April 2015: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Mix It
13/04/15: The Mixed tournament is now a well-established end of year event, providing entertainment and amusement in equal measure and proving that Fives can be simultaneously competitive and friendly. This year's event followed the tried and trusted formula, complete with traditional sunshine and traditional result, as Seb and Charlotta Cooley continued to see off all-comers and take yet another title.
One slightly disappointing note was the late withdrawal of several pairs for various reasons, reducing a healthy 20 pair field to a still respectable 15 pairs on the day. The four morning groups produced some excellent matches, with Cambridge's Old Westminsters Elana Osen and Riki Houlden nicking top spot in Group C with a nail-biting 12-11 comeback victory over Lancing's Juliet Browning and Will Betts. Berkhamstedians Emily Mann and Andrew Joyce saw off the challenge of Natalie Lilienthal and Ryan Perrie to win Group D and first and second seeds Seb & Charlotta and Karen Hird & Gareth Hoskins came through their groups comfortably. The group stages were also notable for a maiden victory (in their second year of trying) for Emma Double and Andy Bishop, a tally of wins they would later go on to double (pun intended) in the plate.
Seb & Charlotta and Karen & Gareth continued to make untroubled progress with quarter-final wins over Juliet & Will and Natalie & Ryan respectively, while the other two quarters produced the closest matches of the day. Last year's semi-finalists Mandie Barnes and Julian Black played some terrific Fives to take the first game against Emily Mann and Andrew Joyce. Emily made the final of this tournament last year, however, while Andrew was fresh from a maiden appearance in the Kinnaird semis and they made their pedigree count in games two and three despite some tenacious resistance from Mandie and Julian. The final quarter final match up looked pretty tasty on paper and so it proved on court. Harriet Asquith and Elana Osen have met in several competitions this year, with lots of close matches and both players recording wins with different partners. The Cambridge pair of Riki and Elana got off to a strong start, racing through the first game in impressive style. Harry and partner Carl Rennie regrouped between games, and an improved performance at the set piece and a more attacking mindset turned things around to level at 1-1. The third game was close all the way through with neither pair ever able to establish a decisive lead. Harry played the shot of the day, skimming a ball up for a winner off Elana's head (it was headed well down before that intervention!) but in the end the Cambridge pair played the last few points better and more aggressively, taking them through to the last four and preventing an all North Oxford semi-final.
Emily & Andrew's strong run to the last four came up against the formidable obstacle of Seb & Charlotta, who won their semi 12-5, 12-3, while Karen & Gareth won the other semi-final by an almost identical scoreline against Riki & Elana. The "Wiseman rule" in mixed Fives - where the man is only allowed to serve for one point (win or lose) before being cut down - places a strong emphasis on the ability of the girls, particularly their cuts and returns against each other, so it was probably no surprise that the final was contested between the two players who have been national ladies champions for the last three years. Sadly for Karen, Charlotta was playing with her brother, who has won five Kinnairds in a row, whereas Karen was saddled with the 2014 Veterans winner. Nevertheless, the underdogs got off to a great start in the final, getting the early edge at the set piece and playing some well-thought out attacking Fives to establish a 6-4 lead, even forcing Seb to take his tracksuit top and bottoms off less than halfway through the first game. In fact, Karen and Gareth continued to play well thoughout the final, producing a match of a very high standard, but as Seb and Charlotta began to hit their stride, the cut returns began to dry up a bit for the North Oxford pair and a higher number of winners began to flow from the gloves of the defending champions, who eventually ran out deserving 12-7, 12-4 winners.
The Plate competition for the highly-coveted Dossi Dish was extremely well-contested with all 7 pairs playing each other in a round robin format. There were several notable occurences; Andy & Emma won their second match of their day/career; Mark Yates did something rarely done before a game of Fives anywhere (applying suncream); Nathan and Francesca Turnbull showed how much they have both improved with some terrific performances to come second and if anyone's spirits began to flag, Abhishek Bhattacharya was always on hand with his unique brand of on-court entertainment. In the end, Mark Yates and Emily O'Malley won the dish by going through all six games undefeated, although they most certainly didn't have it all their own way as their run included two 12-11 wins and two 12-10s. Nerves of steel, indeed.
The prizes were duly handed out by Mandie Barnes, the EFA's director i/c ladies Fives, before the serious business of the day was conducted in the Henry.
Thanks are due to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the tournament, to Seb Cooley for running the show and to Mandie Barnes for her organisational assistance. Thanks, too, to all those who came and played in what was a terrifcally fun day of Fives and if you weren't there this year, do get it in your diaries for 2016 as it's well worth the effort.
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat J.Browning & W.Betts 12-4, 12-2
E.Mann & A.Joyce beat M.Barnes & J.Black 11-14, 12-9, 12-7
K.Hird & G.Hoskins beat N.Lilienthal & R.Perrie 12-4, 12-3
E.Osen & R.Houlden beat H.Asquith & C.Rennie 12-5, 4-12, 13-11
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat E.Mann & A.Joyce 12-5, 12-3
K.Hird & G.Hoskins beat E.Osen & R.Houlden 12-6, 12-3
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat K.Hird & G.Hoskins 12-7, 12-4
1st - E.O'Malley & M.Yates
2nd - F.Turnbull & N.Turnbull
3rd - A.O'Malley & A.Bhattacharya
4th - N.Sorensen & S.Chapman
5th - A.Lumbard & C.Ballingall
6th - E.Double & A.Bishop
7th - J.Toynton & J.Diviney