Phillips plays big part in Sussex tennis success

Winning all her five matches was a fantastic achievement for Felpham’s Lisa Phillips when she represented Sussex ladies at Billesley in the annual Winter County Cup.

Lisa Phillips (far right) with her Sussex team-mates
Lisa Phillips (far right) with her Sussex team-mates

A total of 44 counties took part and they were split into one of 11 divisions based on previous year’s results, with four counties in each.

Only the winning team in each division secured promotion for the following year and Sussex, in division 2b, beat Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and South Wales to earn promotion to division one.

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Team captain Caroline Matthews, a coach at Storrington, selected the team over the three days. The match format was six singles rubbers and three doubles each day.

Sussex were drawn to play against Cambridgeshire on the first day and 17-year-old Phillips beat 6-2, 6-4 against Victoria Bullock. She teamed up with Maresfield’s Kyria Dunford to win 6-4, 6-4 against Cambridgeshire’s Jennifer Gadsby and Charlotte Jameson.

Phillips – a winner in the sporting category at the Observer Community Awards last week – was delighted to contribute to a great win for Sussex who showed their strength and depth as a team by winning all nine rubbers to get off to the best possible start.

On day two, Sussex played Leicestershire, who had been well beaten by South Wales the previous day. Sussex did well again, winning six out of nine matches.

Phillips won 6-4, 6-4 against Leicestershire’s Laura Oates. She then teamed up with Seaford and Blatchington’s Elise Van Heuvelen to win 6-3, 6-1 against Leicestershire’s Lauren Watson-Steele and Natalie Bacon.

At that stage, South Wales and Sussex had both beaten the other two counties but South Wales had won one extra set. All hinged on the final day, with both counties needing to secure five out of the remaining nine matches to win.

The six singles were played first and Phillips helped her team by winning a long, exhausting match 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 against South Wales’ Joely Lomas. Sussex’s Kyria Dunford had a long three-set win.

Sussex had crept ahead having won four out of six rubbers and needed only to win one of the three remaining doubles. The first of the doubles matches got under way and Sussex’s doubles pair Kate Smith and Elise Van Heuvelen secured a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win to seal Sussex’s promotion to division one next year.

This is a fantastic achievement for the Sussex team, who were a mix of youth and experience.

Next year in the Winter County Cup, Sussex will be joined in division one by Yorkshire, who won Ddivision 2a. They will also compete against Surrey and Middlesex, who were this year’s division-one winners and runners-up.

Phillips said: “I’m really happy to have been part of an incredible team with some really great players. To gain promotion to the top division in the country is unbelievable!”