NATIONAL WINCHESTER FIVES MIXED DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP
Bradfield College, Sunday May 6th
Ollie Arnold won his second consecutive Winchester Fives Mixed Doubles title this weekend, but this year with a new partner, fellow Bristol student Louise Mathias.
As ever, the tournament brought together a wide range of competitors, with relative veterans such as three-times champions Andy Pringle and Alex Steel, playing together for the sixth time, joined by a few Eton Fives players and some very promising schoolchildren. Indeed, it was the Alleyn’s pair of Gwydion Wiseman and Martha Nugent who caused the first shock of the day, beating the fancied pairing of Maddy Raynor (fresh from winning the Ladies Winchester Fives doubles title) and Keith Kennerley in the first round of pool matches.
Meanwhile, in the other pool, the Sumner siblings from Bedford Modern were also proving a force to be reckoned with, winning all of their matches, except against Ollie and Louise. It was a pattern repeated in the other pool, where eventually Andy and Alex came through with a 100% record to claim their place in the semi-finals, with Gwydion and Martha ending up as runners-up in the group.
That meant the semi-finals had a very young feel, with half of the eight players being schoolchildren, two of them students, and just two of the players in work! In the end, though, experience told, with the top two seeds — Andy & Alex and Louise & Ollie — going through to the final. However, the four youngsters should be very proud of their achievement in reaching the semi-finals of an open tournament while still at school.
As with the whole event, the final was played in a tremendous spirit, with a huge amount of respect between the four players and lots of long, hard-fought rallies. However, it quickly became obvious that the left/right-hand pairing of Ollie & Louise would be tough to break down, and they soon worked their way into a big lead in the first game of the best-of-three final.
For Andy & Alex, the problem was that, if they went for the buttress and missed, the ball fell nicely to Ollie’s left hand — which proved to be quite a weapon — and, if they targeted Louise, she wasn’t just equal to the challenge, she was capable of hitting winners herself off her right hand. And, if anyone thought that Ollie serving left-handed, with no butters to aim for, was a disadvantage, they soon changed their tune when they saw how often he was able to find the nick with his serve.
It meant Andy & Alex were never able to score a major run of points, and so it was that the Bristol pair took the first game to 8. The second game started a little differently, with Ollie & Louise seemingly having lost some concentration and allowing Andy & Alex to get into an early lead after a few uncharacteristic errors from the opposition. However, this was only a temporary state of affairs, and soon the Bristol pair were back in the groove, finding the winners and forcing the mistakes from the opposition that gave them the second game – and the title – with another 15-8 win.
Meanwhile, the plate competition was every bit as keenly contested, with a variety of styles on show from the various players. However, in the end, it was Maddy & Keith who went home with the silverware – which was more than the winners of the competition did, as one of last year’s winners had failed to return the trophy!
Pool 1: Pringle & Steel bt Ballingall & Lumbard 15-2, bt Nugent & Wiseman 15-7, bt Kennerley & Raynor 15-4; Nugent & Wiseman bt Kennerley & Raynor 15-8, bt Ballingall & Lumbard 15-8; Kennerley & Raynor bt Ballingall & Lumbard 15-8
Pool 2: Arnold & Mathias bt Redmond & Scott 15-3, bt Hird & Hoskins 15-6, bt Sumner & Sumner 15-3; Sumner & Sumner bt Hird & Hoskins 15-8, bt Redmond & Scott 15-5; Hird & Hoskins bt Redmond & Scott 15-13
Semi-finals: Pringle & Steel bt Sumner & Sumner 11-5, 11-7; Arnold & Mathias bt Nugent & Wiseman 11-3, 11-1
Final: Arnold & Mathias bt Pringle & Steel 15-8, 15-8
Plate: Kennerley & Raynor