Ali takes honours in all-Cumbrian national final

Date: Monday 1st April 2019

FRIENDS became foes on the the tennis court in the all-Cumbrian 16 and under boys’ Winter National Tour final, held at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton.

Sixteen-year-old Ali Hassan, of Lazonby, lined up against top seeded Billy Blaydes, from Windermere, and claimed a 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Hassan is a student at Penrith Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Blaydes attends Kirkbie Kendal School. Hassan plays his tennis at the Chatsworth club in Carlisle and at the LTA performance centre in Bolton.

The pair are county team-mates and they stayed together at the National Tennis Centre.

Hassan said: “I was happy that I managed to win. It was a very high level. The atmosphere was intense, with everyone being so competitive.

“The National Tennis Centre is quite unique. It’s so big. The facilities are really good, so it was good to play there.”

Hassan and Blaydes both played for Cumbria under-18 boys at a three-day LTA annual county cup event in Grantham, where they helped the team retain their position in Division IV.

But they were on opposite ends of the net at Roehampton as they went head-to-head in the final. Hassan said there is “mutual respect” between himself and Blaydes, but that they were both solely focused on matters on the court as soon as the final started.

“I was staying with Billy. I was training with him and having breakfast and dinner with him, as well,” said Hassan. “But I think we have mutual respect for each other. Before we got on court, we were still friends, but as soon as we got on to the court, we were both focused on the match.”

With the summer season set to swing into action next month, Hassan was pleased to return to form after a frustrating 2018 summer.

“Last year, I had an injury that hung around for about three months. That was tough to deal with, especially mentally,” he said. “But since September, it’s good to see that I have managed to progress again.”