Ladies Final 2017: Five In A Row For Hird & Cooley
03/04/17: Defending champions Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley won their fifth consecutive ladies title at Eton yesterday with a hard fought 12-7, 10-13, 14-11, 12-5 win over impressive challengers and first time finalists Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones.
After the disappointment of last year's unplayed final, it was great to see a large crowd - possibly the largest ever to watch a women's match? - gathered in the sunshine at Eton to watch the defending champions and undisputed number ones in recent seasons take on the new kids on the block. Having seen off the threats posed by Dominique Redmond and partners and the young Highgate challengers in previous finals, Karen Hird and Charlotta Cooley found themselves up against new opponents this time in the Lancing/Highgate pairing of Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones.
Ashley & Emily have improved enormously as a pair during the course of this season and have dedicated themselves all year to performing as well they possibly could in this tournament, working hard on their fitness and practising together as much as possible. Their main objective at the start of the year had been to make the final and this they achieved in fine style back in late February with a convincing semi-final against second seeds Phoebe Bracken & Amira Reimer. Not satisfied with that, they then recalibrated their targets, working towards yesterday's showdown with Karen & Charlotta.
The challengers started strongly, with Ashley showing no ill effects from her recent thumb injury and the champions making some uncharacteristic early mistakes to go 1-5 down. The whole first game was an understandably nervy affair in fact, with both pairs showing glimpses of what they are capable of but with too many unforced errors for the match to establish any kind of fluency or pattern. In the end, Karen & Charlotta came back well and took it 12-7 on the back of a better set piece.
As the second game got underway, the pace and accuracy of the match picked up; Emily & Ashley were unfazed by the loss of the first game and for both of the next two, they were the pair making most of the running. They again took the lead in the second and this time held on to deservedly square the match at 1-1. The tension was still clearly there in all four players as the third game got towards the business end but all four were producing some terrific rallies to keep the crowd enthralled. This was clearly a crucial phase of the match as both pairs desperately sought to get 2-1 in front; Ashley & Emily had their noses in front for most of the game and at 11-9 had a couple of chances to win it. Karen & Charlotta dug deep, however, and saved a couple of game points before levelling at 11-11. At this point, Karen & Charlotta showed why they have been the number one pair for so long, winning the key points when it really mattered and finishing the game off with some fine returns and punishing attacking volleys.
Ashley & Emily were unsurprisingly a little deflated after the loss of the third game and were unable to withstand some more high quality attacking Fives from a visibly more relaxed Karen & Charlotta at the start of the fourth. The champions raced out to an early lead which the challengers were never able to peg back, allowing Karen & Charlotta to run out 3-1 winners and win the trophy for the fifth year in succession. They certainly knew that they had been in a tough game, however, which could easily have gone the other way had Ashley & Emily been able to close out the third game. It would not be a huge surprise to see these two pairs playing each other in more finals in years to come (although there are a few other pairs out there who might have something to say about that!) and if that happens then there is no doubt that those there to watch will be in for a treat.
K.Hird & C.Cooley (1) beat A.Lumbard & E.Scoones 3-1 (12-7, 10-13, 14-11, 12-5)