It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the county tennis calendar — the fiesta of tennis that is the Leicestershire County Championships.
Matches and high drama for eight straight days with a social scene as competitive as the action on the courts.
Below is a preview outlining all the draws and first-round matches featuring Carisbrooke’s players (and occasional pals).
Best of luck to everyone! Get the beers in!
Note: If you would like to keep track of live scores, results and chatter surrounding the county champs or find out how long the queue for the bar is at LE2, the best place for up-to-the-minute news is the Carisbrooke group chat forum on Facebook. It’s open to everybody and if you would like to be added to the group, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with your Facebook name (make sure you have ‘liked’ Carisbrooke on Facebook first else it won’t work) and you’ll be added immediately. Alternatively, text 07935 954 936.
Level men’s singles:
Alex Oldfield is due to face Ed Whetton (Syston) on Sunday morning in one of the round’s more intriguing ties. Both are quality players with pedigree and have been seeded in previous years. The winner is likely to face number one seed Matt Richmond in the next round.
Sahil Jahangir has been drawn against former Brooke first-teamer and ninth seed Ben Minski (Oadby).
Last year’s beaten finalist Barny Thorold is the fourth seed this time around and is matched with ex-Carisbrooke member Dan Carnegie-Wilson (The Leicestershire).
Although playing in Gynsill colours, there will be plenty of support for 12th seed Dan Moore, a member of Carisbrooke’s first team and a frequent representative for our National Club League side. He plays Sunny Punia (The Leicestershire), with the winner set to face number another Brookeite at the last-16 – number four seed Alex Solonenko. Teenage prodigy Solonenko, who won the men’s level doubles in 2016 with Tom Kisiel at the first time of asking, plays the winner of Jack Morrow (The Leicestershire) and Carlos Lagoa (Hinckley) in his first-round clash.
Tom Kisiel, another with Brooke ties as a former coach and current first-teamer, is surprisingly not seeded as the top player despite winning the title for the past nine years in a row. A stipulation in the LTA regulations states that if the tournament wants to be graded at a certain level, the seedings have to be set strictly on LTA player ratings alone. So Kisiel, undefeated on a singles court at LE2 for nearly a decade in a spell stretching to more than 60 matches, is ranked as the number six seed. After bagging the singles trophy again last year, it appears the biggest challenge now facing Kisiel is the history books. County champs legend David Ireland’s once-insurmountable modern-era record of 12 titles now looks in reach. Ireland won ten of those championships in a row, between 1991 and 2000, so a victory for Tom in 2017 will equal that impressive streak. Tom’s triumph last year meant he moved into second place in the modern-era rankings, overtaking Richard Tutt’s eight titles between 1967 and 1980.
Perennial unseeded threat Mark ‘Javelin’ Jeffreys has a kinder draw this year as opposed to facing a high seed early on, like in previous years. He faces brother of Dan and this year’s Carisbrooke Fantasy Wimbo runner-up Matt Moore (Gynsill). The winner of that match is likely to meet number three seed and fellow Brookite Rahul Dhokia. Another teenage up-and-comer, Rahul will meet the winner of Olly Eades (Loughborough) and Matt Stevenson (Enderby).
Ladies’ level singles:
Carisbrooke’s teenage sensation Abigail Wilkin is representing the club for the first time at this year’s championship. Abi is seeded number eight and is in the same section of the draw as the number two seed Jennifer Gadsby (The Leicestershire). Abi’s first test is against Martha Thomas (The Leicestershire).
Men’s level doubles:
Carisbrooke has a 50 per cent stake in the number one seeded doubles partnership at this year’s tournament. Brooke club coach and six-time county doubles champ (men’s: 2015, 2012, 2010; mixed: 2016, 2014, 2013) Sam Preston is paired with Jonny Cloke again as they bid for their fourth title together. They have a first-round bye before facing the winners of Jon Coates (Desford)/Owen Wilson (Leics) and Dan Carnegie-Wilson/Tom Fowler (both Leics).
‘Javelin’ Jeffreys and Carisbrooke mixed doubles maestro Josh Nunn (Kibworth) have snagged the number six seeding and will face Tom Judd (Leics) and James Spence (Victoria) although rumours abound that Judd is battling an injury. Our likely lads’ route to the latter stages of the tournament would have to pass through number three seeds Ben Minski (Oadby) and Dan Moore (Gynsill) at the last-16.
Nick Aylett and Alex Oldfield have bagged the seventh seeding but face a potentially tricky first-round match-up against the men’s singles number one seed Matt Richmond and Oliver Richmond (both Kibworth). Should the golf buddies negotiate that hurdle, next up would be the number two seeds (below)…
The Brooke also has a half-share in the draw’s second-ranked pairing in the form of club Head Coach Jack Simpson and Adam Popowicz (The Leicestershire). The duo have won this title twice before (2007 and 2009) while Jack is a four-time winner of this crown overall and a two-time runner-up (2015 and 2012). They have a bye in the first-round and will play the winners of Callum Eley/Sunny Punia (both Leics) and Luke Bennet-Driver/Jack Morrow (both Leics).
Ladies’ level doubles:
Two of Carisbrooke’s most promising junior girls, Abigail Wilkin and Daniella Page, are teaming up this year. The pair, who played together in our ladies’ first-team this year, face a tough appraisal against number three seeds Jennifer Gadbsy and Christina Pozerskis (both Leics).
A stalwart and entertaining Brooke partnership from many a previous year (Franky Gutteridge and Mark Jeffreys) has had to take a hiatus this year for obvious reasons so the Javelin has gone out and bagged a potential ringer for his title bid this year (a more accurate description would be that Franky was actually the match-maker for this one — credit where it’s due). The Javelin has secured the services of the tall, rangy, big-serving Emily Rodbourne from Charnwood to create another big-hitting combo, with the committee bestowing this newbie duo with the number fifth seeding.
Club coach Sam Preston will be aiming for his fourth mixed doubles title with partner Becky Scrivins (Loughborough) in what would be their fourth championship in five years. This enviable record rightly bags the number one seeding and they will play the winners of Dan Moore/Emily Nicholls (both Gynsill) and Adam Moulson/Kate Moulson (both Leics).
Barny Thorold is teaming with Charlotte Clarke (Leics), good enough for the seventh seeding, and they are in the same section of the draw as Preston/Scrivins. Before then, The backwards baseball be-capped Barny and Charlotte face Tom Fowler and Jessica Buchannan (both Leics).
Carisbrooke’s Erin O’Boyle is linking with Jon Coates (Desford) — a junior fitness coach at the Brooke for Sam Preston’s squads — and they face Daniel Adcock and former Carisbrooke player Lottie Jameson (both Leics) in round one with the winner having the questionable reward of taking on number two seeds Charlie Turney (Lutterworth) and Victoria Bullock (Loughborough).
Jo Wright is teaming with beau Josh Nunn (Kibworth/Carisbrooke) again this year and the unseeded twosome have drawn another boyfriend-girlfriend pairing in Hussein Khan (Oadby) and Jessica Gadsby (Melton) in a Love-all Battle (sorry, couldn’t resist). Jo and Josh will be hoping to fare better than last year when they put in a good effort but ultimately lost to Thorold/Clarke (se above) in the first round 4 and 2.
Hassan Patel, who won the handicap B singles title at last year’s event in his first-ever county champs (beating fellow Carisbrooke player Scott Wagstaff 6-3, 6-1), is stepping up to enter the level Over-35s draw this time around. He will play number four seed Michael Page (Victoria), he of double-handed forehand and backhand fame, and of taking the ball earlier than a pre-1993 Andre Agassi.
Old boy Dan ‘King of the Jab’ Perry is entering the Over-35s level singles for the first time this year and the undefeated boxing champion (1-0, 0 KOs) will play sixth seed Andy Coats (Desford).
Perry is siding with fellow ex-David Lloyd import Nick Aylett in the Over-35s level doubles. The lads have been seeded number three in a svelte draw of eight pairs. Our duo are in the same half of the draw as number two seeds Danny Poultney (Oadby) and Steve Stroud (LFE). First up, Nick and Dan must surmount Paul Cook (Leics) and Ian Nicholson (N/A).
Tony Hampson keeps his record of entering the 45s level singles going and has collided into another tough draw – this time against human brick wall and number four seed Ian Thomas (Leics).
Carisbrooke proves once again this year that it has some of the most ever-green players in the county with two partnerships flying the club’s colours in the 60s level doubles. Fifth team skipper and deluded Man United fan Tony Hampson is joining super-solid fourth team operator Phil Smith as they take on unseeded Tony Laurenco (Birstall) and Pete Wardle (Leics) in an eminently winnable tie.
The other age-defying pair, part-time tennis player and now full-time golfer Peter Blackwell and soon-to-be granddaddy Jon Ford will take on Alan Brownhill and David Hutchinson (both LFE).
Tony completes the triumvirate of vets event by teaming with real-life partner Liz Mansell in the 40/45s mixed doubles. They will take on Ian Thomas and Sally Yarnall (both Leics), who although not seeded, can be considered as dangerous as such.
Note: the outcome for a lot of these matches will very much depend on what handicaps are allotted for the players but at time of writing handicaps had not been published on the county champs website.
In the 45s handicap men’s doubles, two of Carisbrooke’s fastest players around the court are joining forces to create an ultra-speedy duo. Bruce Wattie and Phil Smith, foes in last year’s Over-35s Carisbrooke club tournament final, will be on the same side of the net this time as they take on Mark Dearden (Birstall) and Nikesh Patel (LFE).
Simon ‘Badger’ Armstrong has sett himself a lanky streak of something for his partner in the same event (luckily our two pairings are on opposite sides of the draw so the prospect of an all-Brooke final remains a possibility). ‘Too tall, I’m too tall’ recent birthday boy Paul Jessop will be hoping to drag the best game out of his cold-addled sinuses while not annoying neighbouring courts in their first-round match (puns intended) against Rob Blockley and George Carter (both Wigston).
Jon Ford and his partner will get some warm support from the Brooke faithful as he has picked a former member who is well-known to Kenwood Road denizens — the tennis doctor Nigel Benton is his foil for this draw. They clash with David Hutchinson (who Jon is also facing in the 60s level doubles) and Michael Palmer (both LFE). They could then meet Badger/Streak in the next round if results go well.
The handicap A men’s singles looks to be significantly down on entries this year, with the entire spread contained to a single page with just 13 names included – a far cry to even to the recent past when the draw extended to two pages and well over double the number of combatants. The Brooke’s sole representative is Hassan Patel. Emboldened by his winning of the B version last year (see above), Hassan has now been catapulted into the higher echelon this time around. The purveyor of the purple sweatband will be going up against Rizvan Sarang of Roundhill in his first-round jaunt. The opponent waiting in the wings will be a fresh Alexander Boukikov (Oadby), who has lucked out with a bye in the first round.
The handicap B men’s singles draw has slightly more Carisbrooke representation but the overall entry total has also dwindled this year. Sahil Jahangir has been making a last half of the season push at the Brooke with some impressive turn-outs for the men’s fifth team under his belt. The big forehand hitter faces Colin Eagles (Oadby) in the opening round and will be hoping to clip his wings. Jonathan Berry is always a danger in the handicap events due to his consistency and unorthodoxy, and the long-time member faces Josh Hull-Witten (Syston). Peter Blackwell rounds off the Kenwood Road trio when he plays Nadir Mulji (Victoria) in the first round. The Brooke’s scouts were out in force on Wednesday night to check out Nadir’s game when he was playing for Victoria in a 1-8 loss against Carisbrooke’s all-conquering, title-winning fourth team.
Carisbrooke have two strong juniors flying the flag for the club in the ladies’ handicap singles. Although there no seedings in handicapped tennis, the way the draw breaks down makes it appear like we have the number one and two seeds in the competition. Daniella Page is right at the top of the draw while Izzy Marriott is right at the bottom. Daniella will play the winner of Susan Cottam (Gynsill) and Lucie Gillam (N/A) while Izzy matches up with Georgina Dryden (David Lloyd).
There’s a healthier uptake of entries in the handicap men’s doubles, with 48 players (24 pairs) putting their names forward for 2017 – five of those are all-Brooke affairs plus another where we half a 50 per cent stake in the partnership. The double skipper pairing of third and fourth team captains, Bruce Wattie and Paul Jessop, will be hoping it’s not a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians in their bid for trophy glory. The chaps have snagged a bye in the first round and will then play the winners of Rizvan Sarang/Raheem Scott (both Roundhill) and Michael Hainsworth /Martin Shenton (both Roundhill).
Quizmaster, ex-darts captain and bass-voiced Andy ‘Bellows’ ‘Bayf’ Bayford is pairing with Tony Pratt and they have also caught a break with a bye in the initial round. They will play the winners of eccentric ex-club coach Dave McTurk/Joss Orpin (both Leics) and Julian Howard/Michael Palmer (both LFE). The prospect of the take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools directness of Bayf and the crucifixes-on-the-A6 philosophical meanderings of McTurk could be a delicious barroom ear-wigging moment.
Peter Blackwell and Sahil Jahangir have put in some commendable performances for the men’s fifth team at the tail end of the season, so much so that the duo have carried that forward into an excursion at the county champs. They, too, have wangled a bye and will play the winners of Charlie/Eddie Marsh (both Syston) and John Cook/Michael Lapworth (both Roundhill). Presumably the Marsh brothers will have a monstrously high handicap as Charlie was competing well in the level men’s singles up until very recently and is one of the steadier players in the entire county – just ask Chris Poli after he played Charlie in three famously long and hard-fought matches at last year’s championships. Eddie’s not bad, too!
Hoi Hung Kong and seventh team skipper Steve Eames have unfortunately not fluked a bye and will have to battle through against unknown quantity Alexander Boukikov (Oadby) and a mystery man (partner required — rumours are that it could be Novak on his comeback from tennis elbow).
Jonathan Berry and Scott Wagstaff have drawn a tough match-up against opponents just off the upper echelons of the game. Ginger-headed teacher Niall Bruce, one of the nicer players on the county scene, has played Premier League and Division One /Two league tennis in recent times, and he is partnering Alex Brown (both Oadby) against the Brooke chaps.
Completing the motley crews for Carisbrooke are Michelin three-starred barbecue expert Simon ‘Badger’ Armstrong and last year’s Carisbrooke Golf Day champion, Will ‘How’s Your Fanny’ Simpson. Depending on how the handicap pans out, they face a difficult task against Syston Northfields head coach Ed Whetton (see Alex Oldfield’s opponent in the level men’s singles) and Peter Willson (N/A) – P:S: not to be confused with Paul Wilson, the Premier League stalwart from Syston who has the same surname but one less ‘l’).
Mother-and-daughter team Maggie and Jo Wright are joining forces again this year in the ladies’ handicap doubles. They will face Sue Jones (Oadby) and Gail Pick (N/A). The girls got to the quarter-finals of the same draw last year so will be hoping for more of the same if not better in 2017. If they lose, Jo has pledged to make all the Sunday lunches for the Wright clan for the remainder of the year.
All competitors in the handicap A mixed doubles draw this year are being gifted a complimentary set of triple-thick ear defenders in the wake of Steve Willis’s entry form being received. The Brooke’s ebullient oft-injured barman – he’s been working nights, you know? – is playing with Jo Wright (double set of ear muffs given). They will clash with the barrel-chested Matt Stevenson and Andjelka Grubisic (both Enderby). The other Carisbrooke presence in the draw sees Daniella Page team up with her pops Michael as they take on Mark Dearden (Birstall) and Jo Joyce (Gynsill).
The handicap B mixed doubles draw sees a further two Carisbrooke pairs do battle. Another meld of captains sees men’s fourth team generalissimo Paul Jessop, who guided his troops to the Division 5a crown on Wednesday night, is pairing with ladies’ third team commander-in-chief Nina Armstrong. Standing in their way are Michael Lapworth and Di Kidger (both Roundhill).
Finally, Sahil Jahangir and Izzy Marriott will fly the flag for the Brooke against Paul W Cook and Tracy Cook (both Roundhill). Fortunatly, both of our pairs are in opposite sides of the draw.
Then, of course, there’s the plate for first-round losers. Hopefully there won’t be too many of us in there but the donkey-life draw is always a great opportunity for more silverware.