Bognor tennis finalists serve up a smashing show

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Bognor Lawn Tennis Club held their annual club tournament finals day and despite a showery and blustery start, it ended up a great success.

The action began two hours late but the wait was made more bearable by Sue Dorrell and helpers, who made use of the new pavilion to provide catering.

In the ladies’ doubles final, the serial champion of both singles and doubles, Carol Jones, was partnered with Pauline Rogers against Maree Loversidge and Jean Mugleston. Loversidge and Muglestone came through to take their first doubles title together despite a spirited challenge.

The finalists from the ladies’ and men’s singles tournaments were next on and both last year’s singles champions were back to defend their titles – Crystal Bailey taking on new doubles champion Mugleston and Dean Blanke facing first-time singles finalist Tom Ford.

Bailey was too consistent for her opponent and gained her second consecutive singles title. Blanke, striving for his seventh consecutive title, brushed aside yet another opponent and celebrated with a kiss of the trophy.

The veterans’ doubles featured three players who hadn’t previously played in a club final; Jo Owen, Paul Woodward and Dave Rowley. Rowley’s partner, club president Sue Briggs, whose hard work and dedication had made this year’s event such a success, had competed in many finals in previous years.

The veterans put on an entertaining match but Briggs and Rowley had too much guile for their opponents.

Sunshine was breaking through as the men’s doubles finalists began an epic encounter. All four had worked their way up from the junior ranks at Bognor.

The match pitted last year’s doubles champion Blanke, this year playing with Toby Gibbens in the absence of regular partner Paul Sabin, against last year’s runners-up Daniel Conway and Ford.

The first set went to a tie-break and the greater consistency of Gibbens and, tellingly, Blanke, frustrated their opponents as they edged the first set.

Conway and Ford asserted themselves early in the second set, only to be pegged back again by their opponents. In eventually securing the second set 7-5, however, Conway and Ford forced the match into a deciding set.

All four struggled in the third set to hold their serves, falling victim to the swirling wind. Conway and Ford each had an opportunity to serve for the match but were foiled by alert volleying from their opponents.

The third set entered a deciding tie-break, two-and-a-half hours after the match had begun, and it was Blanke and Gibbens who found enough precision to edge a fascinating encounter.

Blanke and Ford, who’d already faced each other in two finals, had to recover quickly after their doubles in order to complete the mixed doubles final.

Last year’s beaten finalists, Bailey and Ford, faced Blanke and his younger partner Amelia Sowry. Bailey and Ford won their first title together in just under an hour.

Dying light meant the draw for the partners final had to wait until the following day – giving Ford a much-needed rest before his fourth final. Ford partnered Gaynor Woodward, wife of vets’ runner-up Paul, to face Phil Tite and former champion Sue Osbourne.

The players put on an intriguing match in which Ford and Woodward finally triumphed.

If anyone is thinking of taking up or returning to tennis, and would one day like to see themselves competing in finals day, call Janine Ridley, membership secretary, on 01243 849351.