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May 7, 2007

Tunstall runner-up at national championships

From: Wiltshire Times - Wiltshire,UK - May 7, 2007

TENNIS: Wiltshire's Daniel Tunstall has failed in is bid to regain the men's singles title at the 2007 National Deaf Tennis Championships, at the Oxstalls Indoor Tennis Centre, Gloucester.

Devon's Peter Willcox claimed his seventh title today, coming from behind against Tunstall, the head coach at Devizes Tennis Club, to successfully defend his title.

Meanwhile, there was also a successful defence of the Ladies' Singles title by another Wiltshire-based player, Catherine Graham. Graham, who originates from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, claimed her fourth National crown in total as she eased past 2005 champion Beth Simmons, from Oxfordshire.

In the Men's final second seed Willcox, from Tiverton, had a tough time in the first set against fourth seed Tunstall, who had beaten top seed Anthony Sinclair in Sunday's semi-finals.

Neither player was able to break his opponent's serve as the set moved relentlessly towards a tie-break, but then Tunstall's steady and patient play paid off as the 1997 and 1998 champion took control of the tie-break early on and went on to seize the initiative.

However, as Tunstall started to show signs of weariness in the second set Willcox stepped up a gear and opened up a 3-0 lead before a double break brought the match back level and forced a third set decider.

With Willcox now having the momentum firmly in his favour he continued to excel in the final set and went on to clinch his fifth successive title and his seventh in total after a 6-7(1), 6-2, 6-1 triumph.

In the Ladies' Singles final Graham began brightly and opened up a 4-1 lead over Oxfordshire's Simmons before a double break brought her the first set. The second set was almost a replay of the first as Graham's strong defensive play continued to withstand Simmons' more attacking style and Graham again secured a double break to run out the 6-2, 6-2 winner. Meanwhile, Simmons had to be content with finishing as runner-up for the third time in four years.

There was a second reason for Willcox to celebrate on Sunday as he paired up with Lancashire's Darren O'Donnell to win the Men's Doubles final. Top seeds Willcox and O'Donnell proved too strong for the second seeds, Sheffield-based student Anthony Sinclair and Southampton's Jamie King, and Willcox and O'Donnell went on to win 6-3, 6-1.

With the Ladies' Doubles title have been won by twin sisters Alex and Beth Simmons on Sunday, Alex Simmons had the chance of another title in the Mixed Doubles as she and Tunstall looked to successfully defend the title they had won last year. However, this time the National title eluded the top seeds as second seeds Graham and Lewis Fletcher produced a solid performance to prevail 6-3, 6-3.

It was the first Mixed Doubles title for the pairing of Graham and Fletcher, who jointly hold the Head Coach position at Ramsbury Tennis Club in Wiltshire.

With the National Championships also catering for less experienced up-and-coming young players, the Boys' B Division Singles final brought victory for last year's B Division runner-up Max Thorne. Fifteen-year-old Thorne, from Dunstable, Bedfordshire, beat Merseyside's Shaun O'Brien 6-0, 6-4 in today's final.

Meanwhile, Surrey's Bethany Brookes successfully defended the Girls' B Division Singles title as she held off Francesca Gibbs 8-2 in a final decided in a pro-set.

Another successful title defence belonged to Middlesex's Bryan Whalley in the Over 35 Singles as he defeated Kent's Mark Perry. In a match between the President and the Chairman of the British Deaf Tennis Association, Whalley came through 6-3, 6-0. Whalley also partnered Surrey's Nick Brookes to win the Over 35 Doubles.

On Sunday night, the British Deaf Tennis Association (BDTA) presented its annual player of the year awards for 2006. After his sixth National title in 2006 Willcox was named Male Player of the Year, while Beth Simmons was named Female Player of the Year after reaching the semi-finals of the Ladies' Singles at last August's British Open. In those semi-finals Simmons became the first player to take a set of tennis off Italy's multiple Deaflympic Games champion Barbara Oddone since the World Deaf Games in 1993.

This year's B Division runner-up Shaun O'Brien was also among the winners at the BDTA Awards after being named the year's Most Improved Player.

This year's National Championships was the last deaf competition for the top players to make a case for forthcoming Great Britain selection for the 2007 Dresse and Maere Cups, the Davis and Fed Cups of deaf tennis, which takes place in Munich, Germany, at the end of July.

Great Britain has a fine record in international competition in recent years, including being the reigning Maere Cup champions, after Graham and both Alex and Beth Simmons formed three quarters of the Great Britain squad that won the Fed Cup of deaf tennis in Austria in 2003. Also in Austria in 2003 Great Britain's men were runners-up in the Dresse Cup, with Willcox, Tunstall, O'Donnell and Fletcher all in the Great Britain team on that occasion.

Meanwhile, for the Oxstalls Indoor Tennis Centre the National Deaf Tennis Championships is the first of two major events in the space of a month, with the National Wheelchair Tennis Championships also set to take place at the Tennis Centre from 25th - 28th May.

The 2007 National Deaf Tennis Championships has been supported by The British Tennis Foundation, Gloucester City Council, Slazenger, and Cathedral City.

© 2007 Wiltshire Times