Rackets

Ladies Amateur Doubles 2016

21 Mar 2016

Malvern; Ladies' world Rackets champion Lea Van Der Zwalmen and Malvern all-rounder Chey West win their first Ladies' British Rackets Doubles crown


Women’s world rackets champion Lea Van Der Zwalmen and sporting all-rounder Chey West, Malvern College’s Director of Girls’ Sport, snatched their first British Women's Rackets Doubles title in explosive style. The pair, playing together in competition for the first time, were favourites for the event but had to fight all the way after a torrid start, losing their opening group match to the highly-rated Old Malvernian Shinan Zhang and Karen Hird, the England Real Tennis, fives and badminton international, in three tense games. Zhang, a gifted fives and lawn tennis player, went into the record books in 2014 as the first girl to play in the Boys’ National Schools’ Rackets Championships after a male teammate was injured.

The top seeds initially looked edgy and out of touch against their fluent opponents but as the tournament progressed, they found their length and began working well as a team, hitting more freely and producing some miraculous winners. Van Der Zwalmen, 19, a French junior squash champion is acknowledged as the greatest female rackets player of her generation and her power and athleticism plus West’s canny strategy and determination peoved increasingly effective as the partnership settled into a more consistent rhythm.

They won their next two matches in straight games, including a lively tussle with Malvern College’s top schoolgirl pair 17-year-old squash and badminton specialist Lisette Royan, 17 and Ella Warren, 15, a talented tennis and hockey player. With Shinan Zhang and Karen Hird heading the group with a clean sweep of victories, West and Van Der Zwalmen qualified for the final in second place, determined to reverse the result in their opening group match. The first two games proved a seesaw battle that thrilled the excited gallery, cheering on both sides with equal enthusiasm. Although Zhang and Hird took an early lead in each, thanks to Zhang’s ferocious forehand winners and exquisite touch-play from Hird, West and Van Der Zwalmen powered back relentlessly with superb pickups and a run of untouchable serves. By the third game, they were playing virtually faultless rackets and despite a brave struggle from their opponents, they swept through without dropping a point, to lift one of the most spectacular and prestigious trophies in rackets. Former world champion Howard Angus, a dedicated supporter of the women’s game, praised the superb standard of play on show and congratulated all the competitors for an outstanding display of rackets, which in the space of five years has expanded encouragingly with growing numbers of girls and women taking it up.

West, a former Zimbabwean junior international hockey player, national standard cricketer and provincial level high jumper and sprinter has now become so addicted to rackets that she considers it her number 1 game and plays every day, coached by the school’s professional Noel Brett. For her, victory in the British doubles championship was the fulfilment of a long-held dream: I’m absolutely over the moon that we managed to win such a competitive championship, after some amazing rackets,” she grinned. “It was a great day for everyone and we’re very proud to be pioneering this fantastic sport. There was tremendous serving and returning from all the pairs and many fast and furious rallies with some incredible pick-ups of seemingly impossible shots. I’m particularly proud of our youngsters Lisette and Ella who are relatively inexperienced but really acquitted themselves well and gained so much from every match, improving visibly each time they stepped on court. They’ve absorbed my motto  ‘You never lose: you win or you learn – or both!’ Lea and I had some enormously tough matches, particularly against Shinan and Karen who were playing some super rackets but luckily we kept our nerve and managed to squeak through in the final.

Sally Jones

Results

Final

  • C.West & L. Van der Zwalmen bt S.Zhang & K.Hird 15/7 15/8 15/0

Round Robin

  • L.Gooding & I.Thorneycroft bt L.Royan & E.Warren 15/0 15/10
  • S.Zhang & K.Hird bt C.West & L. Van der Zwalmen 12/15 15/11 15/0 
  • C.West & L.Van der Zwalmen bt L.Gooding & I.Thorneycroft 15/2 15/7
  • S.Zhang & K.Hird bt L.Royan & E.Warren 15/0 15/9
  • C.West & L.Van der Zwalmen bt L.Royan & E.Warren 15/2 15/1
  • S.Zhang & K.Hird bt L.Gooding & I.Thorneycroft 15/5 16/13

 


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