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High hopes for Warwickshire tennis sides at County Week

Stratford's Steve Lee plays for Warwickshire at County Week.
Stratford's Steve Lee plays for Warwickshire at County Week.

STRATFORD tennis players Steve Lee, Cameron Malik and former Stratford coach Natasha Hillyer will be in action as Warwickshire's men's and women's teams launch their campaigns at the Aegon Inter-County Cup on Monday, writes Sally Jones.

Hillyer, a stalwart of the side which against the odds finished third in the elite women’s Group 1 at Eastbourne last year, will again carry county hopes.

Captain Katie Shaw is relying on her to inspire the mainly young team, which includes two gifted 16-year-olds, British Under-18 champion Lilly Mould, making her County Week debut, alongside Tamara Malazonia, Manisha Foster and Emily Smith.

Warwickshire women face a daunting task as title favourites Kent and Surrey look particularly strong, but Shaw is still tipping her side to repeat last year’s unexpected success.

“We’ve got a really good side on paper,” she said, “But with several of our players carrying niggling injuries, we may need to flexible over pairings.

"Everyone really pulled together last year though and finishing third was a bonus, so I’m hopeful that Natasha who is a really dogged fighter and the rest of our young stars can get that momentum going again this time around.”

Lee, 37, the veteran of the men's side, playing in his 20th County Week, while Stratford-on-Avon Tennis club coach Malik will likewise add flair and experience to Nathan Rooney’s young side as they aim to win promotion from Group Five at Cambridge.

They join talented youngsters including junior international Mason Recci, Luke Hammond, a tennis scholar at Oklahoma State University and Oliver Nolan, 19.

Former coach Rooney, now working in sports management, is convinced that the team possesses the drive and determination to steer the county back up the divisions.

“I’m delighted that we have a good mix of youth and experience this year,” said Rooney.

“Our assistant captain Steve Lee and Cameron Malik are great battlers and they plus our junior internationals will really boost the side. It’s a well-balanced team that I believe is capable of winning promotion – fingers crossed."

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