Saturday/Sunday, 2-3 February 2019
STOP PRESS: In his last year of eligibility Dave Butler finally secured the U25 Singles title with a win over Andrew Boyd, while Ollie Arnold & Ben Beltrami beat defending champion Matt Shaw and his new partner Theo Parker to take the Doubles title, after “a few years” when they have been runners-up. Archie McCreath won the Singles Plate from Jeremy Manger, while Christian Blackaby & Joe Sumner won the Doubles Plate against Archie McCreath & Cameron Low, Joe having also won the Singles PlatePlate.
Organiser James Smith reports: Once again, the best and most committed members of the next generation of fives descended on Oundle School for the first weekend in February. While the field was slightly depleted in number from last year, the quality of fives on offer was not, with almost every eligible top player featuring, and any weather worries were misguided, as a distinct lack of snow meant no travel issues.
Saturday morning started bright and early with the first round of singles matches, and almost every entrant arriving early! The pick of the matches at this early stage was George Marshall of team Durham inching past Cambridge’s Emrys Thursfield; the latter surrendering a 10-2 lead in the first game to lose 15-13, 16-15. Meanwhile National Ladies champion Louise Mathias pushed Michael Suddaby hard, the final scoreline of 15-3, 15-2 not reflective of the quality of the game.
The second round brought the seeded players into the frame, and all eight progressed to the quarter-finals with relative ease: Jeremy Manger pushed Matt Shaw in their game, and Archie McCreath battled it out against fellow Bristolian leftie Ollie Arnold, but neither player was able to upset his seeded opponent. Meanwhile Christian Blackaby battled against a spasming back in his match with James Smith to progress to a quarter-final against top seed Dave Butler, while Theo Parker and Tom Watkinson progressed with relative ease, as did second seed Andrew Boyd and also Sam Russell.
From the quarter-finals, the top four seeds all progressed to the semis. The pick of these matches was the clash between Parker and Watkinson – the latter taking the first game 16-14, before, at 15-15 in the second game, serving into himself, handing the game to Parker. Parker was then able to keep up the momentum into the third game to win 14-16, 16-15, 15-10. Russell battled hard against Boyd, gaining ten points in the first game, but then fell away to lose 15-10, 15-1. Shaw overcame Arnold’s hard hitting in straight games, while Butler was able to dispatch a very sore Blackaby. The semi-finals went as expected too, with Shaw unable to upset Butler and Parker slightly too drained from his grind against Watkinson to trouble Boyd. This then set up a final between the top two seeds: both players started the match a bit shakily, not quite finding the right lengths or having the confidence to switch things up. Butler was the first to settle; however Boyd, after losing the first game, started to put more pressure on his opponent to push harder in the second game. Butler’s experience won out eventually as the second game see-sawed, however, allowing him to take the title in his last year of eligibility 15-7, 15-12.
Meanwhile the Plate and PlatePlate competitions were underway. The Plate was as hotly contested as ever, albeit with slightly more traditional scoring, with Manger and McCreath eventually progressing through their pools to earn a place in the final, where it was McCreath who took the silverware.
While the scoring system in the PlatePlate was changed to be best of five games to fives – maximum fives being the mentality – the winner was the same as last year! Joe Sumner progressed through his group to face off against Michael Suddaby in the final, winning a second mug to go with the one he won last year.
Sunday brought the doubles, and along with it another entrant: Ben Beltrami, having opted not to enter the singles competition, travelled from London on the day to play with Ollie Arnold.
The first round ensued as expected, with the lower seeded pairs all progressing to the quarter-finals. These, too, were relatively simple fare for the top four pairs, resulting in the lower four seeds also entering the Plate.
The pick of the semi-finals was a battle between top seeds Shaw & Parker and their fourth-seeded opponents, Boyd & Watkinson. The latter pair won the first game 15-8, but ultimately were unable to maintain the momentum against strong opponents, with Shaw & Parker confirming their place in the final 8-15, 15-4, 15-7. In the other semi-final, the pairing of Butler & Russell, in their last year at the tournament, struggled against the hard-hitting of second seeds, Arnold & Beltrami, with the final score of 15-7, 15-5 showing this.
This set up a final between the top seeds. Arnold & Beltrami fancied their chances, while Shaw was understandably desperate to retain his doubles title with new partner Parker. This was evident in a very tight first game, which could have gone either way, before being taken 15-13 by the younger pair. The second game was slightly more of a formality, with Arnold & Beltrami racing into a 13-2 lead and closing out to win the championship 15-13, 15-7.
Meanwhile, the six pairs in the Plate split into two pools of three: unfortunately, the Cambridge pairing of Thursfield & Ahuja had to withdraw due to injury. Blackaby & Sumner battled through to win their pool, while McCreath and a bruised Cameron Low won out in the other group. McCreath & Low won the first game comfortably 11-4, but were reeled back in by their opponents, who won in three games to take the Plate: 4-11, 11-5, 11-4. Unfortunately, due to numbers no PlatePlate competition was played.
As ever, all the players would like to thank Oundle School for allowing us to use the courts and for their great hospitality throughout this tournament, and I think everyone will agree that the courts are playing as well as ever.
1st round: M Suddaby bt L Mathias 15-3, 15-2; A McCreath bt D Law 15-1, 15-0; J Manger bt J Sissons 15-2, 15-1; G Marshall bt E Thursfield 15-13, 16-15; J Sumner bt A Ahuja 15-3, 15-3
2nd round: D Butler bt Suddaby 15-1, 15-0; C Blackaby bt J Smith 15-7, 15-2; O Arnold bt McCreath 15-3, 15-4; M Shaw bt Manger 15-6, 15-10; T Parker bt Marshall 15-5, 15-1; T Watkinson bt J Hanton 15-7, 15-1; S Russell bt C Low 15-6, 15-2; A Boyd bt Sumner 15-3, 15-2
Quarter-finals: Butler bt Blackaby 15-5, 15-0; Shaw bt Arnold 15-4, 15-7; Parker bt Watkinson 14-16,16-15, 15-10; Boyd bt Russell 15-10, 15-1
Semi-finals: Butler bt Shaw 15-11, 15-4; Boyd bt Parker 15-5, 15-8
Final: Butler bt Boyd 15-7, 15-12
Plate: McCreath bt Manger 11-6, 11-1
PlatePlate: Sumner bt Suddaby 11-0, 11-2
1st round: Blackaby & Sumner w/o Ahuja & Thursfield; Hanton & Smith bt Law & Suddaby 15-6, 15-1; Manger & Mathias bt Marshall & Sissons 15-2, 15-5
Quarter-finals: Parker & Shaw bt Blackaby & Sumner 15-3, 15-8; Boyd & Watkinson bt Low & McCreath 15-1, 15-9; Butler & Russell bt Hanton & Smith 15-6, 15-8; Arnold & B Beltrami bt Manger & Mathias 15-7, 15-5
Semi-finals: Parker & Shaw bt Boyd & Watkinson 8-15, 15-4, 15-7; Arnold & Beltrami bt Butler & Russell 15-7, 15-5
Final: Arnold & Beltrami bt Parker & Shaw 15-13, 15-7
Plate: Blackaby & Sumner bt Low & McCreath 4-11, 11-5, 11-4