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Tennis - 26. April 2011.

Essex girls Claire and Sarah Vigrass contest a thriller in British Open Women’s Real Tennis Champs‏

In Real Tennis as in lawn tennis, a pair of tall, statuesque, improbably-muscled sisters have moved the game to a new level. Unlike the Williamses, however, the new stars of the ancient code of Real Tennis, are powerful, blonde 6-footers from Essex - and called Vigrass. The pair, 19-year-old Claire, the world number 1 and her elder sister Sarah, 23, staged a thrilling battle in the final of the British Open Women's Real Tennis Championships at Seacourt, Hampshire this week.

Although Claire, the top seed and holder of all four major titles, narrowly sneaked through after a cliff-hanger, Sarah came within a whisker of a 5-4 second set lead and looks destined to push her kid sister all the way in next month's world championships in Australia. The pair who started playing as teenagers at the Prested Hall Club near their home at Inworth, have developed a game that combines power and grace, and for the moment at least, it blows their rivals off the court.

Each romped through her semi-final despite distinguished opposition. Sarah faced the fluent veteran Penny Lumley, a 6-times World singles Champion but showed scant respect for her impressive pedigree, dispatching her 6-0 6-0. Although Penny coped well with the scorching volleys, she was too often on the back foot in the face of Sarah's thundering ground strokes and heavily-cut shots into the corners. In the other semi, the canny Karen Hird, once Claire's bogey player, put up a spirited fight but lacking her opponent's weight of shot or reach bowed out 6-1 6-1 amid a barrage of thumping volleys, forces and viciously cut groundstrokes.

Claire, on paper the hot favourite, continued this imperious form in the opening set of the final in which both sisters hit with awesome power and cut, but Sarah was forced into a string of snatched errors as she fought to stay on terms with her opponent's focus and accuracy. Although she created a handful of chances, she only managed to convert them into one game, as she lost the first set 1-6.
In the second set, though, Sarah's railroad serve began to fire, and she took the initiative, forcing Claire into more errors through the clever use of angles off the walls.

Sarah took the first 3 games, and looked on course for a fightback. However, Claire hunkered down, cut out the errors and stopped the rot, pulling back to 3 all and then 4 all. It was anyone's set at this stage, and with Sarah leading 30-15 to, she piled a seemingly easy shot into the net. From then on, Claire took command, hitting a string of winners to an immaculate length to take the set and retain her British title 6-1 6-4.

The pair are odds on to meet again at the Women's World Championship final in Australia in May and look set to dominate the game for some time.

The one consolation for their rivals was that the Vigrasses missed out on a clean sweep of titles, when, the third seeds Karen Hird and US number 1 Freddy Adam sensationally defeated them 6-5 in the deciding set of the doubles final, surviving a match point against them at 4-5 down.

Results: Seacourt, Hampshire British Women's Open Real Tennis Championship:

(Names British unless stated)


Semi-finals: C.Vigrass bt K.Hird 6-1 6-1
S.Vigrass bt P.Lumley 6-0 6-0

Final: C.Vigrass bt S.Vigrass 6-1 6-4


Semi-finals: C and S. Vigrass bt A.Greenwood and N.Doble 6-0 6-3
K.Hird and F.Adam (US) bt P.Lumley and A.Garside 6-3 6-1

Final: K.Hird and F.Adam (US) bt C and S. Vigrass 6-4 3-6 6-5


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