After an exceptionally strong performance by the team during the group stages, October through until March, the team finished second in the West Midlands-Wales region, after a dead heat on points and rubbers won and on count back on sets won to local rivals, Sutton Coldfield. Following a last minute withdrawal from the national finals and reassurances that the new venue in Sutton (London) would be socially distanced and numbers on site would be restricted to below 30, WLTSC men’s team enthusiastically took up a chance to compete at the highest level of British team tennis.
Our youngest team in living memory, with an average age of just over 21, drew London locals (and champions of their regional group) Campden Hill. A fixture the boys knew was winnable but would be very tough. Tom Welsh and Finley Cook continued their stellar record from the regional group stage, where they went unbeaten all season, with a 3 set, but comfortable championship tie-break win to take WLTSC 1-0 up. Henry Parry and Ed Cooper, a previously untried pair, also found themselves in a third set against the Campden Hill’s first choice pair. After saving 3 match points, Parry and Cooper found themselves with 4 of their own but could not convert, going down 17-15 in the championship tie-break. Going into the final 2 rubbers, it was one rubber a piece.
Welsh and Cook again found themselves in a third set but continued their clutch final set record to take WLTSC one rubber from the quarter finals. Parry and Cooper found form and won 6-2, 6-3 to seal a tough victory 3-1. WLTSC had won their very first NPL national finals main draw fixture. Next up were Halton. An experienced team with a former NCAA division 1 (highest level of US college tennis) player and 2 BUCS National League (highest level of British university tennis) players. Welsh and Cook again won an incredibly hard fought 3 set win against Halton’s second pair, which was even more impressive after going 5-0 down in the first set and then going on to take the first set 7-6. Parry and Cooper lost 6-2, 6-2 to an experienced Halton number 1 pair. Welsh and Cook (again!) beat Halton’s first pair in tight third set championship tie-break. Unfortunately, Parry and Cooper were unable to capitalise on a 4-1 lead in the first set and break points in all 4 return games in the second set to seal a win for WLTSC. They eventually fell 7-6, 6-1 to Halton’s second pair. It was 2-2 with the tie to be decided by a 10-point tie-break shoot out, where one player from each pair was chosen by each team’s captain. Tom Welsh (captain) and Ed Cooper took on Roy Knight (former UK top 50) and Callum McKinlay (former UK top 100) for a spot in the semi-final, and in everyone’s eyes a likely spot in the finals as the second seeds from Glasgow had been taken out by Scottish rivals, Stirling university, in the first round. Welsh and Cooper fought hard several times from mini-breaks down to eventually earn themselves their own match point at 10-9 up, but returning serve. An epic rally went the way of Halton. The match remained in Halton’s hands with them being on top or level on points until they broke the WLTSC pair at 13-12 up.
Despite being the toughest of losses, 14-12 in a shoot-out. The boys took many positives from the week. They had been just 1 point from potentially making the final of the event to face the Queen’s club, as Halton steamrolled past a weak Stirling University 4-0 (8-0 in sets) in the semi-finals. They had also bested WLTSC’s previous best performance in the NPL, after reaching the national finals and losing in the round of 16 in 2019.
We thank the club, committee and members for their support as always. Hopefully the 2020-21 season brings us greater success and certainty in these uncertain times. Especially for the accommodation provided that allowed us to remain with England social distancing laws. We also thank the LTA for making the venue in Sutton safe for the players to compete, when most other forms of competition are being cancelled due to Covid-19.
WLTSC Men’s NPL team
James Henderson ©
Tom Welsh* ©
* Those players competing in the NPL National Finals
© Joint captains