COVENTRY and Warwick tennis players take central stage this week as Warwickshire’s depleted men’s and women’s teams battle to win promotion at the Inter-County Cup which starts today (Monday, July 18).
Warwickshire ladies’ squad includes Coventry tennis stalwarts Natasha Hillyer and doubles specialist Soumeya Anane plus Warwick’s Kara Biggs who will all be crucial members of the team as they bid to bounce back to the elite level of the Summer Inter-County Cup Championship from Group 2 in Manchester.
Katie Shaw’s young side, who excelled when winning their group at the Winter Indoor County Cup in December, are sadly missing several rising stars, including Katie Malazonia, Lizzie Massie, Mary Hoggard, former national junior champion Lily Mould and top county junior Lucia Cassidy, through tournament and coaching commitments or injury.
However, the county can still field a core of seasoned stalwarts as former junior international Hillyer and the big-hitting Summer Yardley from Solihull should start at first pair against the well-balanced Leicestershire side on Day 1, with Tamara Malazonia (Birmingham), top junior Lois Porter from Balsall Common, Kara Biggs (Warwick Boat Club), the consistent Marianne O’Farrell from Sutton Coldfield and former junior international Madison Rumney likely to provide the other pairings.
Shaw is also hoping that Edgbaston Priory rackets manager Leyla Ogan, a former international and world-ranked in the over-35’s age group can lend her experience for part of the week.
Soumeya Anane, a gritty competitor with an outstanding record in tight matches, is struggling with an infection but hopes to rejoin the squad on Tuesday. Her fighting spirit could make all the difference to the side’s success.
Shaw said: “It’ll be a tough week, but we have a loyal, hard core of players who will give it their all.
“Tash and Soumeya are very calm and experienced and really lead by example while Summer Yardley and Tamara Malazonia are both explosive players who will fight ferociously in the tight matches which often decide the outcome of County Week.
“It’s a high standard group with Middlesex and Nottinghamshire looking like the sides to beat.”
County Captain Gavin Henderson, from Warwick Boat Club, is similarly without several big-name players as, Warwickshire Men in Group 4 at Worthing, battle for promotion after narrowly missing out last year.
Sadly, he is minus British junior champion Luca Pow, 17, abroad on international duty, and Luke Simkiss, playing a futures event in Portugal.
Last year’s stand-outs Luke Hammond and Max Stewart both have coaching commitments in the US, however Alex Griffiths (Birmingham), in the form of his life, and Karan Tumba have joined the squad which includes former national under-16 champion Harry Lazell and coach Cameron Malik (both Warwick Boat Club), plus tour player Mason Recci from Solihull, big-serving Coventry coach Richard Partridge, the highly-experienced Simon Ferguson and Oliver Plaskett.
Warwickshire women are in Group 2 in Manchester bidding to bounce back up to the elite Group 1 at Eastbourne, and the Men are in Group 4 at Worthing.