Suffolk win historic national county tennis title

The triumphant Suffolk tennis team who were crowned national champions in Eastbourne. Picture: SHEEL

The triumphant Suffolk tennis team who were crowned national champions in Eastbourne. Picture: SHEELAGH WATTS - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk Men’s tennis squad have made history by winning the national county title.

In a sporting underdog story akin to little Leicester City lifting the Premier League crown, the Suffolk squad saw off a host of more-moneyed and better fancied outfits to lift the title for the first time in Eastbourne.

Under the inspirational captaincy of Jez Cowley, the squad of Matt Hough, Ashley Watling, Matt Kirby, Ben Jones, Myles Orton, Ben Smith, Oscar Cutting, James Ling and Ryan Lambert defied the odds.

It is the culmination of a remarkable 14 years at the helm for Cowley, who took over with his county languishing in Group Six and guided them all the way to the top division – and now to the very top of the tree.

“What we’ve achieved is humongous,” said Cowley, 36. “It’s still sinking in to be honest. When Leicester won the Premier League, it’s that sort of achievement – no-one would have expected Suffolk to win the title!”

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But win they did, seeing off Cambridgeshire (9-0), Derbyshire (6-3), defending champions Hertfordshire (6-3) and Middlesex (7-2), squads boasting players who have excelled at both junior and senior Wimbledon Championships, in a doubles-only format.

They lost only to Essex (3-6), but when Hertfordshire beat them on the final day of the event last week, Suffolk were crowned the most unlikely of champions.

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“Essex was a crunch match for us and we just got pipped,” said Cowley, who thanked the county’s sponsors Yonex and Stringers’ World. “We were all a bit deflated afterwards, but Essex had Hertfordshire on the last day so we picked ourselves up and worked out what we needed.

“We had to beat Middlesex 7-2 so I said to the boys let’s just go out and do what we needed to do and then hope the other match would go our way.

“When Essex lost, we went from being super nervous watching it to going crazy, it was great. The team keep making history.”

The victory also leaves Cowley with a big decision to make. “I’ve always said that if we ever won it I would go but I’m in two minds,” he explained.

“We’ve got the winter county cup at the end of November so I’ll do that, let the dust settle and make my mind up.”

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