Hannah Smith and Isla Hignett help Hampshire to national tennis finals

Basingstoke Gazette: Hampshire’s county cup team. From the left: Hannah Smith, Eliza Wheeler, Rina Hayamizu, Isla Hignett and  Anna Vinnell with team captain Karim Aouichaoui Hampshire’s county cup team. From the left: Hannah Smith, Eliza Wheeler, Rina Hayamizu, Isla Hignett and Anna Vinnell with team captain Karim Aouichaoui

SILCHESTER’S Hannah Smith and Basingstoke’s Isla Hignett helped Hampshire and Isle of Wight qualify for the finals of the AEGON 10-and-under County Cup in Bolton.

The event includes the top eight teams from the qualifying competition and the Hampshire girls booked their place after a nail-biting winner-takes-all match with Surrey at the Pavilion and Avenue Tennis Club in Brighton.

Every match was made up of three singles and a doubles and Hampshire were soon in trouble as they lost the first two singles.

But Smith kept her team’s hopes alive with a 4-1, 5-3 triumph, which set up a tense doubles finale.

Smith returned to the court with Crondall’s Eliza Wheeler and the pair battled back after losing the first set to take the second 4-0. This set-up a 10-point tie break and, after some long rallies, the Hampshire duo found themselves facing three match points at 9-6.

However, the youngsters kept their calm and levelled the tie-break 9-9 and then went on to win it 12-10.

This levelled the match at 2-2 and so a place in the finals was decided by another 10-point tie-break.

This time Smith and Wheeler found themselves 5-2 down. Once again the Hampshire girls battled back to level things at 6-6 and then won the next three points to put them within sight of victory.

Surrey saved the first match point, but Smith’s lovely forehand winner down the centre of the court secured the victory and a place in Bolton.

Earlier in the competition, Hampshire opened up against hosts Sussex, and thanks to Wheeler, Smith and Portsmouth’s Rina Hayamizu, they won the opening three singles on their way to a 3-1 victory.

Their next match against Kent was a closer affair as Wheeler won her singles, but Hayamizu lost in three sets.

Silchester’s Smith then found herself a set down, but hit back, taking the second set and tie-break 10-7.

Wheeler and Smith completed the 3-1 victory by winning the doubles.

In Hampshire’s match against Dorset, they cruised to a 4-0 success thanks to singles wins from Basingstoke’s Hignett, Wheeler and Smith and a doubles victory from Hignett and Hayamizu.

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