Promotion means Northamptonshire are on the rise again

The Northamptonshire tennis squad who sealed promotion last week
The Northamptonshire tennis squad who sealed promotion last week

Northamptonshire men will end a 13-year wait when they embrace Group Four tennis in 2017 after winning on all five days at the Fenner’s Sports Ground in Cambridge last week to earn a third straight promotion.

Captain Mark Taylor is well used to the topsy-turvy nature of the LTA’s Inter County Cup format after completing 20 years in the role.

Almost, it seems, in a previous life, he nursed Northants up to Group One for the first time in almost 50 years back in 2001, when they memorably played at Eastbourne.

That followed a non-stop roll of promotions which was only matched in its drama by the subsequent freefall back to Group Seven.

Now, after two promotions at Hunstanton and one in Cambridge, the players are threatening a repeat.

The present team of Charlie Swallow, Shakeel Manji, Jack Haworth, Joe Tyler, Peter Whight, Kyle Rae and Ben Foster reeled off victories against Sussex (6-3), Durham & Cleveland (7-2), West of Scotland (7-2), Devon (7-2) and Buckinghamshire (8-1).

The last-day triumph was a head-to-head for the title after Bucks had also won on the first four days.

Swallow and Manji ended the week with a 15 out of 15 match return which earns them a day out at Wimbledon next year.

Taylor said: “The last day can sometimes be a farce if positions are decided and players are just anxious to get home but plenty hinged on two of the matches.

“Bucks also had a player who was on 12/12 going into the final day but Jack and Joe beat him and his partner in the second round.

“Charlie and Shakeel were then a set and 4-0 up against that pair but lost the second set and only won the match 10-7 on a tie-break shoot out.”

Manji (Memphis), Haworth (Browns University), and Rae (California) have been playing in the USA while Tyler’s growing reputation at 17 is one of which to be proud while his partnership with Corby prodigy Haworth has always been a forceful one.

Taylor said: “It is amazing to think Joe can be called a stalwart of the winter and summer teams at 17. He loves the chance to represent his county.”