It was with a sense of trepidation that Toby MacKean (f, 11) and James Sewry (d, 14) travelled to St George’s College, Weybridge, on Saturday 7 April for the first qualifying round of the D’Abernon Cup.  An annual competition run by the Public Schools Old Boys’ Lawn Tennis Association (PSOBLTA), the D’Abernon Cup consistently boasts a high standard of tennis, and, perhaps, even keener rivalries.

Up against Sherborne were familiar names: Lancing, Shrewsbury, St Paul’s, Wellington and St George’s.  The format consisted of a round-robin event, whereby teams followed the slightly unconventional practice of playing seven games including a seven-point tiebreak counting as an ‘extra’ game played at the end of the sixth.

After a brief warmup, we were off, playing against Wellington.  Probably the best team on the day, we were unused to the sheer pace and power of this Rusedski-esque pair.  A much closer tie with Shrewsbury followed; this was more like it, we thought, eventually narrowly losing on the deciding tiebreak.  Our last two matches saw convincing wins against Lancing and St George’s, reflecting our growing confidence throughout the morning.

Overall, matches were contested in great spirit, with some excellent shot-making from all teams.  Sherborne produced some fabulous down-the-line backhand winners as well as athleticism at the net.  We were let down by initial nerves, and poor serving on big points.  In the end, then, Sherborne finished in fifth place, which unfortunately did not reflect our considerable improvement.

Nonetheless, whilst it will often be a tall order to qualify to the knockout stages of the Cup, it should not be seen as beyond our reach, and it is with such a mindset that we ought to prepare for future editions of this competition.

James Sewry –  07880515882 / jmsewry@gmail.com