In August, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Seniors (50-55-60) World Team Tennis Championships took place in Portugal. And Hazel Lindfield was lucky enough to be selected to play in the GB Women’s 60 team. Hazel, an active member of Sevenoaks Tennis Club, tells us all about her experience and how the tournament went.
“We flew to Lisbon the day before the tournament began. The following morning, we had a team practice, and then the draw was made at the captains’ meeting. Seventeen teams had entered; GB was seeded 4th, drawn in a group with Turkey, Finland and South Africa. We had four players in our team to cover two singles and one doubles match against each country: my fellow team members were Sue Bartlett at No 1 with Anne Clark at No 2; I was at No 3, with Tish Peal No 4. We were given a start time of 9.30am each morning for our matches, so we had to catch the 8am coach from our hotel, as the venue was half an hour’s drive away.
“Our first match was against Turkey, with Anne and Sue in the singles and Tish and I in the doubles. It was a confidence-boosting start, as we wrapped up a comfortable 3-0 win. Next, Anne asked me to play my first live singles against Finland. There were nerves to begin with, but I managed a straight-set victory in my first live-rubber match for team GB. The rest of the team also won, giving us our second 3-0 win. South Africa, the No 6 seeds, presented a more formidable opposition. We had a tight start, with Anne gaining a three-set win after nearly three hours of hard play. Sue won quite comfortably, and Tish and I also won, so our 3-0 win also made us group winners.
“This put us into the semi-final without losing a match, though our next opponents would be USA, the top seeds. We had a day off to consider our tactics and enjoyed an open-top bus ride around Lisbon. The Americans had the current top-three ranked players in their team, so it was going to be a tough challenge. It was. We enjoyed close matches but lost 3-0. More worrying was the fact that our No 1, Sue, was showing signs of a hip injury – tennis at this level can be unforgiving. Our defeat left us with a 3rd/4th play off against Australia, last year’s World Champions.
“That night I set my alarm for 6.20am but forgot to switch the alarm button on. I was woken suddenly at 7.20am by what I thought was a midnight fire alarm. Of course, it wasn’t, it was Sue ringing me with the news that I would be playing the No 2 singles because of her injury. I’ve never dressed so quickly in my life, contact lenses in, grabbed some fruit and just made the 8am bus.
“After a 15-minute warm up I was ready to play. I had a game plan and felt confident. The match started well, and I was 6-3, 4-1 up when the heavens opened forcing a two-hour rain delay. I knew I had really tired my opponent, so I hoped the rain wouldn’t help her so I could carry on where I had left off. I did, wrapping up the match without losing another game. I was ecstatic, especially as I’d given the team a winning start, but fate had another cruel twist. As Sue was injured, Anne played at 1 and was doing well until 4-3 in the first set when she injured her hamstring running for a drop shot.
“Frustratingly, she couldn’t continue, so the match was now 1-1. With no other fit players, it was left to Tish and me to play our first live doubles together. After losing the first set, we slowly began to get on top and went on to win the match in three sets. We might not have won the tournament, but we’d beaten the Aussies, always a satisfying achievement, and the bronze medal was ours. We were exhilarated.
“The medal ceremony was held that evening on centre court. Following the announcement “Bronze medallists Great Britain” we walked down the steps to the sunken court as our names were read out. I felt so proud. We were presented with our medals by the representatives of the Portuguese Tennis Federation and took our places on the rostrum alongside winners USA and 2nd place France. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
“It was a great week, playing in a fantastic team, and a terrific result. We flew home with smiles on our faces.”