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Hillyer inspires Warwickshire's ladies to crucial victory

Natasha Hillyer.
Natasha Hillyer.

STRATFORD tennis stars Luke Hammond, Cameron Malik and former Stratford coach Natasha Hillyer are each playing pivotal roles in this week’s Aegon Inter-County Championships.

The highly-experienced Hillyer, partnering 16-year-old Lilly Mould, the British junior champion, snatched a crucial rubber in Warwickshire ladies’ 6-3 victory over the highly-fancied Kent side on day two of the women’s elite Group 1 in Eastbourne.

Although the pair found the other Kent partnerships, particularly senior internationals like Naomi Cavaday plus her partner Holly Richards too much to handle, Hillyer’s consistent groundstrokes and calm match temperament helped the big-hitting Mould find her feet in high-level doubles play.

The Warwickshire women’s first pair, Manisha Foster and Emily Smith, looked a class act, winning three out of three without dropping a set against Kent, including a battling victory over Cavaday and Richards.

Their aggressive attacking play and obvious enjoyment of the quickfire exchanges proved infectious and they spurred on the rest of the team.

Doubles specialist Soumeya Anane, from Coventry, who flew in from a tournament in Hungary after the opening round of rubbers, joined forces with the mercurial teenager Tamara Malazonia, to take both the remaining matches in straight sets.

On a high after winning two recent European doubles events, the big-hitting Anane served superbly, opening up the court with raking groundstrokes as Malazonia stepped in to dispatch a string of bold volleys.

“I’m really pleased with how our players rose to the challenge,” said captain Katie Shaw.

“The experienced ones like Tash, Soumeya, Manisha and Emily went for their shots and kept the youngsters positive.

"The newcomers all learn a lot from County Week doubles as there’s so much guile and strategy involved. We meet Norfolk next and they are struggling with no wins yet so we definitely need to get a victory here to boost our chances of staying up.

"Group 1 is highly competitive and we have yet to face either Surrey or Hertfordshire, who are both unbeaten and the favourites for the title so we’ll need to get as many rubbers as possible to stay in the hunt.”

Warwickshire men failed to follow up their emphatic opening-day win over Oxfordshire as they slipped to a 4-5 defeat to a powerful Dorset side on day two.

Luke Hammond won two out of three, one win with captain Nathan Rooney and one with 17-year-old debutant Daniel Bird.

Another 17-year-old, Alex Griffiths, received a last minute call-up after Stratford stalwart Steve Lee had to pull out with a back injury. He rose to the challenge, beating the Dorset first pair partnering Oliver Nolan and Stratford coach Cameron Malik.

Nolan also won two rubbers against Oxfordshire and Malik was unlucky not to make it a third when he and newcomer Alex Griffiths, 17 went down fighting against their opponents’ top pairing.

In three tense sets, Rooney again praised his talented youngsters, who trailed Dorset 5-1 after the first two rounds but then managed some useful damage limitation to add three extra rubbers to their total.

“It’s been a good learning curve as this is a very young side,” said Hammond.

"We are desperate to win our next match against Staffordshire to stay in with a chance of winning promotion to Group 4.”

Day 2 results

Group 1 Women’s Championship

Warwickshire beat Kent 6-3 (Warwickshire names first)

Warks 1 pair: Manisha Foster/Emily Smith Kent bt 1 pair Olivia Parson/ Sophie Thomas 6-3 6-1

Beat Kent 2 pair: Tiegan Aitken/Jacqueline Darby 6-3 6-0

Kent 3 pair: Naomi Cavaday/Holly Richards 7-6 6-3

Warks 2 pair: Lilly Mould/Natasha Hillyer bt Kent 1 pair 6-4 6-2

Lost to Kent 2 pair 1-6 1-6

Lost to Kent 3 pair 5-7 3-6

Warks 3 pair" Soumeya Anane /Tamara Malazonia beat Kent 1 pair 7-5 6-3

Beat Kent 2 pair 6-1 6-1

Alannah Griffin/Tamara Malazonia lost to Kent 3 pair 6-4 2-6 1-6

Group 5 Men’s Championship

Warwickshire lost 4-5 to Dorset (Warwickshire names first)

Warks 1 pair: Mason Recci/Max Stewart lost to Dorset 1 pair Adam Glynn/ Richard Irwin 6-4 5-7 4-6

Lost Dorset 2pair Millen Hurrion/James Whyke 5-7 6-7

Beat Dorset 3 pair Sam Bossem/Toby Samuel 6-1 6-3

Warks 2 pair: Alex Griffiths/Oliver Nolan beat Dorset 1 pair 6-7 6-3 6-1

Cameron Malik/Oliver Nolan lost to Dorset 2pair 3-6 6-2 2-6

Lost to Dorset 3 pair 3-6 2-6

Warks 3 pair: Nathan Rooney/Luke Hammond lost to Dorset 1 pair 4-6 4-6

Daniel Bird/Luke Hammond beat Dorset 2pair 6-4 7-6

Rooney Hammond beat Dorset 3 pair 6-4 6-3

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