Ladies Championships 2015: Return of the Redmonds
04/03/15: The 2015 Ladies Championships took place at Eton on Sunday and were a vibrant illustration of the healthy state of the ladies game, with 27 pairs taking part across the main tournament and the festival.
The increasing strength in depth in ladies Fives was demonstrated by the 18 pair entry for the main tournament, with none of the pairs out of their depth. There were several highlights in the group stages, including the return after a two year German sabbatical of Emily Scoones, partnering fellow Old Cholmeleian returnee Nina Sorensen, some excellent school pairs from Highgate, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton and a good contingent from Oxford and Cambridge, back on court after the previous day's Varsity match (and champagne reception...).
The top five seeded pairs all made it through the group stages comfortably, and the remaining quarter-final slots were taken by the experienced pair of Fiona Barnes and Mandie Barnes, Oxford's Old Salopian pair of Hannah Pritchard and Rosie Parr and the Highgate second string of Marjolaine Briscoe and Viva Ruggi, who pipped Wendy Carling and Francesca Turnbull to second place in their group in a 15-14 thriller. These three pairs found life much tougher in the last eight, coming up against the top three seeds, Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley, Phoebe Bracken & Amira Reimer and Dom & Lia Redmond, all of whom progressed easily. The final quarter-final pitted the fourth seeds against the fifth seeds and promised much: Cambridge pair Elana Osen and Olivia Prankerd Smith had won convincingly the day before in the Varsity match against Oxford's Izzy Watts; this time Izzy was partnered by former Oxford half-blue Harriet Asquith and together they produced a superb attacking performance to negate the threat of the Cambridge pair and deservedly advance to the semi-finals.
Izzy and Harriet continued to combine well in their semi-final but defending champions and top seeds Hird & Cooley were a class above and made sure of their passage to the final rather more comfortably than they had done last year, winning to 2 and 6. The other semi-final pitted 2012 champions Dom & Lia Redmond against Highgate's U21 and U25 champions Phoebe Bracken and Amira Reimer. Amira had been in last year's final alongside Eve Smith-Bingham at the expense of the Redmond sisters, but with Eve absent, Dom recovered from the shoulder injury that had been troubling her a year ago and Lia looking in good form, the older pair got on top right from the start and never allowed the younger Highgate pair to gain a foothold in the match. The result was a convincing win for Dom and Lia and a strong statement of their return to form and status as serious challengers for Karen and Charlotta's title. The final should be a match to savour and will take place at Eton at 1pm on Sunday 22nd March, the same day as the Kinnaird final.
The strength in depth referred to earlier was evident again in the plate competition, which produced some terrific Fives and some thrilling matches. The semi-finals in particular were both epics, the hugely promising young Shrewsbury pair of Tilly Reynolds and Nina Lange holding on to beat Scoones and Sorensen 15-12 and Carling and Turnbull agonisingly suffering their second 15-14 defeat of the day, this time at the hands of Wolverhampton pair Tejas Netke and Beth Parlane. Tilly and Nina were unlucky not to qualify from a tough group earlier in the day and were determined to make up for it by winning the plate; this they did with a convincing win in the final over the Wulfrunian pair.
Nine pairs took part in the festival competition, which provided the perfect forum for the more inexperienced players to enjoy a whole day of close and exciting matches, resulting in huge improvements from all involved. The first semi-final was another Salopian/Wulfrunian Midlands derby, with Shrewsbury pair Katie Oswald and Emma Graham defeating Wolverhampton's Ellen Hopwood and Lara Fraser; an all-Salopian final was prevented by Oxford's Alice Stables and Martha Samano, who beat Libby Hedges and Abi Watkinson in impressive style. The two finalists had met earlier in the day in the group stages, with the Shrewsbury pair coming out comfortably on top. Alice and Martha put up a much stronger fight in the final, playing their best Fives of a long weekend for them, but the Shrewsbury girls came through 12-5, 12-6 to take the trophy. Eve Cowan and Ellie Frith of Wolverhampton took the plate.
Thanks to Eton for hosting the tournament and to Mandie Barnes for her excellent organisation. Let's have 30 pairs+ next year!
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat M.Briscoe & V.Ruggi 2-0 (12-0, 12-0)
I.Watts & H.Asquith beat E.Osen & O.Prankerd-Smith 2-0 (12-3, 12-6)
D.Redmond & L.Redmond beat F.Barnes & M.Barnes 2-0 (12-3, 12-2)
P.Bracken & A.Reimer beat H.Pritchard & R.Parr 2-0 (12-0, 12-0)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat I.Watts & H.Asquith 2-0 (12-3, 12-6)
D.Redmond & L.Redmond beat P.Bracken & A.Reimer 2-0 (12-5, 12-2)
N.Lange & T.Reynolds beat E.Scoones & N.Sorensen 15-12
T.Netke & B.Parlane beat W.Carling & F.Turnbull 15-14
N.Lange & T.Reynolds beat T.Netke & B.Parlane 15-5
E.Graham & K.Oswald beat E.Hopwood & L.Fraser 2-0 (12-4, 12-6)
A.Stables & M.Samano beat L.Hedges & A.Watkinson 2-0 (12-3, 12-4)
K.Graham & E.Oswald beat A.Stables & M.Samano 2-0 (12-5, 12-6)
1 - E.Cowan & E.Frith
2 - C.Richards & S.Cormack