Ladies Championships 2017: Lumbard & Scoones To Challenge The Champions
27/02/17: The ladies championships took place at Eton on Saturday, a week after the men's equivalent, and suffered nothing in comparison with virtually every court at Eton full and both main tournament and festival providing a fantastic showcase for the increasing quality and strength in depth of the women's game.
With Mandie Barnes again doing a great job putting the tournament together and Ian Mitchell ensuring that everything ran smoothly on the day, 30 pairs made it to the start line - 16 pairs in the main tournament and 14 less experienced pairs in the festival. Nearly all of the top players were there along with good contingents from Highgate, Shrewsbury, Berkhamsted, Ipswich and Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
The sixteen pairs in the main tournament were divided up into four groups of four and competition was fierce right from the start to make it into the top two in each group and into the quarter-finals. The top five seeds - Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley (1), Phoebe Bracken & Amira Reimer (2), Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones (3), Dom Redmond & Elana Osen (4) and Harriet Asquith & Sarah Frost (5) - all looked in fine form early on, qualifying without any great alarms. Sixth seeds Marjolaine Briscoe & Carolina Valensise (Highgate), however, were on the wrong end of a 15-14 upset at the hands of Shrewsbury pair Emma Graham & Katie Oswald. A surprising lifeline for the young Cholmeleians appeared in the guise of another Shrewsbury pair, Phoebe Wasdell & Lizzie Ware, who beat Emma & Katie, thus opening the door for Marjolaine & Carolina to qualify on points difference after a three way tie for second place.
The final two places in the knockout stages were claimed by veterans Fiona Barnes and tournament organiser Mandie Barnes plus Oxford's first string of Hannah Pritchard & Rosie Parr, running into some good form ahead of next weekend's Varsity Match. The strength in depth of the Shrewsbury squad - a coming force in women's Fives - was confirmed by the plate competition, which was won by Sophia Breese & Nina Lange, who beat Oswald & Graham in the final.
Pritchard & Parr and Barnes² then met their match in the quarter-finals, playing well but unable to match the quality and consistency of the top two seeds. Lumbard & Scoones also continued to impress as they cruised past Briscoe & Valensise. The final quarter-final looked like the closest on paper with 2016 semi-finalists Harriet Asquith & Sarah Frost up against eight-times champion Dom Redmond and former Cambridge captain Elana Osen. Redmond & Osen dominated from the start, however, dominating the buttress and never allowing Frost & Asquith - both perhaps a little short of match sharpness - into the match. Asquith & Frost gained some consolation by then winning a highly competitive plate competition against the other quarter-final losing pairs to finish fifth overall.
The first semi-final saw Charlotta Cooley up against her former nemesis Dominique Redmond; in recent years, since Kerry White's departure for the USA and the formation of a new partnership with Karen Hird, Charlotta has turned the tables on the ex-champion but Dom is still a redoubtable opponent, even if not yet fully recovered from last year's shoulder surgery. Elana Osen is also a much improved player in recent years and a ferocious competitor and it was clear right from the start that Karen and Charlotta couldn't afford to take their opponents lightly. Happily for the top seeds, however, they were at their formidable best in this match, moving better and more quickly than is sometimes the case and playing at a tempo and with an accuracy that Dom and Elana couldn't live with. There was a prolonged spell at the start of the second game where the challengers managed to hold the champions for a while and put them under some pressure but they were unable to sustain it and Karen & Charlotta came through a tough test with flying colours to book their place in a fifth successive final.
The second semi-final was a match that many had been anticipating with relish for some time. Last year's runners-up, Phoebe Bracken & Amira Reimer, are now in their final year at Highgate School and have dominated school and age group competitions in recent seasons. With Amira heading off to Canada next year, this was their last chance (for now at least) of claiming that elusive senior title but they were up against Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones, who teamed up at the start of the season and who have trained hard and played together all year with one goal in mind - reaching the final of this competition. This was expected to be a long, close and tense match and that's just how it started off, all four players playing to a high standard and inching forwards a point at a time to reach 7-7. Someone needed to raise their game and take the initiative and it was Lumbard & Scoones who struck, reeling off four decisive points in one hand to take them to 11-7, which they quickly converted into a first game win. Buoyed by this success, Emily and Ashley pushed on hard at the start of the second game and suddenly Phoebe & Amira found themselves second best - not a position they are accustomed to being in very often - as the older pair upped the pace further, hustling, harrying and forcing mistakes from the school pair. The second game was claimed to 4 and although Phoebe & Amira found their rhythm a bit more and played better in the third game, there was nothing they could do to stop Ashley & Emily taking it to 8 and claiming their place in the final, a first for both players.
Elsewhere, the festival was continuing under the watchful eye of Ian Mitchell and Ant Theodossi, with all involved enjoying themselves, playing some delightfully friendly matches and improving throughout the course of the day. Two large groups in the morning meant lots of matches for everyone and eventually the competition came down to four semi-finalists representing Cambridge, Berkhamsted, Highgate and Shrewsbury. The final itself was a thriller and just about the closest match of the day: the Shrewsbury pair of Nicholas & Windle won the first game 12-10 and came within a point of winning the match 2-0. Berkhamstedians Downham & Capaldi sneaked the second game 12-11, though, and held their nerve to win the third 12-8 and take the title.
Thanks to Mandie Barnes and Ian Mitchell for all their organisational work, to Mike Hughes and everyone at Eton for hosting the tournament, to Dave Mew, Ant Theodossi, Andy Barnard and Tony Stubbs for bringing pairs along and to all those who played and made it such a successful day. 40 pairs next year?
K.Hird & C.Cooley (1) beat F.Barnes & M.Barnes 12-1, 12-2
D.Redmond & E.Osen (4) beat H.Asquith & S.Frost 12-2, 12-4
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones (3) beat M.Briscoe & C.Valensise 12-1, 12-2
P.Bracken & A.Reimer (2) beat H.Pritchard & R.Parr 12-2, 12-0
K.Hird & C.Cooley (1) beat D.Redmond & E.Osen (4) 12-2, 12-4, 12-4
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones (3) beat P.Bracken & A.Reimer (2) 12-7, 12-4, 12-8
H.Asquith & S.Frost won on a round robin basis
N.Lange & S.Breese beat K.Oswald & E.Graham 15-7
G.Nicholas & E Windle beat Britton & Valensise 15-11
K.Downham & B.Capaldi beat A.Cave & S.Zu 15-9
K.Downham & B.Capaldi beat G.Nicholas & E Windle 10-12, 12-11, 12-8
Nicholls & Butler beat J.Hill & E.Kynaston 15-1
Le Clercq-Cerderina & Babai beat A.Platz & S.Armitage 15-9
Nicholls & Butler beat Le Clercq-Cerderina & Babai 15-10