Real Tennis 2010

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March 2010


Prested Hall Real Tennis Club member Will Stephens played non-stop for 24 hours 10 minutes on 20 and 21 March, raising £2,250 (and counting) for Sport Relief.

Will, 46, from Newton, Suffolk, will now submit the documentary and video-recorded evidence required to Guinness World Records in order to authenticate his application for a world record for best-of-three-set real tennis singles matches played against the most consecutive opponents. Will played 55 sets against 26 opponents, starting with 18-year-old ladies’ world no. 3 Claire Vigrass from Inworth, and ending with world men’s no. 8, Ricardo Smith. Ricardo, 24, trained at Prested Hall and is currently based there as touring professional.

Interviewed on BBC Essex’s Dave Monk Show, Will admitted that his last match, against Ricardo, was both the worst — because of the injuries he had sustained, especially to his right knee — and the best, since he was being cheered-on to the echo by Prested Hall members and supporters. “People have been incredibly generous with their money and their time”, he commented, “and donations to Sport Relief are still coming in. I was even sponsored £50 to shave off my beard! Gray’s of Cambridge, who manufacture real tennis rackets, gave sports shirts to me and my opponents, and Lucozade provided me with valuable dietary advice and products.”

“What really helped to keep me going though was the physiotherapy I received during the rest times that Guinness allowed. I was given a five-minute break per hour of play to get treatment from former club chairman Tony Blake’s daughter Sarah and her husband Alex. That, and the pasta-based soup which the club’s chef cooked up just for me, made all the difference.”

Further funds for Sport Relief were raised from Saturday’s old-fashioned Sports Day, when, despite the miserable weather, Prested Hall members and staff managed to raise over £400. The event included egg-and-spoon and wheelbarrow races and was organised by Prested Hall’s Fitness Centre manager Fay Hudson and her staff.


March 2010


Claire Vigrass, 18, beat her elder sister, Sarah, 22, to the Australian Women’s Open Sin­gles title 6/4, 6/3. The sisters, from Inworth, then proved far too good for local favourites Kate Brown and former professional Susan Castley in the final of the Women’s Doubles, winning 6/0, 6/0. Full match reports may be found on Hobart Real Tennis Club’s website Claire and Sarah are now preparing for the British Women’s Open Championships in April.


April 2010


Claire Vigrass has made real tennis history.

Vigrass, 19, from Inworth, became the first female player to win the Under-21 Open Singles Tournament, at Middlesex University Real Tennis Club.

The Prested Hall Real Tennis Club member defeated strong opposition in a draw containing both amateurs and professionals.

In her semi-final, Vigrass, seeded third, dismissed Josh Dodgson, Pet-worth House’s trainee professional, and second seed, without losing a game.

She then proceeded to a straight-sets 6-1, 6-3 victory over Hyde House’s Mark Mathias, also 19, and current Under-26 Australian Amateur Singles champion, in the final


May 2010


Historic grade for Vigrass

Prested Hall’s Claire Vigrass now boasts the lowest ever women’s handicap in the history of the sport, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

Vigrass now has a handicap of 7.9 after the 18-year-old from Inworth beat world number two Karen Hird 6/3, 6/2 at the British Ladies Open Singles tournament.

She partnered Frederika Adam to the Open Doubles title, which gave Vigrass her first ladies open doubles Grand Slam, having won the French, US and Australian titles this season.

Vigrass then underlined her superiority over Hird as she beat her on the way to claim­ing the Ladies’ Real Tennis Association International Invitation Tournament title at Holyport Grange.


June 2010


Five of Prested Hall Real Tennis Club’s National League teams reached their divisions’ prelimi­nary finals.

Prested 1 – head profes­sional Matt Potter, Mark Nicholls and his son Will Nicholls – went on to beat Cambridge University 3 2 – 1, to take the division four title.

Prested 5, Jon Conway, Mike Norgrove and Chris Vigrass, won division nine by defeating Middlesex University 4, also 2-1.

Prested 1, playing away, were the underdogs, hav­ing lost 3-0 to Cambridge 3 earlier in the season.

From being 4-1 down in the first set, Will Nicholls raced to a 6-4, 3-1 lead, only to be pegged back by Edward Pearson, who took the second set 6-3 and edged him out 6-4 in the third.

Mark Nicholls out­classed Clive Bowsher 6-0, 6-2 to level.

An unusually nervous Potter faltered at the start of the decider against James Watson, but recovered to win 5-6, 6-4, 6-2.

In the division nine final, lasting almost five hours, Conway, unfamil­iar with Middlesex’s court, lost the first set to James Barlow 6-2, but pulled back to win the next two 6-3, 6-3.

Norgrove took a 6-4 lead against James La Ter­riere, only to lose the sec­ond set by the same mar­gin, and had to go all out at 2-2 in the third to win 6- 2.

With the title in the bag, Vigrass failed to find his form and was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Mark Heffernan.


June 2010


Congratulations or “so close” to all our National League teams this year. Our division 9 team finished champions defeating Middlesex University 2­1, Jonathan Conway, Mike Norgrove and Chris Vigrass playing in the final. Our division 5, 7 and 8 teams all lost in the semi-finals, but a good season was enjoyed by all. Our division 4 team held together by Mark and Will Nicholls are playing in the final at Cambridge on the 12th June 11am, all support will be most welcome.

May 26th: saw the club host a “REAL 10″ event. Thank you to everyone who backed a player, came and supported and even brought potential new players along to try and see the game as it can be played. It was a great evening with our own Ricardo Smith winning all 4 of his matches taking the winning prize and giving his backers a well earned £30 profit on their initial investment. Keep an eye on the news letter and notice boards as we hope to run a similar event again next season.

The 26th June sees our final club fixture the Ladies vs the LRTA in a doubles competition. This is then followed by a doubles exhibition including Claire Vigrass, Freddie Adam and two other top players yet to be confirmed, at 3.30pm.

The club finals have been and gone and we look forward to the start of the events next year already.

Congratulations to all the winners and runner-ups:

Level Singles: Claire Vigrass defeated Mark Nicholls 2-1

Handicap Singles: Will Stephens defeated Bryan Eaton 2-1

Ladies Handicap: Annabel Wyatt defeated Jo Bartholomew 2-0

Level Doubles: Mike Carter and Mark Nicholls defeated Dan Mead and David Hunter

Handicap singles plate: Simon Harris defeated Chris Wilkinson 2-1

Level Doubles plate: Bryan Eaton and Jonathan Conway defeated Tim Church and Lewis Williams W/O

Congratulations must also go to Tom Shrager for the most improved player of the season and to Lewis Williams for the most improved junior. Good luck to everyone next year.


July 2010


Prested Hall Real Tennis Club’s Felicity Simpson and Annabel Wyatt won the Ladies Real Tennis Association’s `highest with lowest’ handicap doubles tournament.

On their first outing as a doubles pair, they found their attacking styles of play well-suited at the competition, held at the club to celebrate its tenth anniversary, without dropping a set.

Carrie Hart (Oratory) and Audrey Yeung (Queen’s) were worthy runners-up.

Promising 15-year-old Jess Garside (Seacourt) received the Woman of the Match prize.

Jacqueline McCormick (Prested) was given a special award for services to the sport.

Against advice, Claire Vigrass (Prested) braved a foot injury sustained in the Herbert Invitational, to part­ner up-and-coming British Ladies Open Doubles finalist, Aldona Greenwood (Manches­ter), in the exhibition match.

They played US number one Frederika Adam (Oxford Uni­versity) and Penny Lumley (Holyport).

Despite Greenwood’s valiant efforts to cover the back of the court, Adam and Lumley, who amassed 13 world titles at the height of her playing career, triumphed 6-2, 6-3.

Presenting the prizes, Mike Carter, Prested’s proprietor, thanked the LRTA’s Gill God­dard (Hatfield) and Prested’s Alix Barfett for organising the event.

He also congratulated Vigrass on her ladies’ open doubles Grand Slam and other achievements this sea­son.

Vigrass is the first-ever woman to represent Great Britain in the Van Alen Cup, a series of matches held every two years between amateur players aged under 26 from GB and the US.

Vigrass joins GB’s team of Jamie Douglas (Cambridge University, captain), Will For­tune (Oxford University) and Conor Medlow (Seacourt), as number four.


July 2010


Congratulations to Bryan Eaton, Clive Turner, Richard Ramjane and Peter Ashton who managed to retain the East Anglian Cup for Prested on Saturday 26th June. The event started at 9am at Hatfield and included the teams from Hatfield, Newmarket, Cambridge and ourselves. Can we make it a fourth title this time next year?

On the same day here at Prested Hall we hosted the Ladies Real Tennis Association in a handicap doubles competition. 16 ladies took part and a wonderful day of real tennis took place, congratulations to Felicity Simpson and Annabel Wyatt who remained undefeated in winning the event. We then had the added bonus of watching a doubles exhibition of 4 of the world’s best female players playing at present. Claire Vigrass (a future world Champion), partnered Aldona Greenwood against Fredericka Adam and Penny Lumley (a former world champion and MBE for services to sport). A great match with athleticism and shots was won by Penny and Fredericka 6-2 6-3, one of Claire’s toes suffering somewhat from too much exuberance the night before!

A big thank you must go to outgoing LRTA representative for Prested Hall Real Tennis Alix Barfett, who managed to organise and host a fabulous event. Thanks also to the Vigrass family for hosting a lovely BBQ in the evening.

It is coming to that time of the year when players need to start thinking whether they want to take part in the National league starting in September. Divisions are available for players who’s handicaps are better than 45.

We are very lucky to have Ben Matthews and Ricardo Smith representing Prested Hall this year in the Premier division so look out for notices of their up-coming fixtures.

November 2010


There were fresh honours for north Essex’s sporting stars at the Essex Sports Awards 2010.

At a gala ceremony, organised by sportes­sex and hosted by BBC Essex in Rayleigh, real tennis player Sarah Vigrass, from Inworth near Tiptree, claimed a runners-up spot in the sports personality of the year cat­egory.

Vigrass secured her prestigious award after completing the Grand Slam of ladies singles and doubles championships this year and becoming the youngest ever player to hold the Australian, British, French and US titles concurrently.

She is the world ranked ladies number one and has the lowest-ever recorded women’s handicap.

Vigrass said: “It was fantastic to receive the runners-up award. I didn’t expect to get anything on the night.

Iwas really there to enjoy the experi­ence.”

Meanwhile, West Mersea sailor Hannah Stodel was the runner-up in the Paralympic hopeful category and there was also more recognition for Colchester karate instructor Lando Fourie.

Having won the main sports personality of the year award last year, Fourie picked up a runners-up place in the Go Sports Volunteer Coach of the Year category this time.



The Prested Hall Real Tennis Club is celebrating the achievements of members Claire Vigrass, 19 and her elder sister Sarah, 23, in the Ladies’ British, Australian and World Open Championships.

The sisters were losing finalists in the British Open Doubles and progressed smoothly through the singles to meet each other in the final. Both hit with awesome power and cut, but Sarah was forced into a string of snatched errors as she struggled to stay on terms with her opponent’s focus and accuracy. Although she created chances, Sarah only managed to convert them into one game, losing the first set 1- 6.

However, her railroad serve started to take effect in the second set and she gained the initiative, forcing Claire into mistakes through the clever use of angles off the walls. Sarah took the first three games and looked on course for a fight back, but Claire showed the tenacity worthy of her ladies’ number one world ranking, pulling back to 4 – 4.  Sarah was leading 30 – 15 in the next game when she drove a seemingly easy shot into the net and Claire took command. She hit a series of winners to an immaculate length and won the set and retained her singles title 6 – 1, 6 – 4.

At the Australian Open in Ballarat, the pair successfully defended their Doubles title, beating Karen Hird (Queen’s Club, GB) and Rosie Snell (Royal Melbourne, AUS) 6/1, 6/3 in the final. The Singles final was again an all-Vigrass affair, with Claire defeating Sarah by the same 6/1, 6/4 margin to take the title for the second year

The commentator described their performance as ‘…a new dawn for ladies’ tennis…’, with Claire and Sarah playing power tennis the likes of which is usually reserved for top-line male professionals…’

Hird avenged herself against Sarah in the semi-final of the singles, recovering from a set down to win unexpectedly 4 – 6, 6 – 3, 6 – 2. In the final, Hird again lost the first set 1 – 6 to Claire, but her change of tactics to railroad serves and deceptive cross-court forehands brought her back to 4 – 5 in the second set, at which stage Claire audibly willed herself to ‘Finish it!’ She promptly took the next game, the set, and the match to become the youngest ever Ladies’ World Open Singles Champion.

Prested Hall’s head professional Ricardo Smith shares the delight of club members at Claire’s realising the ambition she has cherished almost since she first stepped on court as a 12-year-old. ‘Claire displayed talent from the outset, but it would not have paid off without the dedication and sheer hard work with which she has applied herself. She has already won every major ladies’ title, and now both sisters look set to dominate the ladies’ game for some time to come.’

Ricardo attributes the sisters’ initial success to the club’s junior training programme and members’ willingness to allow juniors to participate in club nights, competitions and social matches. He advises parents whose children are inspired to follow in Claire and Sarah’s footsteps to contact him at Prested Hall and arrange an introductory session.

‘There’s no charge, we provide the racket and other equipment free, and youngsters who show an aptitude for the game can apply for one of our bursaries which Prested Hall’s proprietor Mike Carter generously funds. We have several up-and-coming juniors, such as Kelvedon’s Lewis Williams who has won both British and French titles at junior level, but we would always welcome the opportunity to train more.’

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