Manji and Milligan are on the rise

Leah Milligan
Leah Milligan

Northants players Shakeel Manji and Leah Milligan have landed running on court in 2015.

While Manji reeled off four wins in two days to reach the quarter-finals of the Aegon British Men’s Tour at the Graves Centre in Sheffield last week, Milligan reached the final of a Grade 3 Ladies Open to leave on the brink of back-to-back rating rises – she should hopefully rise to a 3.2 in the current band.

Manji will land running back on the USA collegiate circuit this week after an exciting 
run to the latter stages at Sheffield.

The Burton Latimer player was anxious to cross the Atlantic once more in good fettle and succeeded with that aim with a four match winning spree which was only ended by the vastly experienced Norfolk player Richard Bloomfield.

Two wins in qualifying and a further brace in the main draw have left him in good heart.

Firstly, he shook off the post-Christmas blues by despatching Surrey player Jack Gibbens 6-2, 6-3 and then ended the progress of 17 year-old Louis Newman 6-4, 7-6 (7-2). In the first round proper Manji squared up against Andy Ponder (Lincolnshire) and came though by a 6-2, 6-3 score line to book a tie with seventh seed Clay Crawford, who had a 2041 world ranking.

Again, Manji was able to progress, and this against a player who had beaten him on their last meeting, the Northamptonshire player running out a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Saturday brought him a quarter-final date with 31 year-old Norfolk player Richard Bloomfield who once had a career high world ranking of 176 but here the roll came to an abrupt end as he went down 6-2, 6-1.

Manji’s first port of call for the Memphis Tigers on his return will see him travel with the team to Florida on his first weekend back.

Kettering girl Milligan followed her determined show for Northants in the 16 & U round of the 12 Counties tournament at Corby before Christmas by returning to that venue and winning the festive mixed doubles event with her Cambridgeshire partner Maki Zivotic.

Then on Sunday, she reached the final of a Grade 3 Open Ladies event to leave her just one win short of a rating rise to 3.2.

The mixed doubles victory meant she successfully defended her Christmas crown, 
having won it in 2013 with Jordan Parker, and her pairing with Corby hitting partner Zivotic went through the day undefeated.

In the Ladies Open, Milligan defeated number one seed Maria Pandya, a 4.1 rated player from Warwickshire, 4-2, 4-2 in the first round. Then she edged home 10-7 in a match tie break against Lauren Prince, a 5.2 rated player from Derbyshire, after halving the first two sets 3-5, 5-3.

This brought her to the final where she lost to 4.1 player Frances Benson from Nottinghamshire.