Graves Cup 2011: Here We Go Again...
The 2011 edition of the Graves Cup was held over the weekend of 8th/9th January, with Seb Cooley and Cameron Lyle setting a record for having held the trophy for the shortest time ever, the previous edition having taken place less than three months earlier.
The return to the traditional January slot produced an entry of 12 pairs; a few familiar faces were missing, but plenty remained and the usual mix of OIs, staff, Ipswich schoolboys and selected guests enjoyed a splendid weekend's Fives and an excellent dinner on the Saturday night. The number of people attending the dinner exceeded the number of active participants in the tournament, a reflection of the traditional priorites of the Old Ipswichian Fives Club.
The Saturday's play was facilitated by extensive use of squeegies, towels and other assorted drying implements to reduce the slipperiness of the wet Ipswich courts. Once play got going, it soon became clear that the good impression made by the young Ipswich schoolboys at the October tournament was no fluke - this really is a group of players to watch out for on the school circuit in the next few years.
The Saturday evening dinner was fairly low-key in the absence of certain individuals (no names, no pack drill, no Watts) and OI President Mike Fenn managed an impressively low tally of faux pas in his speech - just the one for those who were in on the spread betting action - but was no less enjoyable for that, and the Sunday morning hangovers were all present and correct as the tournament moved into the quarter-final stages.
The final of the October tournament had pitched Olavian superstar Seb Cooley against OI veteran Gareth Hoskins and as they progressed through into the semis in opposite sides of the draw it looked like history was about to repeat itself. In the semi-finals, Gareth and Sam Christopher cruised past Fergus Mckay and an off-colour Peter Scholey to book their place in the final; on the court next door, Seb - partnered by Tim Scholey - was having his work cut out as the combination of OI Secretary Tom Fletcher and Cameron Lyle won the first game of their encounter 12-4. Seb and Tim struck back to win the second game and set up a thrilling decider. In the most exciting game of the whole tournament, the lead bounced backwards and forwards between the two pairs before Tom and Cameron finally managed to win through by the skin of their teeth 15-14.
This meant that it was Cameron rather than Seb who had the chance to win two Graves Cups in succession as he and Tom took on Gareth and Sam for the trophy. The final was a superb demonstration of the current quality of Ipswich School Fives. For a player still at Under 13 level, Cameron's volleying and touch play around the buttress were remarkable at times, while Sam's ferocious cutting and low drives into the buttress from the back court proved to be fearsome weapons as the two OIs were at times left standing and admiring the quality of Fives being produced by the two youngsters. The first game was nip and tuck and, as it turned out, crucial, with Gareth and Sam coming from behind to win 13-10. Once in front, they increased the pressure and forced more errors from Tom and Cameron in games two and three to run out 3-0 winners.
As always, the Plate produced some epic matches and interesting combinations. In the end it was won by OI Stephen Bland and Tony Stubbs, beginning to make a name for himself as something of a Plate specialist after winning the same competition back in October.
Our thanks go to the School for hosting such a great weekend and, as ever, to Peter Boughton for his masterful organisation. Next year's tournament will be back in January 2012, with the local port suppliers hoping for the return of Messrs Watts, Friend and co and everyone else wondering if Will Gibbons will ever be able to make it through the weekend with the same partner from start to finish*.
*For those of you who like to keep a record of these things, this year's Gibbons tally was one partner retired hurt due to facial injuries inflicted by her partner on the Saturday and a second victim, sorry partner, who heroically made it through to the end of play on Sunday. A special commemorative medal has been commissioned for this feat.
G.Hoskins & S.Christopher beat P.Scholey & F.McKay 2-0
Tom Fletcher & C.Lyle beat S.Cooley & T.Scholey 2-1
G.Hoskins & S.Christopher beat T.Fletcher & C.Lyle 3-0 (13-10, 12-5, 12-6)
T.Stubbs & S.Bland beat T.Wyndham & F.McKay 2-0 (12-7, 12-2)