Tennis starlet Phillips in form at shadow of Wimbledon

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Felpham tennis star Lisa Phillips has helped her Brighton Parks team stay in the regional division of the Ladies’ National Tennis League.

The team won the Sussex League last summer and knew they would face tough opposition at the higher level.

Their aim was to avoid relegation and they achieved this by coming sixth, beating two teams in their south east south division, which covers Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Middlesex.

In her seven team matches, 15-year-old Phillips, who has a 5.1 rating, played at No2 string for the team.

The final match was at The Wimbledon Club, opposite the prestigious All England Club.

The Brighton visitors hoped to play on the pristine grass courts, but these were not in use so the matches were played on clay, a surface none of the visitors had much experience on, which put the Brighton Parks team at a significant disadvantage.

Phillips got off to a promising start to win the first set 6-1 against veteran Leona Finkelstein, an experienced 5.1-rated player who is in the GB women’s seniors team and has a senior world singles ranking of 139.

Finkelstein inched ahead in the second set but Phillips used her attacking shots to win 6-4 and claim the match – a fantastic and well-deserved win against the more experienced player.

Phillips and her regular doubles partner Sharon Fitton cemented a convincing win in the doubles against Finkelstein and Christine Armitage 6-3, 6-4.

Phillips travelled to north west London with her team to play Cumberland, who were top and were the eventual league winners.

Phillips knew her match would be tough against 4.1-rated Lena Keothavong, the 26-year-old younger sister of British No1 Anne Keothavong.

Phillips and Keothavong were evenly matched and the two-hour contest could have gone either way but Keothavong edged it 6-4, 7-5.

Phillips had another tough match against Westside 15-year-old Lana Rush, who trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton in the summer and in Florida over the winter.

Phillips trains all year on outside public courts.

Rush, a regular in the GB team for five years, has a wealth of experience playing abroad and, on the ITF Rankings (under-18), is the highest-ranked British player for her year of birth. Rush struggled to get ahead by much of a margin and at 5-5, the first set could have gone either way before Rush clinched the first set 7-5 and secured the second set 6-1.

This was a good result for Phillips as Rush is highly-regarded and was one of only 15 players selected to play in the women’s Wimbledon wild-card play-offs this summer.

Phillips and Fitton had a close match in the doubles, losing the first set 7-6, winning the second 6-1 and clinching the tie-break against Rush and her partner Chloe Halliday.