THORPE Bay’s men’s first team are celebrating finishing top of the LTA Team Tennis East Division for the first time in their 106 year history.

The team - consisting of Rob Carter, David Wright, Ed Pudney, Tom Pudney, Harry Randle, Nick Wade, Oli Mason and Max Knight - will now play in next year’s National Division, which boasts various top London grass court clubs including Queens.

And team captain Randle remains overjoyed by the achievement.

“This is an incredible milestone in the club’s history,” said Randle.

“I’ve been playing team tennis for 10 years and during that time we have gone down two divisions, struggled to get teams out and played without the belief we could achieve something like this.

“But building a team environment doesn’t happen overnight, it has taken a few years to create this national tier worthy side.”

And Randle also believes the closeness of the team has contributed to their success.

“All of the team are friends on and off the court and this has helped massively in the team ethos,” said Randle.

“Playing these fixtures does require commitment from the whole team and I’ve been lucky to have players who want to compete and win each Sunday.

“I would like to thank all those at Thorpe Bay who have supported the team over the years and I look forward to next season.”

However, Thorpe Bay’s campaign was not without its difficulties.

A strong start saw the team win it’s first four matches but they became unstuck away to Cocks and Hens (Cambridge).

The unfamiliar hard courts and a determined team meant the first loss of the season.

But, with two matches in hand and promotion still possible, a crunch win away to Letchworth left only one set between Thorpe Bay and Billericay at the top.

The fight for the title, therefore, went down to the final match of the season against Cambridge.

Victory for Thorpe Bay would secure promotion, while defeat would mean losing out on promotion by the narrowest of margins.

However, Cambridge, who were already relegated, failed to field a team - which is extremely rare in LTA Team Tennis - and that made sure of promotion.

But there is no time for Thorpe Bay to rest on their laurels as they face Woodford Wells in the Essex Cup final on Sunday and a number of team members will also be representing Essex at Eastbourne in the premier tier of the Inter County Summer Tennis competition at the end of the month.