Sargent ready to take on the world on her home soil

Felicity Sargent and her brother Tom Lewis celebrating at Moreton Morrell Club after she had won the club's handicap championship and he had taken the open singles title. Picture submitted
Felicity Sargent and her brother Tom Lewis celebrating at Moreton Morrell Club after she had won the club's handicap championship and he had taken the open singles title. Picture submitted

Rising star Felicity Sargent from Combrook will be battling it out with some of the game’s top players when she makes her debut in the Women’s World Championships which start on Monday.

The tournament is being staged in Warwickshire for the first time, on her home courts of Leamington and Moreton Morrell, with Sargent, the youngest player in the tournament, going into the event on the back of a stellar season.

The 17-year-old has scooped a string of trophies, including the National Handicap Tournament for her division, the Leamington Tennis Court Club Under-21 Championship and the Leamington Family Doubles title with her brother Tom.

She also reached the final of the British Under-18 Girls’ Championship at Queen’s Club and last summer was selected for the British junior development squad.

Tom, too, has had an outstanding run of success over the past fortnight, first leading Moreton Morrell to their first Field Trophy National Club Championship after a thrilling 3-2 final victory over Oxford and then becoming Moreton Morrell club champion.

Felicity faces a tough opener in the World Championship against eighth seed and former US Open champion Tara Lumley from Berkshire, the world’s leading under-21 player.

However, she is looking forward to the biggest challenge of her career so far.

“I’m really excited to be playing in my first-ever world championship,” she said. “It’ll be great experience and I’m looking forward to seeing the top women in action, particularly the reigning world champion Claire Fahey as she’s an amazing player who even competes against the men professionals on equal terms.

“I’ve been playing for more than five years now and this has been a good year for me.

“I think what’s made the difference is having a lot of coaching with the Leamington professional Ben Matthews.

“He’s ranked six in the world and it’s amazing to be taught by someone as good as him.

“I also play lawn tennis and squash - I’m in the Rugby School first team - but I particularly love real tennis as it’s so different and unusual.

“It’s not very well known but it’s got a fascinating history and it involves a lot of strategy as well as just hitting the ball hard so it’s quite addictive.”

Reigning world champion Fahey, 24, the Holyport head professional, is hotly tipped to retain her world crown after going into the history books earlier this season when she became the first woman to play in the (men’s) British Open, reaching the last 16.

She was then invited to play in the US Open championship and also scored several wins including a doubles victory over the sixth seeds.

Her main challengers should be her elder sister Sarah, the second seed, six-time world champion Penny Lumley, the American number 1 Freddy Adam and former world doubles champion Alex Garside.

Ex-world champion Sally Jones from Newbold Pacey is among the local contenders despite a recent string of knee injuries.