BILLERICAY Tennis Club captain Peter French insists his side are relishing taking on some of the country’s top stars this summer.

Billericay fought hard to win promotion to the top division of the Aegon National Club League.

And, despite starting the new season with a convincing defeat to A1 Pharmaceuticals, French cannot wait to get back on court.

“We fought hammer and nail to get promotion last season and we’re really looking forward to the challenge ahead,” said French.

“We could have brought more players in and the option was certainly there for us to add some experienced and talented players.

“But the promotion we achieved was won by a couple of sets and we felt as though everyone who helped us get promotion deserved the opportunity to play at this level.

“It’s the first time the club has ever played in this league and we’re going to be competing against the big boys.

“But it’s great for the club and it’s going to be a great experience.

“Hopefully we might be able to surprise a few people along the way as well.”

More than 1,000 adult teams are playing the Aegon National Club League this season with more than 2,900 singles and doubles rubbers being played last weekend alone.

However, Billericay were handed a tough start as they welcomed defending champions A1 Pharmaceuticals to their Blunts Wall Road base.

The visitors included Marcus Willis - who played against Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon last year - in their team along with Neil Pauffley, another top player.

But French was excited to welcome them both to Billericay.

“It was a really nice day at the club and having Marcus, in particular, down here was brilliant,” said French.

“Everyone knew who he was after seeing him on the television against Federer last year and plenty of people came down to watch including a lot of our younger players.

“Marcus was great with them all too.

“He handed out wristbands, signed photographs and had his picture taken with a lot of people too.

“It was great to have him here playing but it obviously meant they were a strong side. Neil is also ranked inside the world’s top 550 but we gave them a game.”