South East Open Championships
Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, 27/28th August
On a warm August Saturday, writes organiser Ed Hatton, the largest yet group of Fives players at this event gathered for the third South East Open at Christ’s Hospital in Sussex.
The singles entry was a strong group of 18 players, which included seven of the top 10 in the land. It was also pleasing to have nine players who had not previously entered the tournament. The first round went according to seedings, although Tom Watkinson pushed David Butler very hard in the first game, as did Anthony Goodwin to Julian Aquilina in the second.
Top seeds Will Ellison, Dan Tristao and Dan Grant made comfortable progress in the quarter-finals, but it was a different story for Ben Beltrami, who after a slow start and a dominant second game, was eased past by a determined Butler. Perhaps predictably, Tristao and Ellison met once again in the final.
In a reverse of last year’s result, Will was unable to keep up with Dan’s punishingly accurate control of the court, down-the-line shots, reverse angles, volleys and more, all combining to wear down Will’s resistance and leaving Dan a worthy champion. A very strong plate competition produced a repeat of the 2015 National Schools final, with the same result – Tom Watkinson beat Rob Whitehorn.
The doubles took place on the same day, inspired by the example of the South West Open. The players produced remarkably few fatigue-related grumbles and a complex round-robin arrangement involving three groups of three pairs resulted in Aquilina &Watkinson and Tristao & CH club member Bart Callaghan in his first senior tournament reaching the semis. Ellison & new entrant Alfred Ainsworth from Tonbridge also made it through their group, just, while Butler & Whitehorn qualified as highest-scoring second place pair.
The semis saw convincing, if not easy, progress for Aquilina & Watkinson to meet Ainsworth & Ellison in the final. Here, the star was certainly Ainsworth, impressively partnering the national doubles champion and refusing to buckle under the pressure that their opponents put on him. So, Ainsworth & Ellison earned a well-deserved win in the Christ’s Hospital Cup. In the plate, after another gruelling round-robin, Blackaby & Hatton could count themselves deserved, if narrow, winners.
The RFA is very grateful to Christ’s Hospital school for the use of the Fives courts and Sports Centre. One of the competitors commented that the showers and toilets were the best of the RFA tournament venues!
1st round: Callaghan bt Geere 12-10, 11-2; Hamilton bt Ainsworth 6-11, 11-8, 11-9
2nd round: Ellison bt Callaghan 11-0, 11-2; Parker bt Hatton 11-2, 11-0; Butler bt Watkinson 12-10, 11-1; Beltrami bt Whitehorn 11-5, 11-2; Grant bt Stokes 11-2, 11-0; Toop bt Hamilton 11-3, 11-0; Aquilina bt Goodwin 11-1, 11-7; Tristao bt Blackaby 11-3, 11-2
Quarter-finals: Ellison bt Parker 11-3, 11-2; Butler bt Beltrami 11-8, 0-11, 11-8; Grant bt Toop 11-1, 11-3; Tristao bt Aquilina 11-4, 11-5
Semi-finals: Ellison bt Butler 11-2, 11-6; Tristao bt Grant 11-5, 11-3
Final: Tristao bt Ellison 11-5, 11-7
Group A: Ainsworth & Ellison bt Blackaby & Hatton 11-4; Butler & Whitehorn bt Ainsworth & Ellison 11-7; Blackaby & Hatton bt Butler & Whitehorn 11-9
Group B: Callaghan & Tristao bt Beltrami & Blakeley 11-6; bt Geere & Goodwin 11-5; Geere & Goodwin bt Beltrami & Blakeley 11-9
Group C: Aquilina & Watkinson bt Grant & Keates 11-3; bt Hamilton & Parker 11-9; Hamilton & Parker bt Grant & Keates 11-3
Semi-finals: Aquilina & Watkinson bt Butler & Whitehorn 15-10; Ainsworth & Ellison bt Callaghan & Tristao 15-7
Final: Ainsworth & Ellison bt Aquilina & Watkinson 15-10
Plate: Blackaby & Hatton