WARWICKSHIRE’S longest-serving county tennis captain and former Great Britain international Katie Shaw is stepping down from the role after 25 years.
The 55-year-old, from Kings Heath in Birmingham, has led the women’s team for a quarter of a century having represented Warwickshire as a player for almost 40 years.
Shaw competed for the county all the way through from junior level to veteran events and won three Group 1 County Week titles the first of which came as a player back in 1997.
The other two titles came as captain in the early 2000’s having played in her first senior County Week as a 14-year-old at Cromer in Norfolk alongside Jenny Waggott and Jean Reynolds.
Shaw said: “I’m really proud and so pleased to have won so much for Warwickshire, as a player and as captain.
“The last time I played at County Week was unexpectedly in Worthing 10 years ago. We had several people out with injury so I had to pick myself and we played three three-setters.
“I was 45 and we somehow won all three but I couldn’t walk the next day.
“The best part of it, win or lose, after so many long, exciting matches, has been the camaraderie, watching our girls progressing and gaining experience.
“And I’ve made hundreds of friends through tennis.”
Shaw first took up the sport as an 11-year-old at Kings Heath Club, encouraged by her tennis-mad parents, as her natural talent quickly emerged.
By the age of 16, she had become one of Britain’s top juniors in an era which included Jo Durie and Annabel Croft.
After representing Britain’s under-21’s against USA in the Maureen Connolly Trophy, Shaw began playing full time and quickly rose up the rankings, qualifying for the Australian Open at the age of 20.
On course for a place in the Wimbledon singles draw, a shocking family tragedy derailed her hopes after her much-loved father collapsed and died unexpectedly in his early 50’s.
This happened just before Shaw was due to play her final Wimbledon qualifier against another British player who she had never lost against.
Unfortunately for Shaw, the stress from her father’s death brought on a severe asthma attack forcing her to concede the match.
She continued to play on the circuit, representing Warwickshire on the County Week, before a shoulder injury two years later forced her to retire from the tour.
Shaw then began coaching at Edgbaston Priory Club, where she now specialises in adult groups encouraging women back into tennis and building their confidence.
In 1993, Shaw captained the club’s highly-successful National League side as Britain won national titles including three years in a row from 2007 to 2009 with Shaw playing alongside county stalwarts Leyla Ogan, Natasha Hillyer and Hannah Grady.
Earlier this month, Shaw received the Paul Hutchins Award for her 30 years at the helm of the Edgbaston Priory side.
She spearheaded Warwickshire’s first Group 1 Championship victory for more than 30 years in 1997 with a string of nerveless fightbacks after the Bears were thrashed 7-2 by hot favourites Essex on the opening day.
Her experience and knowledge of her teammates were invaluable to captain Sally Jones who, with input from Shaw and Ogan, rejigged the pairings to produce four straight wins and pull off a sensational upset.
Jones said: “We were very lucky to have someone so calm and knowledgeable in the side and really friendly and encouraging to the newcomers.
“Katie had huge natural talent and invariably looked placid and cheerful, even on match point down.
“I’ve lost count of the matches she’s pulled back from the brink, always hitting with beautiful freedom rather than tightening up on big points when the rest of us were gnawing our fingernails.”
A natural choice to take over as county captain, Shaw delivered two more Group 1 victories along with a number of runner-up finishes, often inspiring lower-ranked players to upset big-name stars.
Her close contacts with tour players have seen her work as Press Liaison Officer at Wimbledon for the last 15 years which involves organising the media commitments of players, including then newly-crowned champions Venus and Serena Williams.
She has also forged a successful career in veteran’s tennis, forming part of the GB team which won the World Over-45 Championships in Turkey and later won two Over-50 Singles Championships.
And she has also been selected for next year’s World Team Over-55 Championships in Mexico City as she continues to relish every moment on court.
Warwickshire Chairman, Sherrie Meaking, added: “Katie’s been a highly successful player, captain and ambassador for the county.
“She’s shown great dedication and loyalty over decades and we are hugely grateful for all she has done.
“We also hope she’ll continue sharing her knowledge and experience with her successor as she still has so much to contribute – and we wish her all the best with her international seniors career.”