Members of the Norfolk men’s tennis squad will compete against each other over the next few weeks in a new Summer Invitational event.
Captain Nicky Crawley has introduced the internal tournament, which will be played at venues around the county, in order to help fill the competitive void left by the cancellation of this year’s LTA Summer County Cup.
The offer to enter was extended to Norfolk-based players who have represented the men’s first team at a County Cup event in recent years, and twelve players have accepted the invitation to take part.
Four boxes of three players, named after Norfolk greats of the past, have been randomly drawn with the winner of each progressing to a knockout phase.
The field is strong and includes US college stars Will Davies and the recently graduated Tom Fisher, both of whom led the way for Norfolk last summer and are likely to contend for the title along with Loughborough University’s Alex McNaughton.
The trio have been key members of the team at recent events and are set to carry the torch for the county for several years to come.
At the most experienced end of the entry list are three players who combined have featured in nearly 800 County Cup rubbers for Norfolk, including the captain himself.
Crawley (2nd), Richard Bloomfield (3rd) and Dan Wynne (6th) are among the most-capped Norfolk players of all-time and were part of the 2011 team that were promoted to the top flight of county tennis for the first time since the 1970s.
37-year-old Bloomfield is arguably Norfolk’s greatest ever, with an unmatched record of 222 wins from 277 matches. The Alpington native reached a career high world ranking of 176 and will still be considered the tournament favourite by many in local circles.
Will Foster has tasted success and failure with Norfolk; he was part of the 2017 team that gained promotion in Ilkley but lost a heart-breaking decider with Wynne last summer that saw Norfolk relegated to Group Three at the hands of Derbyshire.
University of Cambridge graduate Jack Long-Martinez and current UEA student Alex Watkinson were in Summer County Cup squads in 2018 and 2019 respectively – both have also competed for their university teams while studying.
Fred Withers, Bhaskar Kumar, and Stephen Harlow complete the 12-man field; each has been selected for Norfolk squads in recent years, with Harlow the most recent to make his debut at the 2019 LTA Winter County Cup in Liverpool.
Kumar, who played for Norfolk at Frinton in 2016, is the oldest player to feature; at 47 years old he is 31 years the senior of Withers, who at just 16 is the youngest member of the squad and a bright light for the future of the Norfolk team.Players have until the Sunday June 28th to complete the group stages of the event before the draw for the semi-finals takes place.
Robin Lincoln Group – Richard Bloomfield, Alex Watkinson, Fred Withers
Results: F. Withers beat A. Watkinson 6-2, 6-0 (Stanmore TC)
Eddie Fox Group – Alex McNaughton, Dan Wynne, Jack Long-Martinez
Tony Spurgeon Group – Bhaskar Kumar, Will Davies, Will Foster
Jeremy Cameron Group – Stephen Harlow, Nicky Crawley, Tom Fisher