Summer County Cup tennis: Hertfordshire double up at Devonshire Park

Hertfordshire show of their trophy
Hertfordshire show of their trophy

Hertfordshire saved their best until last as the men’s and women’s teams were victorious at the AEGON Summer County Cup in Eastbourne.

With everything still to play for going into the final round of matches it was a case of winner-takes-all in both draws at Devonshire Park.

The men needed to stop the unbeaten Surrey boys while the ladies also faced a tough examination against a fine Buckinghamshire side.

Surrey men pushed the reigning champions throughout but succumbed to their superior strength in depth, losing 5-1. Victory means Hertfordshire men have won the trophy for the fourth year in a row – which is all the more remarkable considering that hasn’t been done in over 40 years.

Captain Jeff Wayne, who has managed the team for the last 22 years, paid tribute to the opposition his side faced throughout the week.

“It’s been a very exciting week,” he explained. “In previous years we’ve pretty much had it won by the final day but this time around the standard has been so high. We’ve been in some real dog fights and it’s forced us to play to our absolute maximum. In many ways it makes the victory even sweeter.

“Winning the title for the fourth consecutive year is a very special thing. There is so much desire in the team, the guys are all very determined and never let their heads drop. They fight to the end.

“We now hold the summer and winter county cups and are very proud.”

Losing captain Danny Sapsford admitted that his team were gutted at the final result but pleased with their overall performance.

“Coming into the week our main aim was to avoid relegation,” he said. “We’ve done that comprehensively but to then go on, win four matches back-to-back and push Hertfordshire all the way was beyond our expectations. When the guys get a chance to reflect they will be happy I’m sure.”

Norfolk got their third win of the week, beating Cheshire 5-1 while Kent also finished on a high edging out Derbyshire 4-2.

In the women’s draw Hertfordshire ladies won the trophy for the second time in three years.

Hertfordshire went into the match as slight favourites despite taking on a Buckinghamshire side that were still to taste defeat.

What many predicted would be a tight affair turned out to be quite the opposite with Hertfordshire ladies outplaying their rivals in all departments. The 5-0 score line was a fair reflection.

“What a way to win it,” said team captain Sarah Donavan after the match. “We didn’t expect it to be quite so easy but we knew Bucks were missing two of their best players. That certainly didn’t help their cause.

“To do it in that fashion saved me a lot of nail biting.

“Last year we were missing some of our star players but they returned and made a real impact. I see no reason why we can’t retain our title next year such is the ability in the county.”

And on Hertfordshire making it a team double Donavon added, “The men are a fantastic team; we are just trying to keep up with them. To have winners in both tournaments definitely gives us reason to celebrate.”

Jemima Hayward, captain of the beaten finalists, acknowledged that Hertfordshire were just too strong.

“They outplayed us to be honest,” she said. “We knew we needed to get a win under our belts early doors but couldn’t quite manage it. After that it was an uphill struggle.

“But we’ve never won four matches in a row so to finish the week with only one defeat is brilliant. Hopefully we can come back next year and go one better.”

Surrey thrashed Lancashire 6-1 and Middlesex beat Hampshire & Isle of Wight by the same margin.