London Open Championships
Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, Saturday-Sunday September 10-11th
Organiser Will Ellison writes:
Alleyn’s School hosted the 22nd London Open and, for the fourth year in a row, Will Ellison and Dan Tristao between them came away with both the singles and doubles titles. Unfortunately for Dan, he was unable to defend the singles title he won last year due to a tennis commitment at the All England Club; instead, Will won his third London Open singles title with a victory over first-time finalist Dan Grant. However, Dan T and Will were able to team up once again to win the doubles title for the fourth year in a row.
Will’s win increases his open singles tally to 24 wins – now one clear of Hamish Buchanan’s 23 titles and third behind Neil Roberts (33) and Wayne Enstone (95), with Dan Tristao fifth in the leaderboard with 19 titles. Will’s third title here ties the record set jointly by Neil Roberts, Hamish Buchanan, Ed Fuller and James Toop.
The singles tournament on Saturday started out largely by following the seedings – the shock of the round of 32 was perhaps Tom Watkinson’s comfortable win over the more experienced and higher-ranked Chris Burrows. It was also encouraging to see some strong performances by current schoolboys, including Charlie Barnett of Merchant Taylors’ School pushing Nick Geere hard and Alleynian Ben Kirwan’s assured performance against fellow schoolboy Alex Hopkins.
In the round of 16, Theo Parker came through in three games against Alleyn Old Boy Peter Hanton, sealing the final game to love. Julian Aquilina once again outlasted James Tilston in yet another three-game encounter. Finally, Hamish Buchanan’s fine win over Ollie Arnold is worthy of a mention – the former champion’s tactical nous and home court knowledge saw him upset the seedings.
The quarter-finals went with the top four seeds – although some eyes were raised with Julian Aquilina’s 11-5 11-5 win over six-time National Singles champion James Toop. Julian’s consistency and retrieval saw him comfortably through, although in truth James is just getting back into the game after over a year without tournament Fives, and we hope to see more of him again soon!
In the first semi-final, Will Ellison calmly dispatched Julian Aquilina 11-0, 11-3, showing a ruthless display of aggressive Fives. Dan Grant and Charlie Brooks had a much tighter match: Dan’s winners, coupled with a few uncharacteristic errors from Charlie, saw him win the first game to five; in the second, Dan again started out strongly, although Charlie pegged him back from 9-5 to 10-9 and saved four match points before finally capitulating. This led to a repeat of the 2014 National Singles final the morning after: Ellison vs Grant.
Dan Grant started very strongly and rushed to a 7-2 lead; however, Will’s persistence and retrieval saw him claw back the first game 11-8. The second game was closer throughout, although Will kept his nose in front and sealed it to 7 to take the title.
In the singles plate, Chris Burrows held off strong opposition, including no.12-ranked Ollie Arnold, to win his group of five players. James Tilston won the other group to set up the final, which James ended up coming through fairly comfortably – 15-5 – to take the title.
After a slightly delayed start, as many competitors were watching the singles final, the doubles tournament started on Sunday morning. The pick of the early matches has to be Angus Hanton and Nick Geere’s three-game win against Billy Rentoul and Sky Yang of Alleyn’s School. It was great to see the local boys playing so well and making their elders stay on court for nearly an hour and a half!
In the quarter-finals, Will Ellison and Dan Tristao were made to work hard in a second game against Tim Hebblethwaite and Ed Ronan – eventually nicking it 12-10. Arnold and Parker came through a three-gamer against Julian Aquilina and James Tilston, although, rather bizarrely, none of the games was closer than 11-4! Dan Grant and Gareth Price came through 11-8, 12-10 against a very determined pairing of Peter Hanton and Henry Jefferies – overcoming a 10-6 deficit in one of the games, to see them through to the semi-finals. By contrast, Hamish Buchanan and Charlie Brooks beat Angust Hanton and Nick Geere fairly comfortably 11-2, 11-2.
Both semi-finals were close games: in the top half, Will Ellison and Dan Tristao survived a scare against Ollie Arnold and Theo Parker – including being 8-0 down in the first game, which they ended up losing 12-10 – to eventually win in three games. They found their top gear in the second and third games, both of which they won to three. This was the first time that they had dropped a game as a pair – due testament to Arnold and Parker’s very accurate and powerful hitting in the first game. It was, however, a big ask to maintain this in a best-of-three-game match! In the bottom half, Dan Grant and Gareth Price were edged out 11-8, 12-10 by the on-form pairing of Hamish Buchanan and Charlie Brooks, whose consistency and retrieval were paying dividends on the Alleyn’s courts.
The doubles final was yet another close match, with some very long rallies and outstanding retrieval from both pairs. The first game started out fairly evenly, although a string of errors from Ellison and Tristao saw Brooks and Buchanan take a 7-2 lead. Ellison and Tristao clawed this lead back and ended up taking the game 11-9. The second game was closer throughout, but eventually Ellison and Tristao again took it to nine.
In the doubles plate, we used a Monrad draw – with 8 pairs, this guarantees three games for all players and a final ranking of each pair. We had to make do with 7 pairs, but this nonetheless made for some excellent games. Henry Jefferies and Peter Hanton came through unbeaten to take the title – beating James Tilston and Julian Aquilina 15-12 in the final game. Tim Hebblethwaite and Ed Ronan beat regular Tuesday evening sparring partners Ed Carr and Rocco Sulkin 15-8 to take third place.
The final mention must be to Gareth Price for his kind use of his Spikeball set – perhaps something of a precedent for future tournaments?! Gareth’s daughter “EJ” also gets a special mention for taking plenty of photos throughout the day, including the group shots. Finally, singles trophy donor David Gardner was kindly on hand to present the Gardner Quaich. We must, of course, thank Alleyn’s School for their generosity in letting us use their courts and facilities once again.
We look ahead to next year and what will be the 23rd tournament looking set to return to St Paul’s School!
1st round: B Kirwan bt A Hopkins 11-4, 11-3; A George bt A Hamilton 11-1, 11-4; J Tilston bt A Cochrane 11-2, 11-1; T Watkinson by C Burrows 11-6, 11-3; H Buchanan by S Stokes 11-2, 11-1; N Geere bt C Barnett 11-6, 11-5
2nd round: W Ellison bt B Kirwan 11-2, 11-2; T Parker bt P Hanton 1-11, 11-6, 11-0; J Toop bt A George 11-3, 11-3; J Aquilina bt J Tilston 7-11, 11-0, 11-2; C Brooks bt T Watkinson 11-0, 11-0; H Buchanan bt O Arnold 11-9, 11-8; T Maconie bt H Jefferies 11-5, 11-3; D Grant bt N Geere 11-0, 11-0
Quarter-finals: W Ellison bt T Parker 11-1, 11-5; J Aquilina bt J Toop 11-5, 11-5; C Brooks bt H Buchanan 11-0, 11-0; D Grant bt T Maconie 11-1, 11-5
Semi-finals: Ellison bt Aquilina 11-0, 11-3; Grant bt Brooks 11-5, 11-9
Final: Ellison bt Grant 11-8, 11-7
1st round: T Hebblethwaite & E Ronan bt B Kirwan & J Hanton 11-1, 11-4; J Aquilina & J Tilston bt C Barnett & A Hopkins 11-1, 11-6; P Hanton & H Jefferies bt E Carr & R Sulkin 11-2, 11-1; A Hanton & N Geere bt B Rentoul & S Yang 6-11, 11-5, 11-7.
Quarter-finals: W Ellison & D Tristão bt T Hebblethwaite & E Ronan 11-4, 12-10; O Arnold & T Parker bt J Aquilina & J Tilston 4-11, 11-1, 11-3; D Grant & G Price bt P Hanton & H Jefferies 11-8, 12-10; C Brooks & H Buchanan bt N Geere & A Hanton 11-2, 11-2
Semi-finals: W Ellison & D Tristão bt O Arnold & T Parker 10-12, 11-3, 11-3; C Brooks & H Buchanan bt D Grant & G Price 11-8, 12-10
Final: Ellison & Tristao bt Buchanan & Brooks 11-9, 11-9
Plate: P Hanton & H Jefferies