NATIONAL SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP
(Final rounds) Y Club, Manchester, December 6/7th
Will Ellison fought his way to his first National Singles title, in his fifth consecutive final; in doing so he became the first ever Wykehamist to triumph. His opponent this year was Dan Grant, in his debut Jesters Club Cup final. Will had breezed through his first three matches, never conceding more than two points in a game on his journey to the final, but was then pushed all the way by Dan’s attacking style. In the end, fitness played its part, and although both players were close to their limit, Will was able to maintain his high standard and emerge victorious. Dan absolutely flew out of the blocks and, combined with Will’s cautious start, dominated the opening game. At 13-2 it was looking very rosy indeed, but Will started his fightback. Crucial points were won, not only to give Will confidence but to extend the match as long as possible.
The best period of the match was the start of the second game as Will gradually asserted himself on the final, while Dan was still able to counterattack, conjuring winners out of thin air to combat Will’s control. It was a pivotal exchange which brought them to 8-8; crucially, however, it sapped Dan’s energy and he was unable to live with the continued onslaught. After both players suffered from cramp in the third game, Will finished in relative comfort, claiming a 9-15, 15-10, 15-3 victory.
This year’s was a brilliant tournament from the first round, despite the absence of some of the top players. In the top half of the draw, Hamish Buchanan and Theo Parker set the tone with a scintillating match, decided by one point and about 2mm. Theo’s would-be-winner at match point clipped the top of the bar before Hamish drew on his considerable experience to prevail. Price v Murby in the lower half was equally entertaining – Gareth only seemed to turn up after the first game; he then produced his usual array of unpredictable and remarkably effective shots to storm to the second, but didn’t quite have enough in his legs for the third.
John Minta and Matt Cavanagh once again came head-to-head in the pick of the quarter-finals. Matt took the first game, but John’s fitness and power came through after that, allowing him to take it in three and gain revenge for last year’s result. Notably, Dave Butler also pushed Dan Grant all the way in their quarter-final – a sign of his fast improvement which has led to his rise up the rankings over the last couple of years. He was ahead for most of game one and came very close in game two, but Dan managed to survive and progress to the semis.
As has been the norm over the last few years, the second and third seeds had a titanic battle in the semi-final. This year, it was Dan G against reigning champion Dan Tristao. Superb winners flew from all round the court as DT built a considerable lead. DG fought back to level at 13-13 but was undone by more great Tristao winners. In the second game, DG came out all guns blazing to storm ahead, but it quickly became clear that his opponent was struggling with a vicious bruise. At that point, the match turned into a psychological battle as much as a physical battle. DT never gave up, but his discomfort was obvious and Dan eked out point after point to reach the final. In the other side of the draw, John Minta was unable to cope with Will’s pace and power and was left asking the crowd for any ideas on how to beat Will!
In a fantastic, high-quality plate competition, all eight players knocked out in the first round showed why it’s an achievement in itself to get to the finals weekend. Goodwin came through against Price, Parker edged out fellow Bristol student Arnold, in a reverse of their regional final, but the best was saved to last. Parker and Bate engaged in a titanic battle to be crowned plate champion. The match went to three games after considerable to-ing and fro-ing; at 10-all in the third, it was impossible to pick a winner. Theo then found an extra gear to power home and deservedly win the plate.
Throughout the weekend, there was filming for a Fives promotional video. There was obviously some fantastic footage of many excellent matches, but also interviews and shots taken from inside the courts. We’re expecting the editing to be complete soon, so look out for the video in the next couple of weeks.
1st round: W Ellison bt S Russell 15-2, 15-1 ; H Buchanan bt T Parker 10-15, 15-3, 16-15 ; J Minta bt J Aquilina 15-9, 15-5 ; M Cavanagh bt O Arnold 15-3, 15-3 ; D Grant bt A George 16-14, 15-5 ; D Butler bt M Bate 15-7, 15-3 ; R Murby bt G Price 15-1, 11-15, 15-5 ; D Tristao bt A Goodwin 15-7, 15-4
Quarter-finals: Ellison bt Buchanan 15-1, 15-2 ; Minta bt Cavanagh 4-15, 15-9, 15-5 ; Grant bt Butler 15-13, 15-12 ; Tristao bt Murby 15-6, 15-7
Semi-finals: Ellison bt Minta 15-1, 15-2 ; Grant bt Tristao 13-15, 15-10, 15-8
Final: Ellison bt Grant 9-15, 15-10, 15-3