Holcombe Brook’s men’s challenge at the Aegon National Team Tennis finals at Bournemouth last weekend got off to the worst possible start when their number one player Ashley Hewitt was withdrawn by his coach, blaming fatigue, just 24 hours before Friday’s start.
The team were drawn against third seed David Llloyd Raynes Park from Essex for their opening round and they got off to a flyer when teenager Imran Aswat playing four beat former British top 10 player Colin Beecher in straight sets.
Jonny Parkes at three had a similar result and Chris Nott playing two beat former Wimbledon regular Jamie Feaver 6-4 in the third set to put the Brook in a strong position.
Elevated back to the number one spot in the absence of Hewitt, Simon Roberts got off to a dreadful start in his opening set, hardly putting a ball in court losing 0-6. But as he has done many time in the past the Bolton man managed to find his timing and took the remaining sets 6-4, 6-2.
That win put Holcombe Brook into Saturday’s semi-final where they were up against another south east team, Sutton, and captain Andy Davies, keeping himself just for doubles, had to rely on the same four players in singles.
Davies had high hopes that Aswat would be his trump card believing the teenager would be too strong for the other teams fourth players competing on his favoured clay surface. But in the Sutton match it didn’t work out that way because of a quirk in the ratings.
Aswat ended up playing Cameron Norrie who has shot up to 645 in the world rankings and would have been their top player if the ratings were taken now instead of in early March. The Chorley youngster still put up a fighting display before going down 4-6 1-6.
Jonny Parkes’s match with Andrew Bettles was the highlight of the weekend for the Brooks followers as he quietened a noisy Sutton support group with a 6-3 third set win after having failed to serve out at 5-3 in the second set.
Nott and Roberts both lost in straight sets to go 3-1 down, and, although Nott and Parkes were leading their doubles game, when Davies and Roberts lost theirs the match was over.
Davies said: “Losing Hewitt was a huge blow. When you lose your number one player it means that the others are playing a higher rated player than expected.
“Who knows what might have been. We competed with Sutton in every match, and they lost in the final by the narrowest of margins.”
The men could be said to have exceeded expectations with the players they had. But the same cannot be said for the ladies who were seeded in third place but lost their opening match.
Anna Fitzpatrick and Nichola George both won their singles but Jessica Ren and Yasmin Clarke, who found herself up against former Brook player, Beth Askew in inspired form, both lost.
And losses in both doubles matches where the Brook have always been strong, and where pairing choices were questioned afterwards, left the ladies with their worst Bournemouth result for many years.
Captain Tony Lawson said: “The bar has been raised, the standard is so much better. We will have to strengthen our team if we are to compete next year.”
A1 Pharmaceuticals (Orpington) won the men’s final and midlands club, Cumberalnd LTC took the ladies trophy.