University of Sunderland’s tennis captain Phil Rudd is confident his side can register their first league victory of the season when they travel to local rivals Teesside on Wednesday afternoon.
After three draws and one defeat, Sunderland sit fifth in the men’s Northern 4B, just one place behind today’s opponents, and Rudd believes it’s only a matter of time before the first win comes along.
“I think we are going to get a win this season, we’re probably going to get a few,” said Sunderland’s captain after a training session on Monday.
“The teams that we should have got wins against we’ve only had three players, we’ve had injury problems but I think the match on Wednesday we’re very confident that we are probably going to get our first win of the season.”
Rudd, who was hopeful of gaining promotion at the start of the campaign, admitted that it has been difficult after some of the squad’s key players left in the summer, including last year’s star player Matt Wigham.
Even so, Rudd praised this season’s new arrival Andrew Waddell, who has performed admirably in the first half of the campaign.
“It has been difficult (to cope with the loss of key players) but we did pick up a very good player in Andrew,” said Rudd.
“He’s filled in Matt’s position really well and has won a lot of doubles matches with Konstantinos (Axelos). Obviously losing a player like Matt who I think only lost one or two matches in the whole of last season, he’s a very big player to lose but I think we’ve coped well with his loss.
Waddell is expected to line-up alongside Rudd, Paddy Horne and Konstantinos Axelos for today’s match against Teesside, who have won just one of their four matches in the league this year.
Axelos has also been in terrific form for Sunderland this season, winning all eight of his matches since the start of September, and Rudd believes that his presence is having a positive effect on the rest of the team.
“Having a player like him (Axelos) in the team is great, you get to see some very good tennis and some exceptional shots, and he does give out advice as well to some of the players with a bit less ability than him,” added Rudd.
After four matches in a ten round season, Rudd confessed that promotion is probably out of the question following a patchy start to the campaign.
“I think if we had kept Matt (Wigham) we probably would have been promoted very convincingly but losing Matt and other circumstances has meant that we’re probably not going to get promotion this year,” said Rudd, who acknowledged that the future of the first team is unclear, with several players set to leave in the summer.
The Sunderland captain revealed that he wouldn’t be playing next season, before pointing out that Waddell and Axelos would also be moving on.
That means that Sunderland could face the task of finding a “completely new first team” for the 2016/17 season.
Rudd was also asked about the opening match of the campaign, which saw Sunderland overcome York St John in the annual Clash Of The Minsters competition.
“It was good to get a nice early victory on the board and get team spirits up.
“The only down side was that was of course we lost Varsity overall but it is nice to be recognised as a team that won in that competition.”
Rudd hopes that the varsity experience can help his side when they meet Teesside, who Sunderland will face again in the Tees-Wear Varsity early next year.
“It always gives us motivation when it’s Teesside because of the Tees-Wear Varsity match which takes place later in the season,” said Rudd.
“The last time we played them was in the Tees-Wear varsity last year where we beat them 12-0 so I’m strongly hoping that we can play from where we left off last season.”