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Padiham teenage tennis ace wins two Lancashire titles
MARK Rushton-Woods is not your conventional tennis prodigy but he is getting to the top doing it his own way.
The 14-year-old works outside of the usual tennis boundaries for youngsters of his age and ability and instead has built up a team around him.
And that team has helped him win the Lancashire Under 14s and Under 16s titles – in a personal duel with another up-and-coming East Lancashire talent.
For Rushton-Woods, from Padiham, came out on top in his head-to-head battle with George Hutchings in the championships held at Bolton Arena.
In the Under 14s final, he ran out 6-2, 6-3 winner then beat the St Augustine’s High School pupil 6-1, 6-1 to take the Under 16s crown.
Hutchings, two years his junior, is considered one of the top talents on the junior circuit but he had no answer to his older opponent on this occasion.
Rushton-Woods is no stranger to going against the grain and he is ‘home schooled’ rather than being part of the secondary educational system.
It means he can combine his home schooling with his training, working closely with his team.
He is coached by Simon Roberts, Andy Hibbert looks after his strength and conditioning while Ben Churchman is his hitter.
Rushton-Woods splits his training between South Ribble Tennis Centre in Bamber Bridge and Bolton Arena.
“I suppose what Mark does it not the norm,” said mum Dawn. “But he works very hard and he thoroughly deserves the success he has achieved.”
Rushton-Woods doesn’t compete in the main competitions where all the top ranking points are available – so his national ranking is below what is should be.
However, his fine run of form in 2013 should see him secure a place in the national under 14s top 20 and also a spot in the top 40 of the under 16s.
“Mark doesn’t travel here, there and everywhere trying to pick up ranking points,” added Dawn.
“He has only played in a selection of tournaments so that is why he is not as high as he could be.” While Rushton-Woods won the double in the Lancashire finals, Hutchings’ older brother Charlie enjoyed a brace of titles himself, winning the under 18s singles and doubles.
He beat Luke Thompson in a gruelling three setter to win the singles then teamed up with Ben Critchon to win the doubles – beating Rushton-Woods and his partner Dominic Frediani in the semi finals.
That rivalry bodes well for the future of East Lancashire tennis. For as well as Rushton-Woods county successes, he won titles at the Wigan Tennis Open, Tipton Summer Open, the West Bridgeford Tournament and also the Chesterfield Easter Competition.
He also spent time training in La Manga in Spain where he won both the singles and doubles tournaments.
Rushton-Woods, whose dad Mark Snr was a coach a Lancashire champion, plans to compete on the regional tour while he also plans to travel abroad to continue his tennis education.
Next year he is hoping to gain much needed experience on the Men’s British Tour.
“Mark definitely wants to be a professional tennis player,” added Dawn, “He wants to step up to the men’s tour which will be tougher but will be a a very good test for him.”
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