Hurst sets tone

University of Bath students Emma Hurst and Pippa Horn helped Great Britain win a historic gold medal during a memorable weekend at the prestigious Master’U BNP Paribas tournament in France.

Already guaranteed their best-ever finish at the world’s biggest annual student tennis team event following an emphatic 7-0 semi-final win over China, Britain produced a stunning performance to beat the United States – winners of the trophy for the previous six years – 4-2 in a fantastic final.

Team Bath director of tennis Barry Scollo, who was joint captain of the British team in Lille, said: “This is an incredibly proud moment for university tennis in this country.

“I have personally been involved in this tournament for the past six years and to see us progress from finishing seventh and eighth to winning gold against the country with the strongest collegiate tennis system in the world is an incredible achievement.”

Britain, whose previous highest finish at the tournament was third place, began the week with a 6-1 win over Ireland. Saturday’s whitewash of China set up a title showdown with an American team packed full of top college tennis scholars.

The opening match between sport and exercise science student Hurst, and former US Open junior champion Ena Shibahara, set the tone for a terrific tussle.

Hurst, from Seaton in Devon, won the first set 7-5 and was serving for the match at 5-4 up in the second before Shibahara battled back to also take it 7-5.

The American imposed herself in the third set but Hurst refused to go down without a fight and saved six match points before being edged out 6-4 after more than two hours.

The other singles players emulated Hurst’s fighting spirit to give Britain a 3-1 lead, with Jonny O’Mara saving four match points on his way to an epic three-set victory over the American No.1.

The doubles matches proved to be equally close-fought, with Hurst and Maia Lumsden narrowly losing out 10-8 in a third-set tie-breaker. But the men’s partnership of O’Mara and Exmouth’s Jack Findel-Hawkins won their contest 6-4, 6-3 to give Britain an unassailable 4-2 lead overall.

Hurst commented after the final: “The team support and positive energy created a great atmosphere to give us the basis for this win.”

Findel-Hawkins, who qualified for the event through playing tennis stateside at the University of Florida, added: “It was an amazing event from start to finish. To be able to represent Great Britain alongside great team-mates was a truly special experience.

“We were up against some great countries and really had to come together to get the win as a team.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.