If you ask any coach in any sport, they will tell you that you need a combination of youth and experience to win anything. Well, somebody forgot to mention that to London Academy 2.
Alongside Greenhouse, the London Academy SBL Division B squad of Sienna Jetha, Fernando Frandes, Shahuraj Nimse, Parsa Yamin and Ilyes Djeraoui, are by far the youngest and least experienced teams in the division.
In spite of this, they are currently lying in 2nd place in an 8 team Division after the first four rounds. They achieved this by playing as a team and by making the most of their strengths.
Their first match pitted them against Greenhouse 1, the only team with players of a similar age.
What could have been a close contest turned out be anything but. Two quick, clinical 3 set victories for Fernando and Sienna set the tone for the tie. Parsa and Shahuraj had to work harder for their wins, but after four matches London Academy were 4-0 up.
Greenhouse clawed a match back in the doubles when Phillip Snell and Daniyal Palmer took a 5 set victory over Shahuraj and Ilyes. This proved to be their last win of the match, with London Academy sweeping the remaining singles to win the tie 8-1.
The next round against Foresters 2 was very a different encounter. Although London Academy won their first three matches, they were all bruising 5-set encounters. Then Foresters found their range. A win in the 4th singles match was followed by a crucial doubles. London Academy won this 13-11 in the fifth. A tiny margin of victory that would have a huge bearing on the result. Foresters continued to press back, winning their next three singles matches to level at 4-4. This left Parsa Yamin needing a win in the final match. Despite the pressure, and a very determined, aggressive opponent, Parsa’s cool head and defensive excellence gave him a win in four sets. This guaranteed the tie for London Academy and kept their perfect record intact.
On Sunday, round three saw the north London students going up against their toughest challenge yet. Portsea Island were also unbeaten in two rounds and were determined to keep it that way. The first two games proved vital as Sienna and Fernando put London Academy 2 up, with Fernando having to work very hard for his win against Portsea’s No 1 player, Sam Ricks. By the time the doubles were concluded it was 3-2 to the home team. Sienna then put in a captain’s performance to beat Ricks in 5 sets. Shahuraj finished off the tie with a 3-1 win over Benjamin Greve to give London Academy 3 wins out 3.
The final match of the weekend could have been a real banana skin for our players. Two days of continuous high-level competition was beginning to take its toll and it was getting harder to maintain their energy levels.
Their opponents, Godalming Simply Let, were hell bent on getting something out the last match of the weekend. They fought tooth and nail until the very last match. Once again it all rested on Parsa’s shoulders.
If the London Academy anchor man was nervous or tired, he didn’t show it at all. He trashed his final opponent 3-0 for a loss of only 13 points. This gave London Academy B their third 5-4 win in a row, leaving them in second place in the Division behind Fusion 3.
There will be 10 more rounds this year and there is a lot of hard work ahead of these students. However, they could not have made a better start to the season, in a Division filled with talent from up and down the country.
Their success was matched in the Championship Division by London Academy A, led by former pupil Gabriel Achampong. After the first weekend’s matches in Nottingham, the North London team are lying in second place, level on points with BATTs.
This year’s Senior British League has set a record for the most teams entered throughout the country. The competition is harder than it has ever been. London Academy’s success at this elite level is down to the individual talents of the team. More importantly, it is down to their willingness to play for their coach, Bhavin, and especially for each other. We are looking forward to the challenges ahead throughout the season.