Suffolk’s tennis squad finish as third best in country

The Suffolk squad from back left to right the players are - Matt Kirby, Ben Jones, Jez Cowley (capta

The Suffolk squad from back left to right the players are - Matt Kirby, Ben Jones, Jez Cowley (captain) James Long & Ashley Watling. Front left to right - Matt Hough, Ryan Lambert, Ben Smith and Myles Orton. Picture: JEZ COWLEY - Credit: Archant

Suffolk men entered Division One of the national county week competition for the second time in three years – and this time they found their feet just in the nick of time to avoid relegation.

After a horrific first day where no-one performed anywhere near their capability in losing 6-3 to Essex and a second day that saw captain Jez Cowley injured in the second round and Matt Hough injured after round three, plus another loss, 5-4 to Hertfordshire, you would be forgiven for thinking Suffolk were dead and buried.

However Ben Jones boosted the squad and James Ling came in to show what great strength in depth the team have in a hard-fought 5-4 victory over Kent, which went down to the final set tie-break with the match tied at 4-4.

Surrey were quickly dispatched 8-1 in the next match and that left top of the table Middlesex, who were favourites for the title, standing in the way of Suffolk’s survival.

A win meant Suffolk were safe, defeat meant relegation, it was a simple equation but a huge task.

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Round one saw Jones and Matt Kirby win easy, Smith and Ling lose out and a 10-6 last set win for Watling and Orton to leave Suffolk 2-1 up.

A flying start in round two saw all three pairs take a one set lead in Suffolk’s favour and things looked great until the rain hit.

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The tide then turned with Orton and Watling losing in a final set tie break, Hough and Ling losing set two and Kirby and Jones tied at 4-4 in the second set when rain hit again. Middlesex had definitely turned the momentum in their favour.

A long break saw a decision made to transfer to the astro turf off site and after a team talk to motivate the boys Hough and Ling came out 10-8 winners in a tense and tight tie-break with Kirby and Jones winning the match on a second set tie break at the third time of asking.

Suffolk were on the brink and with Orton and Watling playing their weakest pair they made no mistake in dispatching them 6-1, 6-2 to secure their status as a Division One county.

The icing on the cake came through stand out pair of the day Kirby and Jones who beat Middlesex’s best pair to turn the rubber count in Suffolk’s favour, finishing as the third best county in the country, a tremendous achievement.

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