Kinnaird Cup 2017
20/02/17: The initial rounds of 2017 Kinnaird Cup at Eton over the weekend threw up some absolutely fantastic Fives and whittled a relatively small but extremely strong field down to the final four, who will contest the semi-finals in three weeks time.
21 of the top 24 ranked players were entered into the main draw, as well as former finalists Peter Dunbar and George Campbell and other dangerous unranked players such as last year's semi-finalist Ian Hutchinson and top schoolboys Rahul Wijeratne, Charlie Nicholls and Charlie Plummer. They were joined on Saturday by a group of other pairs keen to take on the big boys and with half an eye on the prestigious Pepperpot trophy.
Most of the Saturday morning matches went quickly to form, with one or two pairs having to battle hard to keep their points tally ahead of the number of bacon rolls being consumed by Mark Williams, whose organiser's desk had been conveniently placed next to the burger vendor. No coincidence that. The one first round match that stood out was the battle between former Cambridge pair Guy Chapman & Al Taylor and Old Ipswichians Tim Gregory & Steve Burnell. When the OI pair levelled the match at 2-2 they looked favourites to go on to win, but Chapman & Taylor came through strongly in the fifth to make it into the last sixteen.
The top eight seeded pairs arrived for the afternoon's matches and what ensued was undoubtedly one of the best and most exciting series of matches seen in this competition for a very long time. Chapman & Taylor's morning heroics had earned them the opportunity to be put out of their afternoon misery quickly by second seeds James Toop & Matthew Wiseman and Olavian school boys Kosi Nwuba & Morgan Pugh soon found out that winning the first couple of points against Tom Dunbar & Seb Cooley provokes a predictable response. Elsewhere, though, some extremely close matches were being played out, making it difficult for the spectators to know where to watch at any one time. The new combination of Ed Taylor and Jonny Ho - seeded fifth - looked in fine fettle as they disposed of the potentially tricky Millhillian pair of Oli Sander and Charlie Plummer in straight games while the other OM pair of Vishal Bhimjiyani & Sunil Tailor recovered from a heavy first game loss to overcome former semi-finalists Dave Mew & Richard Tyler.
The wildcard pairing in the draw were Campbell & Dunbar, two players with an impressive pedigree in the competition both individually and as a pair, but not seen in major competition as a pairing for a few years and with Peter Dunbar only over for the weekend from Dubai and severely short of match practice. The strong ranking scores of the top six pairs meant they slotted in to the draw as seventh seeds and they had to work hard to overcome the impressive young Cholmeleian pair of Joe Marks & Matthew Kovar, edging the third game 15-14 to make it through and set up a mouth-watering clash with Toop & Wiseman.
Another interesting feature of this year's draw was the presence of several of this year's most promising schoolboys alongside more experienced partners. Berkhamstedians Andrew Joyce & Charlie Nicholls produced some terrific Fives in the first two games against Old Westminsters Laurie Brock & Riki Houlden to level the match at 1-1 and it took all of Laurie & Riki's famed tenacity and consistency to get on top in the third and fourth games and book their place in the quarter-finals. On the adjacent court, Harrow's Rahul Wijeratne was partnering coach Ian Hutchinson against St.Olave's Tom Gallagher and coach Howard Wiseman. Past performances in major tournaments meant the Olavian pair had the ranking points and the seeded status but this looked to be a tight match on paper and so it proved on court. Like the Charlies Nicholls and Plummer, Wijeratne and Gallagher have got a lot of experience under their belts playing in adult Fives, especially in the first division, and both are extremely promising players. The first two games of the match were a see-saw affair as the Harrow pair dominated the first and the Olavian pair the second. As the match progressed, it was the Harrow pair who began to get on top, with Wijeratne impressing with his lightning reflexes and exceptional hand/eye co-ordination, while Gallagher was having something of an off day and it was Ian and Rahul who went on to win the third and fourth games and the match.
The final last sixteen match was a repeat of the Northern Tournament quarter-final of a couple of weeks ago between third seeds Anthony Theodossi & Ryan Perrie and Old Salopians Rex Worth & Tom Cox. On that occasion, Theodossi & Perrie were comfortably superior, aided no doubt by the Salopian pair's much tougher passage through, but this match was different right from the start. The first difference was that Cox & Worth were finally delivering the performance that their talent had threatened for a while, with some classical attacking volley Fives; the second that Theodossi & Perrie were nowhere near their best and were having a rare off day, having obtained their third place in the rankings by consistently beating all of the pairs ranked below them for the last couple of years. Ant & Ryan did win the second game to level the match at 1-1 but it was a false dawn as Cox & Worth regained control in the third and never let go to make it into the last eight for the first time.
In a break from tradition, and reflecting the move away from people wanting to play for a whole weekend, the Pepperpot Trophy for first round losers was completed on the Saturday afternoon and this was a huge success with all pairs entering and a series of terrific matches producing well-deserved winners in Ipswichian pair Burnell & Gregory who, despite the extra miles in their legs from their morning exertions, saw off all-comers to win the coveted trophy.
With the quarter-finals scheduled for Sunday afternoon, the Sunday morning stage was handed over to the participants in the Festival, the usual eclectic mixture of schoolboys, veterans, uberveterans, top women's pairs and club players all enjoying a wide variety of games against a wide variety of opponents. At one stage, an all-female final between Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley and Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones looked like it might be a possibility but the young Olavian contingent put a stop to that and in the end it was Brian Wang & Harry Ravi - defeated finalists in the London Festival back in December - who came out on top in a tight three game final against Vish Shetty & Coby Plews. Plate A in the festival was the last competition of the weekend to finish - mainly thanks to the efforts of Lancing Old Boys Alex Abrahams & George Linfield, who won the prize for most hours on court over the whole weekend - with Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy & Gwydion Wiseman defeating Dom Redmond & Elana Osen in the final. Further down the plate list there was a shared Plate B for three young Emanuel pupils (plus Chris Wheeler) and a Plate C triumph for the mighty uberveteran himself, Nigel Cox, playing with grandson Christopher Tye.
While the latter stages of the festival were unfolding on the outside courts, the quarter-finalists in the main competition were back on centre stage with a healthy crowd along to watch. The finals of recent years have been dominated by top seeds Seb Cooley & Tom Dunbar and second seeds James Toop & Matthew Wiseman; Seb & Tom had their usual routine win at this stage of the competition against Bhimjiyani & Tailor but James & Matt had a potentially tougher battle on their hands as they took on George Campbell & Peter Dunbar. With a match under their belts and tougher opposition to play against, George & Peter raised their game considerably and for long periods of the match showed some of the form that got them a London Tournament win and a Kinnaird final appearance a few years ago. James & Matt were aware of the potential threat, however, and were right on top of their game from the word go. Campbell & Dunbar had a sniff of an opportunity when they led 9-5 in the second game, but in the end Peter's lack of match practice and the quality of James & Matt's play meant that there were no upsets this time round and the second seeds duly took their customary place in the last four.
The other two quarter-finals were harder to call in advance. Old Salopians Ian Hutchinson & Ed Taylor have played together a lot over the years, including making the semi-finals last year, but this time round found themselves facing each other. Hutchinson & Wijeratne started the match as they finished the day before, with confidence running high and took the first game against Ed & Jonny Ho. One strong game was all they had in them, though, as the fifth seeds then began to get a stranglehold on the match as their new partnership began to gel and they went on to win the next three comfortably to end the Harrovian coach/pupil challenge. In the final match, Rex Worth & Tom Cox also came in with confidence levels high after their fine win over Theodossi & Perrie. Both they and Brock & Houlden were bidding to make the semi-finals for the first time, but nerves didn't seem to be much of a factor as both pairs settled in well for what was a fascinating clash of styles between the tall volleying Salopians and the shorter, speedier all-retrieving Westminsters. For over two hours, the match was too close to call: Brock & Houlden won the first game, but Cox & Worth dominated the latter stages of the second and the third was finely poised at 8-8 then 11-11. Finally the decisive move came, as Brock & Houlden broke through to win the third 14-11 before dominating the fourth as Houlden in particular began to attack with more conviction and therefore greater effect.
The semi-finals take place at Eton at 2:30pm on Sunday 12th March and will be as follows:
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) v E.Taylor & J.Ho (5)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) v L.Brock & R.Houlden (6)
All spectators are welcome.
My thanks go to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the event, to Mark Williams for running things in his own inimitable and superbly efficient style and all those who played and watched and made it such an enjoyable weekend.
M.Pugh & K.Nwuba beat B.Wang & H.Ravi 3-0 (12-5, 12-1, 12-6)
D.Mew & R.Tyler beat A.Abrahams & G.Linfield 3-0 (12-1, 12-0, 12-1)
O.Sander & C.Plummer beat C.Ballingall & R.Morgan 3-0 (12-7, 12-3, 12-1)
I.Hutchinson & R.Wijeratne beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 3-0 (12-6, 12-0, 12-1)
T.Cox & R.Worth beat J.Staley & S.Cass 3-0 (12-4, 12-1, 12-0)
A.Joyce & C.Nicholls beat J.Prior & J.Moore 3-0 (12-1, 12-1, 12-2)
J.Marks & M.Kovar beat N.Gill & A.Nice 3-0 (12-5, 12-4, 12-2)
G.Chapman & A.Taylor beat T.Gregory & S.Burnell 3-2 (8-12, 12-4, 13-11, 4-12, 12-7)
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat M.Pugh & K.Nwuba 3-0 (12-4, 12-0-, 12-0)
V.Bhimjiyani & S.Tailor (8) beat D.Mew & R.Tyler 3-1 (4-12, 12-3, 12-9, 12-9)
E.Taylor & J.Ho (5) beat O.Sander & C.Plummer 3-0 (12-6, 12-0, 12-5)
I.Hutchinson & R.Wijeratne beat H.Wiseman & T.Gallagher (4) 3-1 (12-3, 3-12, 12-4, 12-9)
T.Cox & R.Worth beat A.Theodossi & R.Perrie (3) 3-1 (12-9, 7-12, 12-9, 12-7)
L.Brock & R.Houlden (6) beat A.Joyce & C.Nicholls 3-1 (12-8, 12-13, 12-7, 12-6)
G.Campbell & P.Dunbar (7) beat J.Marks & M.Kovar 3-0 (12-6, 12-8, 15-14)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat G.Chapman & A.Taylor 3-0 (12-1, 12-3, 12-4)
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat V.Bhimjiyani & S.Tailor (8) 3-0 (12-3, 12-2, 12-3)
E.Taylor & J.Ho (5) beat I.Hutchinson & R.Wijeratne 3-1 (10-12, 12-3, 12-3, 12-4)
L.Brock & R.Houlden (6) beat T.Cox & R.Worth 3-1 (12-8, 7-12, 14-11, 12-6)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat G.Campbell & P.Dunbar (7) 3-0 (12-6, 12-10, 12-3)
J.Prior & J.Moore beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 8-12, 12-10, 12-2
J.Staley & S.Cass beat A.Abrahams & G.Linfield 12-9, 13-11
B.Wang & H.Ravi beat C.Ballingall & R.Morgan 12-1, 12-4
T.Gregory & S.Burnell beat N.Gill & A.Nice 12-7, 12-2
J.Prior & J.Moore beat J.Staley & S.Cass 12-5, 12-3
T.Gregory & S.Burnell beat B.Wang & H.Ravi 12-4, 12-7
S.Burnell & T.Gregory beat J.Prior & J.Moore 12-5, 12-4
A.Nice & N.Gill beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 12-9, 12-10
C.Ballingall & R.Morgan beat A.Abrahams & G.Linfield 12-5, 12-4
A.Nice & N.Gill beat C.Ballingall & R.Morgan 12-6, 4-12, 14-12
B.Wang & H.Ravi beat P.Boughton & S.Woolfries 12-2, 12-3
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat C.Ballingall & R.Morgan 12-10, 12-4
V.Shetty & C.Plews beat A.Lumbard & E.Scoones 12-9, 10-12, 12-5
J.Prior & B.Belsham beat J.Staley & S.Cass 12-4, 12-7
B.Wang & H.Ravi beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 2-0 12-5, 15-10
V.Shetty & C.Plews beat J.Prior & B.Belsham 2-0 12-5, 11-12, 12-8
B.Wang & H.Ravi beat V.Shetty & C.Plews 2-1 12-8, 9-12, 12-6
Festival Plate A
G.Wiseman & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat C.Wheeler & S.Islam 12-3, 12-10
R.Pattison & E.Henderson beat J.Ash Vie & D.England 12-3, 12-2
D.Redmond & E.Osen beat W.Seath & E.Peppitt 12-5, 12-2
A.Abrahams & G.Linfield beat J.Nelmes & R.Elston 12-6, 14-15, 12-5
G.Wiseman & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat R.Pattison & E.Henderson 12-9, 14-13
D.Redmond & E.Osen beat A.Abrahams & G.Linfield 11-13, 12-5, 13-11
G.Wiseman & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat D.Redmond & E.Osen 12-9
Festival Plate B
C.Wheeler & S.Islam beat W.Seath & E.Peppitt 13-12, 12-8
J.Ash Vie & D.England beat N.Cox & C.Tye 12-9, 12-3
Final shared between C.Wheeler & S.Islam and J.Ash Vie & D.England
Festival Plate C
N.Cox & C.Tye beat C.Fahy & O.Avery 12-6, 12-3