Hird & Cooley Defend Their Title
16/04/18: Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley won their sixth ladies title in succession at Eton last weekend, defeating Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones 3-1 in an exciting and high quality final.
Ladies Final: K.Hird & C.Cooley beat A.Lumbard & E.Scoones 3-1 (12-5, 10-15, 12-5, 12-3)
The poor weather failed to deter a sizeable crowd from attending to watch the match and they were rewarded with an excellent spectacle, with all four players producing some fine attacking Fives, with a high tempo, lots of volleying and impressive defence throughout.
On the surface, there were many similarities with last year's match: in both contests, Karen & Charlotta took the first game thanks to a better set piece and fewer unforced errors, then Ashley & Emily struck back with greater attacking intent to win a tight second that was set at 10-10, before Karen & Charlotta went on to win the third and fourth games.
There were also plenty of differences this time round, however. The overall standard was higher with none of the nerves that affected all four players for parts of the 2017 final. Karen & Charlotta both showed much improved footwork and movement around the court this year, generally negating their opponents' occasional tactic of driving to the back corners with Karen's back court play and angles into the buttress particularly effective. Ashley & Emily at their best were able to employ both defensive and attacking volleys around the buttress to great effect and also showed impressive speed around the court.
In the end it was the lower error count and solid set piece work that gave the defending champions the edge and once they got on top in the third game they were able to run out fairly comfortable winners having lost the second.
EFA Chairman Chris Davies presented the trophy at the end of the match and remarked on both the improving standards and strength in depth across the ladies game and also on the noticable improvement in the play of the top four players. Will we see these four in the final again next year or is there another pair out there who can challenge their current pre-eminence?