It proved a highly successful LTA Summer County Cup week for Shropshire as the men’s team impressively secured promotion and the ladies remained in their group after ending with two fine wins.
Having been relegated 12 months ago, the county’s men’s team bounced straight back up to Men’s Group 6 following an excellent week at Hunstanton.
Shropshire’s ladies also made a long trip east, in their case to Felixstowe, where they delivered the two victories they needed from their final two fixtures to ensure they avoided relegation and stayed in Ladies’ Group 6.
This was the 126th time the hugely popular County Week has been played, with 44 counties across seven groups competing at 13 grass court venues around the country.
Hundreds of tennis players took to the courts to represent their counties, playing in exceptionally hot weather conditions, particularly at the start of the week, with teams for each tie consisting of three doubles pairs.
Alex Parry captained Shropshire’s men’s team, which also included Luke Henley, Tom Loxley, Matt Jones, Ed Gibbs, Joe Smithyman, Ian Gillespie and Matt Lee.
Shropshire started the week on the Norfolk coast with 9-0 victories over both Bedfordshire and Isle of Man.
The winning habit continued as they got the better of Cornwall 7-2 to set up a promotion clash against Northumberland, with Shropshire producing another strong display to beat the north east county 6-3.
They ended the week with a 6-3 defeat against Wiltshire, but Shropshire had already done enough with four impressive wins to ensure they had plenty to celebrate.
Captain Alex said: “The way the division is structured means you are split into two boxes, so the two teams that dropped down automatically become the top seeds in the two boxes.
“We took a look at the box we were in and we really fancied our chances. We tried to get a good couple of wins in the first two days, but in that weather it was testing to say the least.
“We started at 10.30am and went right the way through to 6.30pm on the Tuesday. We were only about 30 miles from the hottest place in the country and I’ve never been in heat like that before.
“Special mention must go to Ed Gibbs and Tom Loxley as going into the last day they had won all 12 matches as a doubles partnership. They were only really halted by Ed suffering a side strain during that 13th match otherwise they could have gone all the way through to be honest.
“It’s good to be back in a higher division. I think that’s where our county belongs and the standard of tennis we’re playing at the moment belongs.
“There’s a really good core group of players in the team. I think there’s a lot of distance to go with this team yet.”
Holly Mowling hailed “a massive team effort” from her Shropshire ladies side after they consolidated their place in Ladies’ Group 6 on the Suffolk coast.
Holly led a team which also featured Sue Dunn, Hanna Cadwallader, Elena Griffiths and three of the county’s top junior players in Tamzin Pountney, Imani Shah and Clara Hill.
An opening day 6-3 defeat against North of Scotland was followed by a 9-0 reverse against West of Scotland, the eventual group winners who won all their games throughout the week comfortably.
Day three saw a 7-2 defeat against Northamptonshire, a result that meant Shropshire needed to win their final two fixtures to stay up.
They gave themselves hope by beating Devon 5-4 and then delivered again when they had to by signing off with a 6-3 victory over Staffordshire to ensure they avoided relegation.
Captain Holly said: “Knowing I was missing a number of key players for this year’s event meant we were slightly up against it from day one.
“For me the week was about Clara, Imani and Tamzin gaining experience of grass court doubles and all that comes with competing in this prestigious event.
“To play 15 matches in five days is no mean feat, particularly at this level and in the middle of a heatwave. The youngsters are the future of this team and gaining this experience will improve their game dramatically.
“The fact that we remained in Group 6 for next year is a huge achievement for us. It was a massive team effort, especially in the heat at the start of the week.
“We had a great team spirit throughout the week and a good mix of youth and experience, and I am now looking forward to the Winter County Cup at the end of November.”