This week, Jamie Murray officially became the World Number One. But our focus was elsewhere with some great results to cheer about.
— Jocelyn Rae (@JossRae91) April 2, 2016
— Alex Ward (@AlexWard1990) April 4, 2016
It feels like an age since we had a doubles title to cheer about but this week Britain is back on the board as Anna Smith and Jocelyn Rae breezed past their opposition to sweep up the title in Croissy-Beaubourg, France. The doubles specialists came into this tournament off the back of a string of first round exits at WTA level and this drop back down to ITF events has fully paid dividends.
The pair looked in total control throughout their week, not dropping a set or even conceding more than six games in any match. At no point did they meet a seed but that should not take anything away from their remarkable play, as ultimately match-time was the most important thing heading into the clay season. The only disappointment was that they didn’t face Tara Moore and Conny Perrin in the final, after that particular pairing lost their semi-final match.
It really was an outstanding week for Alex Ward. Not only did the Brit blitz his way to the singles title, but he also reached the final of the doubles as well. Seeded third and alongside Aussie Dan Dowson, the pair made short work of their opening two matches but faced sterner opposition in the semi-final. The Portuguese pair of Felipe Cunha Silva and Fred Gil put up a fight but Ward and Dowson survived some nervy final moments to emerge as 11-9 victors in the third set tie-break.
The top seeded Spanish pair of Oriol Roca Batalla and David Vega Hernandez were across the net in the final. Fatigue may have played its part for Ward who was playing his ninth match of the tournament and he was unable to make it a double celebration, losing out to the Spanish pair four and two.
Jonathan Marray was the lone ranger on the challenger circuit this week as he teamed up with India’s Mahesh Bhupati. The pair, seeded third in France, came through their first round tie with ease, winning 7-5 6-2 against Lorenzo Giustino and Ramkumar Ramanathan.
However, it was in the quarter-finals where their challenge came unstuck. The pair could not overcome Tobias Kamke and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn and were defeated 6-7(2) 6-2 10-5.
One lady in fine form at the moment is Gabi Taylor and she converted that singles form onto the doubles court in Mexico this week. Partnering American Alexandra Morozova, they beat a pair of Mexicans in the first round to draw the top seeds Victoria Rodriguez and Ana Sofia Sanchez in the quarter-final. All looked lost after they dropped the first set 6-4 but Taylor is not in the habit of just rolling over and conceding defeat. They claimed the second set by the same scoreline to level the match and forced a deciding tie break which they won 10-7.
After the gruelling quarter-final they found themselves against another seeded Mexican pair in the form of Ana Paula Leal and Samanta Villegas who had won their quarter-final encounter by dishing out two bagels. Despite a valiant effort, Taylor and Morozova came up just short, agonisingly losing 11-9 in the deciding tie-break.
Elsewhere there was another quarter-final appearance for Evan Hoyt, this week partnering Francesco Vilardo. The pair won their opening match 7-5 7-5 but fell to the Czech pairing of Petr Hajek and Jaroslav Pospisil in the quarter-finals.
In Egypt, Manisha Foster and Francesca Stephenson linked up as fourth seeds and made light work of their first-round opponents. Once again though, it was a tough third set breaker that ended their run, going down 12-10 to the Russian pair of Ifidzhen and Skryabina.
Whilst Manisha and Fran joined forces, Harriet Dart and Emily Arbuthnott went their separate ways as Harriet teamed up with Iva Primorac and Emily went with Britt Geukens. Emily may have regretted her decision as she was served a harsh double bagel in her opening match however Harriet progressed on to the quarter-finals. Her run ended there though in a 6-3 6-3 loss.
Emily Webley-Smith tried her hand in a 25K way out in the Far East, pairing up with local Japanese player Hiroko Kuwata. The pair battled their way into the quarter-finals but were defeated by the fourth seeded locals Kanae Hisami and Kotomi Takahata.
Finally, in Greece, Luke Oakley and Elliott Farmer received a wildcard but were routinely dispatched in the opening round.