Superstar Smurf

Norfolks number one, Ian Murphy, had a very tiring, but very successful weekend playing, firstly, in the Berkshire Open and then leading the county first team in an Inter County Championship match against the Herts second team at Hatfield, In all, he played 39 sets over three days, which was a tribute to his tenacity and fitness, although it eventually took its toll during the county match.

With his usual partner, Grahame Wells, still waiting for an operation to repair two bones in his foot, Murphy teamed up with Daniel Plant from Essex and the couple, who had only played together once before, won the level doubles title, which was Murphys seventh open success.

Having easily disposed of the Bedfordshire pairing of Darren Kerins and Andy Norris 15-1, 15-3, in the semi-finals, Murphy and Plant came face to face with the no. 3 seeds and local favourites, Paul Gearing and Scott Ellis in the final. After a tough first set, containing many long rallies, the Norfolk/Essex partnerships extra speed and fitness became the deciding factor in a 15-12, 15-4 victory.

Earlier, Murphy had reached the semi-finals of the singles before going out to Phil Hammond 15-8,15-7. Partnered by Toni Sturgeon (Suffolk), he also reached the semis of the mixed doubles event, going down to the no 2 seeds and eventual winners, Mark Constable (Warwicks) and Lucy Burns (Jersey) 15-10,15-5. Sturgeon, partnered by Norfolks Sharn Crane, made it to the quarters of the ladies doubles.

* Having beaten the Surrey second string 8-7 a week earlier, Norfolk put in another great team performance in the ICC match against Herts II, only to go down 7-8. Without Eric Plane, Tim Hudson-Church, Susan Pennington and Denise Coleman, in came Alex Wyett, Justin Gerrard, Linda Sawyer and Amber Lillingstone to make more than adequate replacements.

The match was close all the way through. The singles were halved with Sharn Crane and Katherine Cooper winning tough games and Murphy and Wyett just missing out. The mens doubles were also shared, with Murphy and Grahame Wells and Wyett and Gerrard both beating the Herts second pair, but going under to their first pairing. But the ladies played very well to take three of the four level doubles, with Cooper and Lillingstone winning both and Crane and Sawyer picking up one.

The highlight of the match was Cooper and Lillingstones game against the Herts first pair, producing the best ladies doubles performance from a Norfolk pair for some time. They attacked throughout the game with some powerful smashes, light drop shots and good net play. Despite a strong fight back from the home pair, they kept their nerve to win in two straight sets, giving Norfolk a 7-5 lead going into the mixed. Unfortunately, Gerrard and Crane and Wyett and Cooper lost in straight sets, leaving a very tired Murphy and Sawyer to win their game to take the match. But it wasnt to be and the Norfolk pair lost, going down fighting, 15-9 in the third.

Both first and second teams are in action again next Sunday at the UEA Sportspark (12.20 onwards). The first team will be playing Bucks (including Sarah Sankey), who are currently unbeaten and favourites for promotion to the Premiership, while the second team will be up against Cambridgeshire. Both Norfolk teams will be keen to pick up points to ensure survival in Divisions 1 & 3 respectively. Spectators are most welcome.