Bucks team of what the level truly is at the sharp end of their age group. This, more anything else, is the most important part of what the team achieved by reaching the finals in the first place. The standard was exceptional – but not so great that the difference can’t be made up by the Bucks girls through further hard work on court and some more competition experience. The girls travelled home happy, as they knew they’d given their all for the county and showed a brilliant team spirit throughout.