Title delight for Upminster’s Parish

Upminster's Helen Parish celebrates winning the AEGON British Tour event in Stirling

Upminster's Helen Parish celebrates winning the AEGON British Tour event in Stirling - Credit: Archant

Tennis ace puts troubles behind her for national honours

Upminster’s Helen Parish had good reason to celebrate this week after landing her first national level title since 2009.

Parish won the AEGON British Tour event in Stirling, having been unable to compete for most of the past five years due to illness and injury.

And she revealed a positive mindset had helped her achieve success, saying: “I don’t feel like I played particularly good tennis throughout the tournament, but I was excellent mentally, which is what got me through.

“As I build up my match experience, hopefully I’ll be able to bring my ‘A game’ to the court.”

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Parish was given a walkover in the first round as fellow Brit Chelsea May Samways was ill, then produced a solid display to beat Slovakia’s Veronika Blaskova 6-1, 6-1 in her quarter-final.

Second seed Lily Ghodrati broke Parish’s serve twice in the first set of their semi-final, but the Upminster ace dug deep to win 7-5, 6-3 to set up a final meeting with top seed and former world top 100 junior Lutfiana Budiharto, of Indonesia.

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And Parish overcame another slow start to claim a memorable victory, adding: “I knew she was an experienced player so was anticipating a tough match.

“I didn’t start the match well at all. I was 6-2, 4-2 down and really struggling – nothing seemed to be working.

“But if my experiences over the past few years have taught me anything it’s to never give up, even when a situation looks pretty hopeless.

“I battled through a couple of crucial games, not panicking and keeping positive, and was able to turn the match around.

“The momentum was then completely with me. From 2-4 in the second set I won seven straight games to make it 2-6, 6-4, 3-0, then ended up serving out the match to win 6-2 in the third.

“It’s fair to say I couldn’t quite believe I’d managed to win!”

Success was particularly sweet for former Coopers pupil Parish, who has bounced back from a spell of ME and shoulder surgery, but was recently told she might need an operation on her ankle.

She added: “In terms of my health, I’ve definitely improved a lot. This time last year I wasn’t allowed to train more than five hours per week, and now I’ve doubled that.

“I’m unable to train as much as most players, but there’s always a real emphasis on quality, intensity and ‘purposeful practice’ which should stand me in good stead.

“Obviously I have a fairly unique set of issues to deal with, but I think it’s positive that despite all that I can clearly still compete well at this level.

“I hope to play more on the British Tour in the coming months and whilst I’m completely aware that every week won’t be as good as this one, both in terms of the result and how I’m feeling, I’m really up for the challenge!

“Credit must go to all of my team, who’ve worked very hard alongside me to enable me to get to this stage; particularly my coach, Matt Coombs (the Essex LTA Performance Coach of the Year), my physio Alex Hall, and my fitness trainer, Adam Perera-Morris, who has done a great job adapting to the difficult task of training an athlete with a long-term illness.”

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