Putting Wheelchair Tennis in the Spotlight

By Daniel Flower.

Although I’ve watched wheelchair tennis many times on television and enjoyed following stars like Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley compete in the Paralympics and at Wimbledon, last weekend’s British Open in Nottingham marked the first time I had actually attended a live wheelchair tennis tournament.

At the end of a fantastic day watching some of the world’s top players, I definitely came away from the Nottingham Tennis Centre wondering why I hadn’t attended in previous years or indeed followed the sport more closely in general.

Despite a disappointing loss for Andy Lapthorne in the Men’s Quad Singles final, I very much enjoyed watching three closely fought contests and often found myself marvelling at the high quality of tennis on display. The bad weather meant that all matches were played indoors, but in some ways that added to the experience because it meant that you were much closer to the action than would otherwise be possible. There’s also something about indoor tennis that enhances the atmosphere and excitement.

Later in the day I met up with Jo Vince, a fellow BATS member and regular volunteer at the tournament. Jo has followed wheelchair tennis closely over the years and has a real passion for promoting the sport to a bigger audience.

Jo’s involvement meant that we were lucky enough to have an opportunity to meet and sit down with two-time Grand Slam singles champion and Paralympic Gold medallist Gordon Reid.

During our chat, we asked Gordon about his thoughts on whether he believed there had been a noticeable difference to the sport since the LTA took over the wheelchair game. Although this change happened relatively recently, he seemed quite positive about it and said he believed promoting wheelchair tennis under the LTA banner is a good thing for the sport.

My overriding impression after visiting the tournament is that wheelchair tennis has fantastic potential to grow and gain in popularity beyond the level it is at today. With the LTA’s involvement and tournaments like Wimbledon placing a greater emphasis on the wheelchair event, more people will get to experience the excitement of playing and watching this compelling sport.

Despite this, promoting wheelchair tennis is still very much a work in progress. From a BATS perspective, it is also our belief that we need to be more visible at the wheelchair events. If you get the opportunity, I would really encourage you to visit the tournament next year and experience it for yourself. Together we can do our bit to promote the sport and put wheelchair tennis more firmly in the spotlight.

Fed Cup: Great Britain vs Kazakhstan, Copper Box Arena – By Janice North

Contribution by Janice North, a BATS member – April 2019.

I joined my fellow BATS supporters on Day 2 of the Fed Cup play-off between Great Britain and Kazakhstan, and what a thrilling day of play we were all treated to.

This play-off would be the fifth in eight years whereby Great Britain had sought promotion to the World Group and with the score from the previous day standing at 1-1, both teams still had everything to play for.

First up on Day 2 was the battle of the respective team number 1’s, Johanna Konta and Yulia Putintseva. The gutsy Kazakh took the first set 6-4, prompting an immediate and defiant response from Konta in the second set. She systematically muted the noisy Kazakh band’s drums and trumpet throughout by breaking Putintseva twice, winning 68% of the total points to take the second set 6-2 and level the match.

With momentum now clearly with our Brit, a slightly reserved optimism was in the British crowd, as we were all too mindful of Putintseva’s ability to come from behind to win.

However, it was Konta who prevailed, demonstrating dogged determination to fight back from a 1-4 deficit. A time violation which had preceded a double break against her, fuelled a spectacular and steely comeback. Konta went on to win 16 of the last 19 points to secure her 11th successive Fed Cup singles victory, leaving the door well and truly open for her team mate Katie Boulter.

With the score now at 2-1 to Great Britain and just the one win required to secure promotion to the world group, the stage was set for the No2 showdown between Katie Boulter and Zarina Diyas.

Having just watched Konta’s fight back, Boulter knew she had everything to play for. However, a very close first set which culminated in a tiebreak, resulted in a flattening 1-7 loss of the set. Furthermore this was swiftly followed by Boulter going down a break in the second set too and for a time it seemed that Boulter was losing her grip on the match, just as Diyas appeared to be enjoying an apparent ascendancy. However the fortuitous sounding of a car alarm going off heralded a double-faulting which allowed Boulter back into the match to level at 2-2.

By this time, some drums had been acquired from seemingly nowhere by some of the British spectators which helped to match the resurgent cacophony of the Kazakh band. At this point, the atmosphere in the Copper Box Arena began to reach fever pitch, propelling Boulter onwards to break again and take the second set 6-4.

The third and final set produced nothing short of a spectacular whirlwind of determination from Boulter who romped through the gears to a 5-1 lead, with one game left to play, to serve out for victory. She held firm, taking the match on her third match point with a thumping ace, to the delirious joy of the crowd and her fellow team mates.

The whole Great Britain team, Jo Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Swan, Harriet Dart, together with their coach Anne Keothavong, all of whom had been like a coiled spring courtside, raced onto the court to embrace Boulter in her moment of glory and proceeded to celebrate together with a joyful dance of thoroughly deserved triumph, which was wonderful to behold.

This victory for Great Britain has ended a 26 year wait for Fed Cup promotion and while Britain will no doubt face stiff competition against the world’s elite, at the very least, Britain’s victorious Fed Cup team will finally start next year in the higher echelon.  We await news whether this will be in World Group II or in the revamped World Group with a fighting chance to lift the Fed Cup trophy.

Our heartfelt and proud congratulations to you all on your achievement.

Janice North

Davis Cup 2018: GB v Uzbekistan – By Janice North, a BATS Member

I am thrilled to have been invited to write this article on our latest Davis Cup tie. Sadly this was the last tie in the old and much loved format, but still the tie which would uniquely determine if we would be seeded or not in the new format coming into effect next year.

This home tie saw a return in venue to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow and along with a few others, I flew up on the Thursday evening, just in time to join other BATS members for a little soirée at the Society Room, a Wetherspoons pub in the city centre. This was the perfect opportunity to collect tickets, greet fellow members and get kitted out in BATS attire in readiness for a weekend of very vocal, rousing support for our team!

Both Terry and I had chosen to stay at the Sandyford Hotel in the West End of Glasgow, which subsequently turned out to be ideally located within  a stone’s throw of a couple of excellent restaurants we discovered for dinner at the weekend – a most opportune discovery, for as we know only too well, all this cheering & flag-waving to Back Our Brits is hungry work!

Day 1 was to provide us with an epic seven and a half hours of tennis, comprising two thrilling 5-set matches. First up was Dan Evans of GB in his return to the Davis Cup team vs Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan’s No1 ranked player.

Evans took the first set on a tiebreak, with Istomin levelling the match with a second set win. It was then that things went a little awry for Evans, with Istomin bageling him in the third. However, this ignited a defiant and determined fight back from Evans, taking it to a fifth & final set in which he overcame a stunned Istomin.

Next up was Cameron Norrie vs Djurabeck Karimov, a hitherto relatively unknown quantity before the match, who to expected form lost the first two sets to Norrie, but then just as we were anticipating a fairly predictable straight sets win, then proceeded to inexorably turn the match around, starting with an unexpected tiebreak win in the third and going from strength to strength to secure the win in the fifth set, thus notching up a 1-1 tie at the end of play.

Day 2 of course was the doubles with our long-established team of Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot vs Denis Istomin and Sanjay Fayziev. With some wonderful shot-making from both teams, it was Team GB who prevailed with a straight sets win, bagelling the Uzbeks in the third and giving us a 2-1 lead in the tie going into Day 3.

On arriving at the stadium on Sunday, the published first match was of course expected to be the reverse singles, with Cameron Norrie due to play Denis Istomin. However, it was announced that unfortunately due to an ankle injury, Istomin would be replaced by his previous day’s doubles partner, Sanjay Fayziev.

We had been agog with speculation on how Cameron Norrie would rise to the challenge after his tough defeat on the first day, a defeat which was almost the mirror image in reverse of his 5-set victory over Bautista Agut in the Davis Cup tie in Spain earlier in the year. We were not to be disappointed though. A clearly determined and resolute Norrie systematically dismantled the talented Fayziev’s game in less than two hours, to produce an impressive straight sets win, with another bagel in the 3rd to take Team GB to a 3-1 victory over Uzbekistan.

It was then with some dismay that we learnt there would be no further play that day! Now, bearing in mind we’d barely passed 2pm, we had hoped at the very least to be treated to a single set exhibition match. Sadly, this was not to be and in spite of our win, there were many of us who felt rather subdued and flat as we left the stadium.

For me personally, I took the opportunity to work off my disappointment with a brisk run that afternoon, taking in the sights of the botanic garden, the university and the art gallery before meeting for another sumptuous banquet in the evening!

As I write this, we are still awaiting the draw to announce who our opponents will be in February and in so doing, find out whether we will be home or away. Leon Smith has already stated his fervent hope that the ITF grant us one of the two available wildcards and in so doing sidestep February and join the four semi finalists from this year’s tournament, France, Spain, Croatia and the United States advancing straight through to the finals in either Madrid or Lille in November.

Wildcard or no wildcard, home or away, I for one will be there Backing Our Brits again. Thank you BATS for another wonderful & memorable Davis Cup weekend. Roll on February!

Janice North

8 British Women Now in the WTA Top 250

By Maurice Baldwin, a BATS Member.

This week sees 8 GB young women in the WTA Top 250. This is something that hasn’t happened for many years. It also compares to GB Men with only 4 Top 250 ranked players. The 8th ranked male player is ranked 424!

1 Jo Konta

2 Heather Watson

3 Naomi Broady

4 Gabi Taylor

5 Katie Boulter

6 Laura Robson

7 Harriet Dart

8 Katy Dunne

Some of these names are familiar but I thought I would spotlight some of the players who are less well known to people that don’t follow ITFs

Gabriella Taylor, 20 – Ranked 178

The progress of Gabriella was halted when she was the victim of a mystery food-poisoning scare during Wimbledon Juniors in 2016. The illness caused her to withdraw during her QF match. There was a police investigation and the episode kept her out of the game for 4 months. She returned in October that year and ended the year ranked 361.

2017 was a year of consolidation and further improvement for Gabi with 2 x 25k tournament wins. (Changwon S Korea and Navi Mumbai India) and a Year end ranking 323

In 2018, Gabi turned 20 in March and has emerged as a real force. Picking up from the win in India she has won 3 out of 4 25K tournaments (Launceston, Perth and Mildura) in Australia with a 17-1 W-L record for 2018. In addition at Mildura she teamed with fellow Brit Katy Dunne to take the doubles title.

Gabi’s latest ranking is a career high 173 and an improvement of 145 places in 10 weeks. This sees her as the new GB4 behind Jo Heather and Naomi Broady.

Her next commitment is a 60K tournament in Canberra this week seeded 7 as she moves up to the next ITF level. The new ranking also means that she will be eligible for direct entry to the qualifying events for lucrative grand slams. She has played Wimbledon qualifying 3 times as a wild card. She got her only win in 2014 aged 16 when she defeated the experienced former top 30 player Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden This was only her 3rd senior professional match! I would also expect to see her in the GB Summer WTA Grass court events as she is in pole position for the much coveted wild cards.

Gabi is based in Spain and coached by Xavier Budo and David Sunyer

Gabi is not alone in her climb up the rankings.

Other young women making moves to career-highs this week:

Katy Dunne, 23 – up to 236 GB7

Harriet Dart, 21 – up to 238 GB8

Harriet qualified in 2 x 25K events and went on to reach the final in both, winning in Altenkirchen and ending a 13 match winning streak as she lost in the final in Yokohama Japan. On her way to the final she scored an impressive QF straight sets win over Laura Robson. I have followed Harriet for many years having seen her reach an ITF final at Edgbaston aged 16.

Katy has also played the Australian events alongside Gabi reaching 1 Final (with a win over Laura Robson) IxSF (losing to Gabi) and 1xQF.

Davis Cup Semi Final- Great Britain v. Argentina 16-18 September 2016, Glasgow

BATS members were out in force to support Great Britain as they attempted to reach a second successive Davis Cup Final against Argentina. Great Britain recovered from a 0-2 opening day deficit to level the tie at 2-2 before Leonardo Mayer defeated Dan Evans in the final rubber. Argentina now progress to play Croatia in the final. We wish them the best of luck!

Here are some images from a fantastic weekend in Glasgow, courtesy of member Ashe Hussain.

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GB V Argentina 1

Image Copyright Ashe Hussain 2016.

Davis Cup Final in Ghent – Great Britain v Belgium

Cast your mind back to 2010 and you’ll probably recall a low point in British tennis history. Great Britain’s 2-3 loss to Lithuania in the Europe/Africa Zone Group II first-round left us staring at life in the bottom rung of the competition and an unenviable relegation play-off against Turkey in Eastbourne four months later.

As I sat pondering on this before the final, I couldn’t quite believe it was just five years ago. Britain would of course go on to win that tie in Eastbourne 5-0, and with it they would kick-start Britain’s remarkable climb up the Davis Cup ladder to the point we now found ourselves in – a final against Belgium and the chance to win the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years.

Could we take that final step and bring home the trophy?

As I headed to the Belgian city of Ghent, I’ll admit that I felt a little anxious about the tie. Whilst we were the favourites on paper, re-writing the history books certainly wouldn’t be easy.

Adding to the tension was the on-going security situation in Brussels, a city that’s less than 40 miles away from the venue. In the days before the final there were even question marks over whether the tie would actually go ahead.

Upon arriving in Ghent I immediately laid to rest any concerns I had. This city is really something special, with beautiful canals and walkways set against stunning medieval architecture. It’s truly a hidden gem, and although there was heightened security for the tie, the truth is that nobody gave it much thought once we were there.

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Onto the Friday and it was time for the final to get underway. The sense of excitement and anticipation amongst everyone inside the Flanders Expo was huge, and I can’t ever recall experiencing such a raucous atmosphere inside a tennis arena. Davis Cup ties are always noisy, but this was something else.

The first match saw Kyle Edmund taking on David Goffin. Facing the Belgian no.1 was always going to be difficult, however Kyle played a quite unbelievable match and really pushed the world no.16 to the limit.

Despite Goffin ultimately coming through 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0, the man from East Yorkshire certainly showed what he is capable of and displayed more than a few signs that he could go on to be a great player. The first two sets in particular were a prime showcase of his effective brand of heavy-hitting tennis.

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The second singles match placed Andy Murray against Ruben Bemelmans. Andy was always a massive favourite to win this match and so it proved. He took it comfortably, winning 6-3 6-2 7-5 to level the final at 1-1.

In any Davis Cup tie there is always an added amount of tension before the crucial doubles rubber – and this occasion was certainly no different. The situation staring back at us was simple: Clinch the doubles and Britain looked like heavy favourites to take home the trophy. Lose it and the Belgians would be in prime position.

Andy and Jamie Murray once again teamed up to take on Steve Darcis and David Goffin. Whilst the Murrays were favourites to come through, everyone inside the stadium knew that the Belgian pair would be no pushovers.

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The early stages of the match were indeed extremely tight, with the first nine games going with serve as both teams settled into a comfortable rhythm.

It would be Britain however who would strike the first blow, with Andy and Jamie clinching their first break point of the entire match to take down Goffin and grab the first set 6-4.

Early momentum in the second set went the way of Darcis and Goffin, with Jamie being broken in the fourth game to leave GB trailing 1-3. The Belgian pair would go on to hold serve and take the set 6-4 to level up the match at one set apiece. As expected, this wasn’t going to be easy!

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Onto the third set and the tension increased once more as Jamie was again broken in the early stages. But this time it was different: the British pair fought back beautifully, breaking twice in a row to go 4-2 up, before clinching the set 6-3.

The Murray brothers now had all the momentum and broke Belgium again early in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. With Jamie serving at 5-2, a wayward return from Darcis sealed the victory for Britain and put us 2-1 ahead in the tie.

We were now just one win away from history – and so it was down to Andy Murray to beat David Goffin and win the Davis Cup for Great Britain!

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After a tight start, Murray broke Goffin to go 4-2 ahead and put the first set within touching distance. He would hold on from there with ease, eventually taking it 6-3.

The second set proved to be equally tight, with both players holding serve relatively comfortably. The crucial breakthrough arrived in the eleventh game, with Murray breaking Goffin to edge 6-5 ahead. He clinched the set in the next game with a stunning crosscourt winner.

Despite an early setback in the third, Murray instantly rallied to level up at 2-2, before breaking Goffin again a few games later to go 4-3 and then 5-3 ahead. Just one more game!

With Goffin serving to stay in the match, Andy really applied the pressure and a few points later found himself at match point.

The final point of the match is one that is sure to live long in the memory of any British fan, and not just because it was the moment Great Britain finally won the Davis Cup. This was a truly spectacular rally that summed up everything that’s so great about Andy Murray: his total determination to win, and his amazing natural ability to outfox his opponents with wonderful feel and intelligent shot making. This was Andy at his very best, and winning it with that amazing lob just somehow seemed so fitting. Even Andy himself couldn’t quite believe it.

We had done it – and you could really see what it meant to everyone involved. The crowd went wild!

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The Davis Cup is of course a team competition, and whilst Andy is certainly the star of the show, great credit should go to the whole team for what they have achieved over the last five years. Players including Jamie Murray, James Ward, Dan Evans, Dom Inglot and Colin Fleming have all played their part in getting us here. We also shouldn’t forget the support team, who have played an invaluable role in the success.

Special mention should of course go to Leon Smith. He is the man who has brought the team together and rescued us from the dire position we were in when he took over as Captain in 2010. He has brought passion, belief and determination to the team, whilst he has continually displayed a wonderful aptitude for great strategy and decision-making.

So what’s next for Great Britain?

A home tie against Japan in March sees GB start the defence of the title – but for now let’s just enjoy this magnificent victory and hope that it inspires many more youngsters to pick up a tennis racquet and start playing this wonderful game.

Congratulations to the whole team! It was an absolute privilege to witness this truly historic moment – and it will certainly live long in the memory of all British fans.

By Daniel Flower

Davis Cup – Croatia v Great Britain in Umag

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A brilliant win by Team GB beating Croatia 4 – 1!

Results:

Andy Murray beat Borna Coric 6-3 6-0 6-3

Ivan Dodig beat Dan Evans 6-3 6-2 6-3

Andy Murray & Colin Fleming beat Ivan Dodig & Mate Pavic 6-3 6-2 6-7 6-1

Andy Murray beat Ivan Dodig 6-4 6-2 6-4

Dan Evans beat Mate Pavic 6-4 7-6

In the first round of the World Group in 2014, Great Britain will meet USA in San Diego.