TENNIS: County seal fourth promotion in five years

The Northants mens team who will be in Group Three of the LTA National Summer Championship next year after they gained promotion at Ilkley Moor
The Northants mens team who will be in Group Three of the LTA National Summer Championship next year after they gained promotion at Ilkley Moor

Northants men will contest Group Three of the LTA National Summer Championships for the first time in 16 years in 2019 after a clean sweep of success at Ilkley Moor last week.

The team of Jack Haworth, Joe Tyler, Kyle Rae, Charlie Swallow, James Smith, Jordan Parker and Peter Whight won on all five days to make it four promotions in five years.
It is starting to resemble the terrific roller coaster they generated by marching from bottom to top in successive years, finally playing in Group One at Eastbourne in 2001.
Then, as now, the captain is Mark Taylor who is understandably euphoric having also taken charge of the Northants 12U side a fortnight earlier to finish a staggering third in the country behind champions Middlesex and Sussex at Bolton.
The senior men reeled off wins against Somerset (6-3), Lancashire (7-2), West of Scotland (6-3) and Leicestershire (7-2) before a final day head-to-head with Berkshire who had also won on the first four days.
Haworth and Tyler were still on course for a remarkable 15/15 win ratio down the week but although Berkshire managed to scupper that plan by pairing together best players Neil Paufley/George Hedley, in a three-set second-round meeting, Berkshire then conceded the match and title at 3-3.
Taylor explained: “I think they could see there was no way they were going to win the match overall from that point.”
It means Northants will meet Berkshire again next summer when also among the opposition will be North of Scotland. This year they included Jamie Murray in their ranks, although that didn’t prevent an 8-1 loss to East of Scotland!
Haworth/Tyler were 13/14 for the week, while Kyle Rae/Charlie Swallow recorded 12/14. Third pair for the first three days were Swallow/Parker with Whight coming in for Parker on Thursday and Friday.
Toasting the Northants triumph was the landlord of the local Station pub and his pet Jack Russell terrier Fudge.
Taylor explained: “Let’s just say he was keen on us beating Lancashire and the Scots.
“He promised a couple of bottles of champagne on the Thursday if we clinched promotion and proved true to his word.
“We had great support there from the locals. They loved James Smith’s bald head and beard, christening him The Viking and found him a helmet to top it off!”
Scandanavia apart, the cosmopolitan spread of the Northants team is such that Haworth has just completed university days at Browns, USA, Tyler has completed one year in Iowa while Rae has one year left in California.
Northants 12U’s final qualifier for Bolton had come with a victory over Leicestershire.
And they began their weekend in Lancashire with a 4-0 win against Cumbria, the side of Jacob Bonnett, Angel Angelov, Monty Thompson and Harris Chacksfield cashing in with three singles and a doubles success by Angelov/Chacksfield.
Saturday brought a 3-1 win over Avon, Bonnett, Angelov and Thompson scoring singles wins, while Angelov/Chacksfield lost the doubles.
Sussex proved too tough a nut to crack, Northants going down 3-1 although Bonnett won a three-set tie-break against the seventh rated player in the country and the doubles went astray after a protracted tie-break involving Bonnett/Angelov.
Third place overall was clinched thanks to singles wins by the same pair who then took a deciding doubles tie-break 10-6.