Mens Winter County Cup 2016

 The Men’s Channel Islands Tennis Team have just returned from the annual Winter County Cup. This year we were competing at the Gosling Tennis Centre in Hertfordshire. Our team consisted of Jersey players Stuart Parker, Mike Watkins, Jeremy Cross, Scott Weaver & James Faudemer, and Guernsey players Patrick Ogier, Rob West & Jonty Carnachan.

In the past 2 years we had achieved back-to-back promotions from Division 6 to 5, and then Division 5 to 4. Division 4 is the highest level that the County Team has reached so we knew we were in for a tough battle against Buckinghamshire, Staffordshire and North Wales.

On the first day we were up against Buckinghamshire. Things started well with tough singles wins coming from Jeremy Cross, Mike Watkins and Stuart Parker….and then the drama started! Patrick Ogier was in a marathon match at No.1 singles. He created a match point at 6-5 up in the 3rd set. His opponent hit the top of the net, Pat got to it and replied with a backhand dropshot which also hit the top of the net, bounced on the net again then seemed to sit on the net for an eternity before deciding to drop back onto his side. He was a millimetre away from winning the match but sadly went on to lose in a tie-break. At 4-3 down we had a match point at the No.2 doubles position for Rob West and Mike Watkins at 9-8 in the 3rd set championship tie-break. Mike hit a great return at the server’s feet, who then pulled off an incredible half volley pick up that landed on the sideline. Again, we were millimetres away from winning that match. Buckinghamshire went on to win the match and take the tie 5-4 from us. We were rather deflated that evening knowing we had a match point on two courts that we lost but vowed to bounce back the next day.

On Saturday we played North Wales who had comfortably defeated Staffordshire 7-2 the previous day. We had big injury concerns for Patrick and Jeremy who both went for physio before play started for knee injuries. Jeremy was diagnosed with a minor tear in his MCL and Patrick had a torn meniscus. Neither of them could play for the remainder of the weekend…..a huge blow for us. James, Mike and Stuart picked up singles wins for us so we found ourselves tied at 3-3 after the singles. Jonty and Scott faced a formidable team at No.1 doubles, and despite playing well came away with nothing. This meant we had to win at the No.2 & No.3 pairings. Both courts went into a third set tie-break on adjacent courts at the exact same time. The stage was set for a huge win for the Channel Islands. Our No.2 pair of Stuart and Mike battled hard but lost 10-8 and our No.3 pair of Rob and James lost 11-9 after having a match point of our own. For the second day in a row we had narrowly lost out after having incredibly close matches. Over two days, by way of 3 or 4 points, we now found ourselves in a relegation battle when we could conceivably have been playing for promotion on the final day.

Our mission on Sunday was simple….beat Staffordshire or be relegated back to Division 5. We were without Patrick and Jeremy again but felt we had a good shot at it. Things didn’t go quite to plan on the singles courts with wins only coming from James and Stuart, meaning we were 2-4 down going into the doubles. We had to win all 3 doubles matches. Patrick made a risky decision to play doubles on his bad knee to try and lead from the front at No.1 pair with Scott. Stuart and Mike picked up a quick win at No.2 pair with a 6-2 6-2 win. James and Rob lost the first set at No.3 pair but battled back to win 3-6 6-4 10-3. Patrick and Scott somehow managed to complete the fightback with a frankly heroic 6-3 6-2 victory at No.1 pair to seal our victory and maintain our place in Division 4. We’ve never seen such exciting doubles with so much riding on it. We had hobbled over the line; quite literally in Patrick’s case. What a day!!

We felt we had achieved no more than we deserved over the weekend. To survive in this decision was our first goal but realistically it could have been so much more if one or two points had gone the other way earlier in the weekend. We had come so close to another promotion all whilst having 2 of our players out injured. We are proud of our achievements and all vowed to come back stronger next year. We know we are good enough to move up another division and will look to make a strong charge at that in 2017. GO CHANNEL ISLANDS!!