Winter County Cup 2021

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Winter County Cup saw the Men’s team in Taunton and the Ladies team closer to home in Southampton.

Here’s how they did :

Men’s Team – report by Rich Irwin, Captain

Day 1 – Dorset beat Northants 6-3

The weekend started with what appeared to be a Relegation match-up between us and Northants who on paper looked like the 2 weakest teams of the division.  Add in some drama on Thursday due to an injury to a member of the squad and it wasn’t looking great but we managed to field 6 players with Ben Battey coming in at the last minute.

The first 2 matches of the tie set the scene for the day to come.  Our super veteran Matt Coombes at number 6 and Winter County Cup debutant Sclater at 5 both endured 3 hour marathon matches.  Unfortunately, it was a step too far for Coombes who although had turned the first set around brilliantly to lead by a set and 5-0, faced an opponent who wouldn’t stop running and in the end lost in 3 sets.  Meanwhile Sclater managed to win by the smallest of margins 7-6 in the 3rd set to leave the tie poised at 1-1.

Next up was the captain Richard Irwin and Ben Battey.  Again, two very tough matches were fought out and again they were split between the counties.  Irwin came through 7-6 7-5 while Battey came unstuck 7-5 in the 3rd set meaning it was 2-2 overall in the tie with the time past 3 pm and 5 matches still to play!

Dorset’s top order held up strong though and gave the team the initiative with Alex Knox-Jones and Toby Samuel both winning their matches in straight sets to give Dorset a 4-2 lead going in to the doubles.  While the pairing of Coombes/Battey lost at 3rd pair to make it 4-3, Samuel/Irwin clinched the win at 1st pair to give Dorset the win which was shortly followed by a Knox-Jones/Sclater win and a 6-3 victory.

Around 11 hours of continuous tennis played on the courts that day and the first part of the job was complete.

Day 2 – Dorset beat Somerset 5-4

The local derby was always going to be a battle but again, the Dorset team showed tremendous grit to get through.  Connor Turner made his debut for the Men’s team at number 5 while Matt Coombes again played at 6.  Another huge effort from Coombes playing an opponent 35 years his junior but again narrowly missed out 7-5 in the 3rd set after another 3 hour battle.  Turner meanwhile stepped up and worked his way smoothly through his match and it was all tied at 1-1.

Following that, Sclater and the Captain Irwin stepped in and produced two huge wins for Dorset.   Sclater beating a more experienced older Millfield counterpart while Irwin came through a 7-5 in the 3rd set to put Dorset in control.  We knew the top 3 matches were going to be hard and if we could take one of them it would put us in with a chance so with Irwin having done that, Knox Jones and Samuel took to the courts.

Knox Jones couldn’t get the better of the experienced Somerset number 2 but it was Samuel who not only produced the performance of the weekend, but was also part of the match of the weekend as after another gruelling 3 hours, overcame the Somerset number 1 Richard Gabb finally outlasting him 6-2 in the 3rd set.  The match was full of hard exhausting rallies and whilst that match was being decided, the other 2 doubles had started.

With Dorset now 4-2 up, one of these would have seen us pip over the finish line however, a heartbreak result for Turner/Shields at 3rd pair who after having one match point, lost 11-9 in the 3rd set tie break.  Meanwhile Knox-Jones/Sclater fell to a very strong Somerset 2nd pair.

I think Dorset have Samuel to thank as due to his epic performance, the number 1 for Somerset couldn’t get out for the doubles which meant that their substitute had to come in.  While the pair from Somerset put up a brave fight, Irwin/Samuel proved too strong and got the win not only in the match but to clinch the tie in Dorset’s favour.

Day 3 – Dorset lost to Suffolk 5-0

Somehow Dorset were now staring at an unexpected opportunity to get promoted as they faced Suffolk in a straight play off to see who went up.  However, the 6 players in the line up were all feeling the effects of the days before on top of a bout of food poisoning for two of the players which had knocked the wind out of our sails.

Suffolk were strong and had a good mix of youth and experience and on the day were just too much for the Dorset team of Turner/Shields/Sclater/Irwin/Knox Jones and Samuel to handle.  The Captain couldn’t ask any more of the team over the weekend but as Suffolk dictated all of the singles matches from 6-1, unfortunately, the tie had been won prior to the doubles and Suffolk were crowned division champions.

Overall a tremendous effort from the Dorset team.  It was great to see a mix of the older players still battling whilst the youngsters impressed with their performances.  Looking forward to the summer and going again!

Ladies Team

The Ladies team had a tough weekend with very challenging matches v Sussex, Buckinghamshire and South Wales.  The team showed tremendous commitment and grit but it wasn’t to be this year and although they face relegation next year for the winter, they too are looking forward to the summer and going again!