STRATFORD’S top tennis talent was honoured at this weekend’s Baldwins Warwickshire Lawn Tennis Awards ceremony at West Warwickshire Sports Club in Olton.
Rising star Lucia Cassidy, 13, from Hampton Lucy near Stratford, broke through to national junior level in 2019 and received a generous Ron Kingsley Mills bursary for her hard work and promise.
Cassidy, an aggressive, all-court player, won her first age-group tournament on the national junior tour but was unable to collect her bursary in person for the best of reasons as she was in action for Warwickshire 18 and unders in the Junior County Cup – one of the youngest girls ever selected for the side.
The precociously talented youngster, who is on a sports and maths scholarship at King’s High School, Warwick, justified her selection for the 18Us by winning her opening singles against Kent, dropping just two games.
Current and former Stratford Tennis Club coaches Simon Ferguson, Cameron Malik and Olive Plaskett, plus Luke Hammond, a tennis scholar at Oklahoma State University, were among the local players who formed the backbone of captain Gavin Henderson’s all-conquering Warwickshire men’s side.
After years in the doldrums, they received a Team Award for winning Group 5 of Summer County Week then battling their way to victory in the Winter County Cup Group 3A thanks to a gutsy 6-2 win over Durham on the final day.
Jackie Robinson from Hunscote near Stratford captained the Warwick Boat Club ladies over 70s ‘Super Seniors’ side which was named Warwickshire Club Team of the Year.
Ranked number one nationally, Robinson and team-mates Wendy Scalinger, Liz Graham and Susie Rowe beat Royal Leopold Club, Brussels, to take bronze at the Seniors European Club Championships in La Manga, Spain, against a strong field of top-ranked internationals.
Twelve-year-old Ferran Redza, from Warwick Tennis Club, won the Junior Player of the Year Award thanks to an outstanding season in which he competed in more than 40 county tournaments, winning eight of them.
Redza represented the Midlands in inter-regional matches and is now nationally ranked 15 in his age group. Presenting the award, Sue Chopra of Warwickshire LTA also highlighted his selflessness: “Ferran’s not only a great player,” she explained.
“He has a heart of gold. With his brother Rehan he raised more than £1,000 by challenging members to beat them at tennis, to help his friend and fellow junior Cadey Morgan with her tennis costs after her dad died suddenly.
“He’s a wonderful kid – so talented and a terrific example to everyone.”
The Redza brothers then paid a moving tribute to their coach Lianne Candappa who won the James Cooper Coach of the Year Award.
A former junior international player, Candappa has led the team of coaches at Warwick Tennis Club for more than a decade, expanding the club’s junior membership from 30 to more than 150 and doubling its adult numbers to more than 100.
Renowned for her ability to make tennis fun, she has also coached Warwickshire’s ten and under girls’ side for more than a decade and is heavily involved in the She Rallies programme with Judy Murray to attract more girls and women to take up the game.
“Throughout the year we’ve seen some terrific performances from a number of Stratford and Warwick players, volunteers and coaches, plus ambitious projects to get more people of all ages playing tennis,” said county president Sally Jones from Newbold Pacey near Stratford.
“Dan Evans from Solihull was of course Warwickshire’s stand-out player on the global stage and he’s inspired everyone in the county – from our senior and veterans sides to junior stars like Lucia Cassidy and the Redza brothers. Here’s to an equally successful 2020!”