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Risbygate Tennis Club in Bury St Edmunds defying the odds in surprise shot at the LTA national finals in debut campagin



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They are the little west Suffolk club that even some of their town’s residents would find it hard to locate.

But Risbygate Tennis Club have been firmly putting themselves on the national tennis map as they defy the odds in their debut campaign in the LTA National League Men’s Open – otherwise known as the men’s premier league.

Going into last weekend they were second out of eight teams in the traditionally strongest South East regional division, having played four of their seven fixtures before the national knockout finals stage – which could see the top four progress.

The Risbygate team - sponsored by Pure Resourcing Solutions - of (from left) Harper Mills, Seth Newman, Will Cook and captain Asa Sumner-Keens Pictures: Mark Westley - view more and purchase options at: www.photos.iliffemedia.co.uk
The Risbygate team - sponsored by Pure Resourcing Solutions - of (from left) Harper Mills, Seth Newman, Will Cook and captain Asa Sumner-Keens Pictures: Mark Westley - view more and purchase options at: www.photos.iliffemedia.co.uk

It meant the Bury St Edmunds club welcomed the mighty Roehampton – who boast 28 courts to their four – in a top two clash last Sunday.

The 2019 winners did not end up including their world number one doubles player Joe Salisbury as the locals had hoped but their side still featured two World ATP ranked players.

Anton Matusevich - currently at 433 in singles and 569 in doubles – won the 2018 US Open Junior Doubles title while Henry Patten, from Manningtree, is ranked 551 in singles and 338 in doubles.

Captain Asa Sumner-Keens fires across a backhand in the singles Picture: Mark Westley
Captain Asa Sumner-Keens fires across a backhand in the singles Picture: Mark Westley

It was a fairy-tale match-up for Risbygate Sports Club’s quartet of young home-grown players, led by the facilities’ next-door neighbour, 20-year-old Asa Sumner-Keens.

There was to be no scalp for David against Goliath this time around though with Roehampton dominating from start to finish for a 12-0 whitewash victory which dropped Risbygate down to third in the table.

But in some respects, for the members lining the outside of their showcase floodlit court in what turned into drizzly conditions, just staging the fixture left them feeling like winners.

Despite his disappointment at losing, Sumner-Keens, a full-time coach who moved from Risbygate to Culford for his work in January, was also able appreciate that sentiment.

Will Cook-Wharton, who also coaches at Risbygate for Titan Tennis, in action Picture: Mark Westley
Will Cook-Wharton, who also coaches at Risbygate for Titan Tennis, in action Picture: Mark Westley

“Today has been a little bit of a struggle playing top of the league,” he said.

“Obviously they bring out a lot of professional players and it is just great to have this experience. It’s what we’ve been working towards the last three of four years so to get to this stage and to actually be competing at the top of the league with them is fantastic.

“We would have hoped to give them a bit more of a challenge today but it is our first time playing at this level and we did incredibly well at the start of the season, taking our first two matches. Just to get to this stage is great.”

Judith Pugh, the club’s voluntary press officer, was one of those whose pride could not be dampened by the scoreline.

She said: “We are enormously proud of our men’s first team who certainly gave as good as they could.”

The historic campaign for the side – also featuring Titan Tennis Risbygate coach Will Cooke-Wharton, Seth Newman and Harper Mills – began last month with successive 8-4 home victories over Thorpe Bay and Reigate Rhinos.

A trip into the capital saw them brought back down to earth with a 12-0 whitewash at David Lloyd Raynes Park before reversing that scoreline against a depleted visiting A1 Pharmaceuticals on May 8.

Two away matches now loom as they look to hold on to a top half spot that could see a magical debut campaign end in the national finals, where clubs compete for a £30,000 cash prize.

The first of those is at Sutton Tennis & Squash Club this afternoon before going to Cumberland the following weekend.

Whatever happens, Risbygate’s team and their members are certainly set to continue to enjoying the ride.