Northants youngsters so close to clean sweep

A QUITE exceptional quartet... that was the verdict on the display turned in by Northants’ 9U juniors in Saturday’s Mini Orange Festival of Tennis at Corby.

Only Hertfordshire stood in the path of a Northants clean sweep as the four-strong team coached by Kevin Hoey, defeated sides from Leicestershire, Hereford & Worcestershire and Cambridgeshire to earn second place of six counties in the competition.

Henry Grayson, Elita Sillins, Daniel Bryan and Ethan La Porta proved unfazed, as they tackled many of the top juniors from around the country

The tone was set for the day in the opening round when Northants’ number one Henry Grayson pulled off a great comeback to beat his opposite number from Leicestershire 6-7, 7-5, 7-5.

Sillins missed out narrowly at number two, losing 7-4 in the third, but Bryan won in straight sets and although La Porta went down 5-7, 7-5, 6-8, the set he and Sillins picked up, later proved decisive

Pitched against red-hot favourites Hertfordshire, coached by one-time Northants player Charlotte Gibbons, the county youngsters then drew a blank although Bryan won a set and Sillins battled away gamely in two close sets

It was then back to winning ways against Hereford & Worcestershire, Grayson showing great resolve to win in three sets despite facing set point down in the decider, which he came through 8-6. Sillins notched her first win of the day 7-4 in the third while Bryan won by the same score, even if La Porta lost at number four

Having secured their semi-final place from the ‘Djokovic’ group, Northants faced ‘Murray’ group winners Cambridgeshire in the semi-finals who pitched in a team made up of all Orange one star rated players. A 7-3, 7-3 win by Grayson, a 7-5, 7-3 success for Sillins against a boy at number two along with a close three-set defeat for Bryan ensured Northants progressed by one set!

The mighty Hertfordshire predictably provided the final opposition and it was no real shock they won all four matches in straight sets to clinch the title.

The orange age group is the last one where girls are pitted in competitively with the boys yet showing strength in depth at this age in Northants, Corby was able to submit a second team comprising Anraj Mahil, Samuel Underwood, Joseph White and Max Pollard at short notice when Bedfordshire withdrew, and all acquitted themselves well

County A ladies go clear in Northampton Winter League

THE benefits of a big squad have acted as a boost to County A ladies in establishing a healthy advantage at the top of Division One in the Northampton Winter League.

No fewer than eight players had turned out for County, looking to re-claim their title from Rugby A, at the halfway stage.

Suzanne Clarke, Catherine and Eleanor Thompson, Laura Mineards, Lauren Phillips, Kate Clayson, Kate Goodwin and Abigail Clifford all played a part in notching up four wins and a draw from their five starts to date.

The homeward run begins next week when County A visit Abington A which is followed by a home date for County against Rugby A

The domination of the Church Way club in the ladies’ sections is not restricted to Division One, as binoculars are required for the chasing posse to catch a glimpse of Judy Searle’s dominant County B outfit, which is sailing away at the top with a 13-point advantage.

Once again, a half-term report of four wins and one draw have set up an almost unbeatable position of strength. The only slight blip was a 4-4 draw at Towcester A.

The current strength of Duston United is once again evident in Divisions Three and Four. Both the Mendip Road club’s A and B teams were promoted last season and are currently lying handily placed just behind Rushmere A and Rugby C in their respective sections.

Rushmere B are runaway leaders in Division Five and should achieve a quick compensation after being relegated last year.