Garsides keep at real at worlds

Seacourt Real Tennis Club ace Jess Garside
Seacourt Real Tennis Club ace Jess Garside
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HAYLING ISLAND mother and daughter duo, Alex and Jess Garside, made a huge impact at the Ladies’ Real Tennis World Championships at Leamington Spa.

Hampshire’s top female players made the latter rounds of the prestigious event, which attracted a record number of entrants from Britain, France, Holland and the USA.

And in the open singles championships, the Seacourt Real Tennis duo had to play against one another for a place in the quarter-finals.

But there was no family fallout as mother Alex, who was the fourth seed and a former world doubles champion, had just too much guile and experience for her talented daughter and came through in straight sets.

A 6-2, 6-4 defeat at the hands of American Freddy Adam meant Alex, who organised the record-breaking event with help from her committee and neighbour Vivian Dawes, bowed out of the singles competition at the quarter-final stage.

Yet her involvement in proceedings did not end there as she teamed up with Jess in the open doubles championships.

They opened their account with a 6-1, 6-0 win against Maggie Henderson-Tew and Evelyn Fleming before exiting the event in the last eight against Adam and Irina Dulbish 6-5, 6-1.

In the world handicap doubles championship, former British under-21 champion Jess, who is studying for a degree in sports management at Chichester University, partnered her friend Tara Lumley – the world’s top under-21 and daughter of six-times world champion Penny Lumley.

They got to the semi-finals, despite having to give a massive handicap to most of their opponents.

But they then lost narrowly to rising Oxford University players Isabel Hunt and Claire Bucknell (6-4), who eventually lost to Lucy Hutchinson and Isabel Candy in the final 8-3.

‘It was a fantastic tournament and the first time we had held the worlds in Britain for eight years,’ said Alex Garside.

‘These were absolutely superb finals and we were privileged to welcome the Earl of Wessex who’s such a supporter of our game.

‘It was really encouraging, too, to see so many talented young players coming through, including Jess and Tara, who’ve been working very hard on their games and have made huge improvements.

‘Seacourt Club has an outstanding junior programme and Jess has been part of that since she started playing.

‘It was the first time I’d had to play her in a major championship and it was pretty nerve-wracking for both of us.

‘In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep my nose in front.’

HRH The Earl of Wessex, a keen player and knowledgeable ambassador for the game, presented the prizes.

As expected, world champion Claire Fahey – the head professional at Holyport Real Tennis Club and the greatest woman player of all time – swept the board as she defeated her sister Sarah Vigrass in a thrilling final 6-3, 6-1 to retain her singles world crown.

The pair then teamed up to take the doubles title, beating Penny and Tara Lumley 6-0, 6-0.

Fahey made history this season by becoming the first woman to play in the previously all-male British and US Opens, reaching the last 16 of both.