Eastbourne and Wimbledon in ace Phillips’ thoughts

LISA PHILLIPS, ranked No1 in Sussex in both the under-18 and women’s tennis ranking, has fulfilled one of her long-term ambitions.

Lisa Phillips with the Middleton Road to Wimbledon finalists
Lisa Phillips with the Middleton Road to Wimbledon finalists

The Felpham teenager was selected to play on the pristine grass courts of Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, in the Aegon Trophy, an ITF women’s pro circuit event.

The international tournament attracted women from all over the world who used this event to start their grass-court season in preparation for Wimbledon.

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Players with world rankings around the 100 mark converged on Eastbourne and included Qiang Wang (China), Lin Zhu (China), An-Sophie Mestach (Belgium) and Kristyna Pliskova (Czeck).

Six of the top ten British women also played in the singles including Naomi Broady (GB No3), Katy Dunne (four) and Emily Webley-Smith (five). British No2 Johanna Konta played in the doubles only.

Phillips said, “All British tennis players have the ambition to play at Wimbledon but having been born in and lived in Sussex for 17 years, one of my ambitions was to play at Devonshire Park.

“I didn’t expect to play there this year as I am still making changes to my game but my British ranking was high enough to get into the qualifying rounds.” The standard of players, as expected, was exceptionally high with Romanian Elena Bogdan as the No1 seed in the qualifying round. She has a world ranking of 354.

Phillips faced 19-year old Beth Askew, who is 13th in the GB women’s ranking, and has a world ranking inside the top 900.

Phillips played well and her backhand slice was particularly effective on the grass courts. Askew was too good but Phillips managed to win some games, losing a respectable 6-3, 6-3.

Askew was later knocked out in a three-set thriller against Australian Alison Bai, world 356.

This is the highest standard of tournament Phillips has ever played in and she enjoyed the standard of competition as well as having ball boys and girls, an umpire and a line judge on court.

Being a professional women’s tournament there were also some useful perks for players. Phillips was able to take advantage of free physiotherapy on a tight left shoulder before her match which had been hampering her ball toss when serving.

Phillips said: “The physio was really good and definitely had an impact on helping me to serve well. I’ve been practicing my serve a lot and I think this caused some temporary tightness in one of my shoulders.

“It was a great experience to play at Devonshire Park, the grass courts were really good and I played well against a top player. I look forward to playing some more matches there in years to come and am also looking forward to playing more tennis on grass this season.”

Phillips’ love of tennis has been the driving force behind her ambition to keep improving. Most of her tennis skills were learned in the park and she has also benefited from having regular coaching for the past three years to improve her technique.

Phillips has no funding from the LTA and no sponsorship for training or competing and has reached such a high level of tennis against all the odds. For details of her progress, see www.lisaphillips.co.uk

The annual Road to Wimbledon tournament at Middleton Sports Club went ahead with only one minor rain delay.

Boys played two short sets with a match tie-break and the girls played two long sets and a match tie-break. Middleton assistant coach Lisa Phillips, more used to competing herself, ran the tournament.

Road to Wimbledon is the biggest junior tournament in British tennis and gives all 14-and-under players the opportunity to progress to compete on the world-famous grass courts at Wimbledon.

Local clubs, schools and parks are encouraged to stage a tournament for players rated between 10.2 and 7.1. Winners progress to the county and then the national stage.

Phillips said: “The matches were well contested and played with great enthusiasm. Playing a match is a completely different experience to training. “Players need to be tactical and they have to try to use their own strengths while exposing their opponent’s weaknesses. Consistency is also an important factor at all levels of play.”

The match of the tournament was between two girls who battled valiantly and who both deserved to win.

The first set was pretty even and at 6-6 could have gone either way. Alana Corbett won the tie-break 7-5 to clinch the first set 7-6 over Eleanor Lowes. The tables turned in the second set and Lowes won it with an impressive 6-0 score.

A hotly-contested tie-break was played and the match was anyone’s. Lowes edged ahead to win a nail-biting 10-7 and to win a very even match.

MacKenzie Cook, the youngest player in the event, was drawn against Adam Slater, who is nearly three years older. Slater got off to a great start but Cook dug in to make it as difficult for his opponent to make progress. But Slater forged ahead and won the match.

No2 seed Ben Whitney used his previous competitive experience to good use when he played Robert Wilmers, who played superbly in returning some great shots. Whitney went ahead to win the match.

No1 seed Ben Taylor played Adam Slater. Taylor proved too strong and progressed to the final with Ben Whitney.

The final showcased some strong forehand and backhand shots by both players. Taylor was able to put pressure on Whitney and he took the victory.

In July, Middleton will be represented in the county stage of the Road to Wimbledon by Lowes in the girls’ event and Taylor in the boys.

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