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Lea Van Der Zwalmen Retains World Champion Title

Update Jul 15, 2024
Published May 07, 2024

It was a monumental final between Lea Van Der Zwalmen and Claire Fahey during the 2024 Ladies World Singles Rackets Championship.

The 2024 Ladies World Singles Rackets Championship was one for the books! An amazing match between two incredibly talented athletes kept the packed gallery entertained for around 2.5 hours, with Lea Van Der Zwalmen eventually beating Claire Fahey 8/15 13/18 16/13 15/5 18/13.

The first game was characterised by three large service runs, two from Claire which proved decisive. Lea opened the match but didn’t capitalise before Claire rushed into a 7-0 lead. Lea intervened and racked up her own eight point run to lead narrowly, before letting Claire back in for her own eight-point sequence to take the game 15/8. Although the service was the dominant feature, there were many lengthy rallies with both women settling increasingly into the match.

The second game was very different, with both women finding their range on the return of serve. Inevitably the game was much longer but after Claire took the opening exchanges to lead 3-1, it was Lea who started slowing accumulating the points, reaching 10-3. Claire was fighting now, but was always struggling to catch up with Lea and she seemingly went through the gears, eventually reaching 13-8. But now Claire showed great resilience, clawing back the points in two hands to level at 13-all, when Lea called a set to five. The call didn’t matter as Claire powered through the next five points to win 18/13, and set up a commanding two game lead. Her last service run was nine points, including the set to five.

The momentum was now with Claire and she raced ahead 5-0 in the third, closing in on the elusive Rackets World Title – making an overall run of 14 points. The gallery had mixed emotions, with Claire’s supporters thinking this was now the time, while Lea’s support from Bristol and France tried to raise her spirits. Lea rallied to 4-5, before Claire surged ahead again, but now the contest started to level up with Lea matching Claire’s runs and it was Lea who reached 13-10. But now points became difficult as both women played exceptional Rackets and Claire levelled at 13-all, with Lea calling a set to three. Claire was now three points off the title but a superb return by Lea, followed by three service points kept the match alive, and any champagne on hold. Lea on the game 16/13 and now trailed by one – game on!

Lea swept ahead in the fourth game, full of renewed belief, and was soon in a commanding 9-0 lead. Claire wasn’t giving up on the game, and fought back to 5-9. Lea’s backhand now produced a couple of devastating crosscourt winners, which drew admiration from the entire gallery, and after a couple of exchanges it was 14-5, and game ball. Claire took back the serve but couldn’t score and Lea wrapped up the game in the next hand, winning 15/5, levelling the match, which was now all down to one game.

The fifth game now saw two supreme athletes playing to the best of their ability and there was not much between them. Lea went narrowly ahead, then Claire, before the first decisive run saw Lea leading 6-3. This only served to spur Claire on and a seven-point run of points saw her reverse her fortune to lead 10-6, and then 12-8; the title was tantalisingly close. But Lea now dug into her reserves to level again at 12-all. Claire reached 13-12 first, but Lea then levelled and this time Claire called the set to five; the next five points to decide the world title. Lea won the first three points with the serve but Claire broke the rhythm, but couldn’t score herself with Lea in full flow. Next hand saw Lea win two massive points, finishing with an unreturnable service, winning 18/13, and retain her world championship in dramatic style.

If their first match in 2015 was memorable, their second encounter nine years later was epic. Lea has successfully defended her title now on four occasions, but this was undoubtedly the toughest. Sponsor Tim Cockroft (Singer Capital Markets) presented the trophies and prizes to the two women, and said he was proud to be part of such a spectacle. Honor Cockroft, event organiser and responsible to driving Ladies and Mixed Rackets forward, completed a family affair on court. Both Lea and Claire were presented with Pol Roger Champagne. The packed gallery then enjoyed their long-awaited Pol Roger reception on the Queen’s Club terrace.

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