The final stages of this year's Family Championships played out on the carpet courts of the Davis Lloyd Leisure Dudley centre saw plenty of action for those qualifiers eager to make their impression on the fourth staging of the ‘revived' event.

With the sudden advent of winter tightening its grip on the country the organisers feared that some competitors would be unable to make the trip but fortunately, only three pairs from the 40 feared the effort would be too hazardous..

The event was also affected by the LTA's Winter County Cup played over the same weekend at venues around the country as a number of competitors also had the opportunity to represent their respective counties and, those who did, allowed some ‘lucky losers' to take their places.

However, as in previous years, the family atmosphere which these championships generate, filled the centre as the semi-finals got underway on the Saturday, with the finals decided on the Sunday.

This year a number of families were involved in more than one event with Natasha and Chris Li from Southampton partnering their sons in three events while the Butler's from Henley-in-Arden contested two as did the Jenning's from Kenilworth and the Lawrences from Stockport who, having accepted two lucky loser tickets, regrettably failed to progress past the last four.

Natasha Li and Josh Gook won the Mother & Son Open event - a title the pair also won in 2008 - at the expense of Sara and Alex Butler in what proved a straightforward final, 6-1 6-2.

That scoreline reflected the fact that both mothers had expended a lot of energy earlier in the afternoon with Sara and Lucie Butler wresting the Mother & Daughter Open title from Bristol's Joan and Julie Hassell, champions for the past two years, in what was the most closely fought two and half hour battle of the weekend. The Butlers saved two match points as they recovered from 2-5 down in the third to post an exhilarating 7-6(3) 5-7 7-5 victory.

At the same time playing on an adjacent court, Natasha and Callum Li came close to claiming the Mother & Daughter 14&U title but had to watch as Sarah and Ben Skidmore of North Shotbury clawed their way back into contention from 1-4 in the third to snatch a 4-6 6-2 7-5 win.

Dad Chris Li had two chances to collect titles but couldn't quite clear the final hurdle. With Josh he fell to the experienced pairing from Heywood, Roger and Michael Ingham , last year's runners-up. On this occasion, having qualified for the final stages these last four years, the Inghams achieved their ambition of collecting the blue ribbon Father & Son title, 6-4,6-2.

Chris Li then joined up with Callum to contest the Father & Son 14&U title only to find an on form William and Nigel Richards from St Austell who proved too strong, going down 6-4 6-0.

The final in many ways proved a bit of a disappointment for both pairs had produced some excellent tennis to make the title round as both semi-finals went to three sets with the outcome never clear. The Lis beat Neil and Duncan Ross of Richmond 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 while the Richards survived a strong challenge from Simon and Olly Cull, ‘lucky losers' from Sutton Coldfield, 4-6 7-5 7-6(4).

Nicola Jennings paired with her parents in two events. She has played with her mother Melanie over the last few years making the final round in the Mother & Daughter 10&U event in 2008. Then, having progressed to the 14&U category last year, the pair again just failed to clear the final hurdle, on this occasion losing out to Sue and Amy Sergeant from North Shotbury 3-6 6-4 6-2 and then, with dad Paul, losing another three set final as Lucky Losers, this time to Boston's Kevin and Emily Hawkewsorth 6-4 4-6 6-2 in the Father & Daughter 14&U event.

The remaining categories saw Rob & Jake Norris (Southampton) beat Philip & George Holding (Leamington Spa) 4-1 4-2 in the F&S10&U category, Chris & Tegan Louw (Whitehill) defeat Charles & Lysette Fulcher (Felixstowe) 6-2 6-3 for the F&D Open crown while Jackie & Elly Coleman Cambridge) conceded a walkover to Jill Thurston & Mhari Tyler (Kenilworth) in the M&D10&U event.

All the finalists received Trophies and Medallions plus additional prizes provided by The Tennis Gallery Wimbledon and The Silver Tennis Collection for which the recipients were extremely grateful.

The backroom help received from the sponsors -- Prince (balls), Price of Bath (green balls) and David Lloyd Leisure Dudley (courts) -- plus the support from the TIA UK and the LTA was also gratefully acknowledged by the organisers.

All in all, a great weekend enjoyed by everyone who braved the elements to participate in this annual challenge and take advantage of the excellent facilities which the David Lloyd Leisure Dudley centre offered.

A real family affair.

Family Championships
Abbott Media Services, Cedar Lodge, Howe Road, Watlington, Oxon OX49 5ER
E-mail: info@familychampionships.org.uk