In the week leading up to two British-based ATP and ITF events in Manchester and Eastbourne respectively, Neil Pauffley and Emily Arbutnott got their grass-court campaigns off to the best possible start by winning the AEGON British Tour Premier Tier events in Felixstowe this week, fending off strong opposition to do so.
Took the title today in the Aegon British Tour premier event. Very happy with the week and feel comfortable on grass pic.twitter.com/bghatqQlCi
— Neil Pauffley (@NeilPauffley) May 27, 2016
In a Men’s draw packed with British talent, and with all eight seeded players having ATP Rankings, it was Pauffley who navigated a draw full of potential banana-skins to claim the title ahead of top seed Dan Smethurst.
Seeded Players: Dan Smethurst , Marcus Walters 
As expected, it was top seed Smethurst who emerged from the top quarter of the Men’s draw, after two straight sets victories and a first round bye made sure he eased through to the semi-finals. However, seventh seed Marcus Walters was upset in the first round by 25-year-old Matthew Pearce, before Pearce himself was ousted by qualifier Ben Clark, who has just finished his Freshman year at Drake University alongside the likes of Tom Hands and Vinnie Gillespie. Clark, though, couldn’t get past the far more experienced Smethurst, with the top seed winning 6-3 6-1 in their quarter-final meeting.
Seeded Players: Robbie Ridout , Robert Carter 
Both Ridout and Carter are no mugs, with the latter playing rarely but always impressing, and the former still plugging away on the ITF Pro Circuit and currently ranked just outside the top 1000 in the world. However, with the in-form Joshua Sapwell also in this section of the draw, it was likely that one or both of the seeds would fall to the 19-year-old. Indeed, Ridout withdrew before his second round match against Sapwell, and the quarter-final meeting between Sapwell and Carter was a predictably tight affair, with the 6th seed just triumphing 6-3 4-6 6-3 to set up a semi against Smethurst.
Seeded Players: Joe Salisbury , Oliver Hudson 
Very few surprises in this section of the draw. Both Salisbury and Hudson came through the opening two rounds with minimal fuss, Salisbury gaining a bye and then demolishing Akash Arora 6-1 6-0, while Hudson beat qualifier Luke Simkiss in three before a 6-2 6-4 win over Elliott Farmer. Former University of Memphis athlete Salisbury came past Hudson 7-6(3) 6-4 in the quarter-finals to complete a section of the draw that went entirely by seeding.
Seeded Players: Neil Pauffley , Keelan Oakley 
There was a Freshmen clash in the first round between lucky loser Tom Hands (Drake) and qualifier Will Bissett (East Carolina), with Hands coming through 6-4 6-3. That wasn’t the only interesting first round encounter though: unseeded floater Jonathan Binding put fifth seed Keelan Oakley to the sword with a 7-5 6-2 victory, and Binding progressed to the quarters with a routine second round win over Johnnie Carmichael. Hands met Pauffley in the second round, and the world #557 was pushed all the way before scraping a 7-5 7-6(5) win. Pauffley then beat Binding 6-4 6-3 to set up a semi-final clash with Salisbury.
The two expected finalists became a reality as both Smethurst and Pauffley, with far more international experience than Carter and Salisbury, used that experience to their full advantage to secure straight sets wins over both. Smethurst came past Carter 6-4 6-3 while Pauffley dropped two fewer games, winning 6-4 6-1. In the final, second seed Pauffley beat Smethurst 6-4 6-3 to claim an encouraging title on the grass.
The women’s draw had a similarly predictable outcome to the Men’s draw, but with some interesting results thrown into the mix that are worth taking a look at. In the end, it was top seed Emily Arbuthnott who triumphed over fourth seed Aimee Gibson in the final.
Seeded Players: Emily Arbutnott , Alice Gillan 
No real surprise here, with ten byes on offer to the top eight seeds and two extras thanks to a relatively disappointing entry list. Both Arbuthnott and Gillan needed just one win to reach the quarter-finals, which they both secured with ease, before Arbuthnott, who is heading over to newly-crowned NCAA Champions Stanford University in the autumn, defeated Gillan 7-6(2) 6-2 to reach the semis.
Seeded Players: Beth Grey , Grace Dixon 
Grace Dixon failed to play a single match in the second quarter – she secured a bye through the first round but withdrew before her second round clash with qualifier Anna Popescu, whose streak of luck/form continued here this week with another quarter-final appearance. Popescu was no match for third seed a WTA Top-1000 player Beth Grey, though, with the former Miss Askew winning 6-0 6-3 to set up a humdinger of a semi-final against young Arbuthnott.
Seeded Players: Aimee Gibson , Holly Hutchinson 
Perhaps the strongest section of the draw with Gibson, highly rated youngster and soon-to-be Old Dominion Freshman Holly Hutchinson and recent ITF Pro Circuit main draw qualifier Lisa Phillips all involved here. Phillips did make the second round, but Gibson proved far too strong for the 19-year-old, winning 6-0 6-1 before meting Hutchinson in the quarters. An in-form Gibson may have benefitted slightly from an injury niggle for Hutchinson, with the youngster retiring at 1-6 1-3 and allowing Gibson passage to the semis.
Seeded Players: Lucy Brown , Serena Nash 
Young Serena Nash, who is heading to Oklahoma next year, continues to show why she’s a hot favourite to impress over in the States after overcoming the seedings to reach the semi-finals here. Both Nash and Brown eased through to the quarter-finals, but unranked Nash proved too good for world #905 Brown, winning 7-5 6-1 and setting up an interesting-looking semi-final with Gibson and a perhaps unexpected finalist.
Both semi-finals were well contested. Arbuthnott won a tight first set tiebreak against Grey 7-5, which seemed to knock the stuffing out of the third seed somewhat, with Arbuthnott eventually winning 7-6(5) 6-3 to reach the final. In the clash between Gibson and Nash, it was the WTA-Ranked player who came out on top after another tiebreak, with Gibson securing a 6-2 7-6(4) victory. In the final, Arbuthnott once again proved too strong in tiebreak situations, winning 7-6(3) 6-1 to secure the title.