Phoebe Suthers claimed her first senior international titles with a sensational set of performances at the 2018 Slovenia Deaf Open in Portoroz over the weekend, the 15-year-old from Elland in Yorkshire ending the prestigious event having dropped a total of just eight games across the women’s singles and doubles events.
Suthers, who joined the Tennis Foundation’s Deaf Tennis Performance Programme in 2015, returned to Portoroz almost two years on from winning three European Deaf Tennis Championships junior medals at the same venue in 2016. She marked her return by defeating the top three seeds to lift the Slovenia Open women’s singles title in style.
After a first round bye Suthers beat third seed Jafreen Shaikh of India 6-0, 6-1, following that accomplished display with a 6-0 6-2 victory over French third seed Aurelie Coudon. Suthers arguably saved her best for last, winning Saturday’s singles final against Slovakian top seed Jana Janosikova 6-2, 6-1.
A little over an hour later Suthers was back on court alongside Coudon for the first of their two doubles round-robin matches, beating Serbia’s Stasa Srebolic and Janosikova 6-1, 6-1. A landmark two days for Suthers ended with the Briton partnering Couldon to defeat India’s Parul Gupta and Shaikh 6-0, 6-0.
“I’m so pleased that I got my first international senior titles, it feels amazing! I played probably one of the best tennis matches in my life in the final and I was surprised how well I played, especially on clay, as it’s not a surface I train or compete on much,” said Suthers, who was accompanied to Slovenia by the Tennis Foundation’s National Deaf Tennis Coach Catherine Fletcher and sports therapist Andy Graham.
“Once I stepped on court I was ready to do my best. My next focus in deaf tennis is Turkey, for the Dresse and Maere Cup in September and hopefully I can bring something to the team there, too. I look forward to what future tournaments have in store. I want to thank Cathy, Andy and the Tennis Foundation team for giving me these opportunities,” added Suthers, who won the Under 18 girls’ singles bronze medal on her Great Britain team debut at the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championship in Nottingham in 2015 before her mixed doubles gold medal and girls’ singles and doubles silver medals at the 2016 European Deaf Junior Championships in Portoroz.
Catherine Fletcher, National Deaf Tennis Coach, said: “It was an absolute privilege to witness Phoebe win this tournament and it’s been a delight to have seen her grow from a young girl into a mature player over the last few years. She learnt so much from this trip and showed how much she has improved as a player and this is huge credit to her commitment and set up back at home. She is a great ambassador for deaf tennis and the Tennis Foundation and she has an exciting future ahead of her at international level.”
While Suthers looks forward to September’s Dresse and Maere Cup, the world team championships of deaf tennis, the Brooksbank School pupil now returns to training at Huddersfield Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, under the guidance of coach Matt Smith, and competition against her hearing peers, having already accumulated a string of victories in senior and age group tournaments this year.