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Under 8 Inter County Regional Event

25th June 2023 at Cambridge Tennis Centre, Hills Road.

Bucks Teams: Girls Annabelle Barnard, Elodie de Neef, Olivia Napier, Scarlett Stacey, Fajr Khan, Celine Adam.

Boys: Oliver Settle, Johnny Silberling, Peter Clarke, Charlie Mehta, Rex Keating, Theo Ward.

Captains: Andy Scholfield (Beaconsfield), James Woodwards (Aylesbury)

Counties competing: Bucks, Beds, Berks, Cambs, Essex, Herts, Norfolk, Northants, Oxon, Suffolk in two groups of 5 followed by play-offs. Each match to be match tie-break with sudden death at 9-9. ‘The electric atmosphere concealed the excitement felt by all competitors’.

This excellent event has been running for over 30 years; set up by Sue Rich when she was East Region RCDO. Sue continues to manage the event very ably supported by top class referees. The girls and boys events are split into two four hour sessions on the four acrylic indoor courts. Bucks arrived at the earlier than the allocated time to surprisingly see all other Counties warming up. Fortunately, we were able to grab some court space. We were in action after a brief introduction by the Referee who also reminded spectators not to act like football supporters and to be aware of the players ages (the balcony is very low and had stairs onto the courts at either end). Our parents were excellent throughout.

Our players loved the event. They were there to try their best and to focus on their warrior-skills (tactics, movement, technique and mentality practiced in County Training). Our county focus of resilience, teamwork and humility were clear to see. The startling length and quality of rallies kept the supporters on the edge of their seats.

Our first match against Oxfordshire was interesting; we moved into a 2-1 lead but at number 3 Olivia was playing a very fast compact, consistent competitor, but a great all court performance by Olivia saw her win 10-8. Their top two players seemed weaker; Elodie and Annabelle won convincingly. We beat Northants 4-2 followed by the same scoreline against our old foes Berks. Against the home team Cambridgeshire we started slowly and went 1-2 down, Olivia again performed well with her all-court style to bring the tie level. Elodie was up against a very determined opponent who had intense support from their captain; however she played well to win 10-7. Annabelle fought very hard but her opponent was very impressive with her accurate attacking play. At 3-3 we just missed out on first place on a points countback. We advanced to the semi-finals and were pitched against the notoriously strong Hertfordshire team. Their players train twice a week indoors at Batchwood in the ‘Tarbes Training squads’. However, we were not over-awed and Olivia had a fine win against their big serving number 3. Every match was competitive but we lost 1-5. In the 3rd/4th play-off we again faced Cambridgeshire who had lost on points (after 3-3 draw) to Essex in their semi-final. Another 3-3 draw and points countback again gave Cambidgeshire victory; Bucks ended up a very respectable 4th. Herts won the final 5-1 against Essex. Celine has excellent movement and consistency; Fajr is a great warrior who loves competing, Scarlett has a great service action and loves to attack, Olivia moves and plays like a mini professional; Elodie has great topspin and a strong serve; left-handed Annabelle has excellent court coverage, consistent topspin groundstrokes and has now developed a strong mentality.

Great attitude and performances by all players!

Our boys team were warming up as the girls medals and certificates were presented. Oliver’s father agreed to umpire for the Bucks team, which relieved captain James who had umpired for our girls team.

The first rally between Theo and Oliver of Norfolk was over 30 shots; Theo finally sending a forehand out. Oliver proved too consistent, Theo lost 10-5. Rex won 10-8 and the rest of team had convincing wins. A good 5-1 win and we were straight into our match against Suffolk who were lacking a bit of technique but rallied and defended with great consistency to outmatch both Theo and Rex 9-10 – we were 0-2. However, Charlie played so well all day using his topspin groundstrokes to very good effect and with his stunning court coverage caused his opponents loads of problems. Ollie and Johnny also won to leave the score at 3-3. Bucks won by 2 points. Such a frustrating match against Hertfordshire; we lost 2-4 but three of our matches were lost by 9-10 with Ollie and Charlie both winning 10-5. So close to an excellent result; if Peter had won his last point at 9-9 we would have beaten them on countback. We beat Oxfordshire 6-0 so moved into the semi final in 2nd place.

The matches were moving at a furious pace and players physical and mental stamina was challenged. We were beaten 6-0 by Cambridgeshire with Charlie having the closest match losing 9-10.

Our 3rd and 4th play-off against Essex started well with Theo finally winning the sudden death point at 9-9. However, Rex, Johnny and Peter were tiring having given their all in every match. The matches were very close; Charlie won again 10-5 but Ollie just over-hit with his powerful sots to lose 8-10. Another very good 4th place.

Ollie has stunning intensity and attacking flair on all shots; Johnny has sound technique, fast hands, likes to attack and has really improved his shot selection; Peter loves to attack with his forehand, loves competing and has improved his serve; Charlie has great topspin consistency, unbelievable court coverage and focus, Rex showed excellent warrior skills with his recovery and preparation; Theo has sound technique, a great will to win, and has improved his serve recently.Overall, we had a great experience, our players had so much fun, tried their hardest in every match, played fairly, loved playing and supporting as a team. Their warrior-skills are developing well and emphasis of performance over outcome is recognized by all players.

James and I were delighted with their effort, fighting spirit, support for each other and their potential for the future. Bucks Tennis can be proud of every performer and the future is bright for every player as long as they continue to enjoy competing, have quality coaching and parental support.

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