2014 Ladies Final: Hird & Cooley at the Double

C.Cooley & K.Hird (1) beat E.Smith-Bingham & A.Reimer (3) 12-7, 12-1, 12-5

The 2014 Ladies Championships final was played at Eton on Saturday 19th April and saw a resounding victory for defending champions Karen Hird and Charlotta Cooley over Highgate School pair Eve Smith-Bingham and Amira Reimer.

This year the match had had to be postponed from its usual slot alongside the Kinnaird final, but good Easter weekend weather and and intriguing match up attracted a good crowd along to watch.

The Highgate girls team, although still only young, have been the coming force in ladies Fives in recent years, winning the Black Cup twice in succession and dominating the schools and age group competitions. This year Eve Smith-Bingham and Amira Reimer made the breakthrough into the senior final after impressive performances in the group stages and semi-finals earlier in the year. A win over Karen Hird and Charlotta Cooley in those group stages meant that the defending champions had to up their game to defeat former champions Dominique and Lia Redmond in the semi-finals and they came to the final intent on gaining revenge on the Highgate pair.

Unsurprisingly, the early stages were a bit nervy with all four players feeling their way into the game. Karen and Charlotta settled first, though, their sharper movement and more aggressive attacking play taking them out to an 8-3 lead. The younger pair struck back immediately, though, Amira finding some good cut returns and Eve's dangerous left hand pushing Karen and Charlotta into the back left hand corner and then picking off the volleys to reduce the deficit to 8-6. With their lead under threat, Karen and Charlotta needed to respond and with the help of an edge off the step and a cut out of court, they stretched the lead back out to 10-6, before closing the first game out shortly after.

The first game win seemed to inspire the number one seeds - right from the start of the second they began to impose themselves on Eve and Amira, cutting and returning purposefully, finding a good length into the buttress and forcing back court errors from Amira in particular. Conversely, the first game defeat seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Highgate pair and they never really challenged in the second game, losing 12-1 in double quick time. They recovered slightly in the third, challenging more at the set piece and producing some good shots here and there, but the belief that they could get back in the match never quite seemed to be there, and Karen and Charlotta wrapped up the match winning the third game comfortably 12-5 and taking the title in not much more than an hour.

The Highgate girls are still only U15 and have impressed all those who have seen them this season; if they keep playing and improving as they have done up to now, their time will surely come. This was Karen and Charlotta's day, however, and this was a ruthless, high quality performance to claim their second successive title.

The prizes were presented by EFA Chairman Richard Black and by Krystyna Vargas, who won the tournament in the first four years of its existence from 1984-87.

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