AFTER last season when the Penarth Windsor Tennis Club's ladies’ first team produced consistently outstanding performances to win promotion to South Wales’ elite league - Premier One - captain Nicky Richie has retained the core of the squad and hopes are high of a competitive season among some of the top teams in Wales.
The team's top-flight debut came on Sunday and could not have been tougher as they faced an away trip to last year’s champions, the formidable David Lloyd’s first team.
Captain Nicky shuffled her deck slightly to see Michelle De Villiers and Charlotte Gore team up as third pair. Though they acquitted themselves well early on, the David Lloyd second pair proved too strong and enjoyed a straight sets victory. Michelle Lewis and Nicky Davies joined forces to fight as the second pair and played some beautifully solid tennis, especially when it counted, to take the first set 7-5. From there, the Windsor ladies went from strength to strength and rode the momentum to take the second set to love. Meanwhile, Nicky played with Ellie Lewis and hit the ground running to pick up a superb 6-4, 6-4 win over the first pair of the home team. It was a near flawless performance that set down a huge marker, not just in the context of the match, but for the rest of the season.
Nicky and Ellie didn’t let their level drop and scored a straight sets win over the host’s second pair to secure a draw few would have put money on at the start of the day. Michelle and Nicky made the David Lloyd top pair work hard but fell to a 6-2, 6-3 defeat, while third pairing, Michelle and Charlotte, took on their opposite number. A win was tantalisingly close after taking the first set 6-3 but the David Lloyd pair rallied in more ways than one in a fierce bid to salvage a draw for the home side. At 5-5, the second set was on a knife edge, but it was Michelle and Charlotte that found an extra gear to seal the set and a magnificent 4-2 win for Windsor.
Windsor men’s second team also started their season off the back of a promotion as Pentyrch came to Evenlode Avenue. Captain Guy Bradley had a bit of a selection headache but was able to field a strong team to kick start life in Division 2. Playing with Tom Bellingham, Guy got off to a great start, with the Windsor top pair coasting to a 6-1 win in the first set. The momentum was snatched away from them in a second set loss but the pair produced a clinical tie break to clinch Windsor’s first rubber of the season.
Alex Brown and Ben Bellingham both returned to Penarth especially for the season opener and showed why Guy was so keen for them to do so. A tense match saw both pairs constantly vying to get their noses in front all the way up the third set tie-break. Following the lead of Guy and Tom, Alex and Ben held their nerve to win the match by the tightest of margins.
Gareth Robinson and Jason Gill completed Windsor’s line up and also completed a first round sweep of third set tie breaks. Despite playing together for the first time, the pair gelled and, after losing a tight first set 7-6, swept to a key win for the home side.
With the visitors thinking of what might have been during the break, Windsor steeled themselves and made the most of the huge psychological edge that winning three deciding tie-breaks can give. They enjoyed another clean sweep in the second round, this time all in straight sets, to pick up a 6-0 win and the confidence that they can make a lot of noise in this division.