Andrew Aitken Trophy 2017

Laurie Brock reports:

12/09/17: On a drizzly (and slightly chilly) afternoon at Highgate, the seventh iteration of the Andrew Aitken Trophy produced its first female champion following an excellent final.

Perhaps we have been spoiled in previous years, but for the first time, the turnout was a little disappointing, with many of the more experienced players (and regulars at the event) unavailable, some late withdrawals, and an unusual level of apathy amongst some of the school contingent (Alex, Can and Hugo excepted). However, the 16 who did make it produced some terrific fives and further evidence that the club is in rude health.

In Group A, the first round of matches (each consisting of two sets to 12) produced a lengthy battle between Sacha Mehta and Will Reid (the latter returning after several years out of the game) and Tom Critchley and (schoolboy) Can Koksal. This was comfortably the longest match of the day, with some superb (and lengthy) rallies, and ended in a 1-1 draw, Can and Tom fighting back after losing the first set to win the second 12-10.

However, it soon became apparent that the dominant pair in the Group were another pair returning from spells out of the game; Ed Rose (out for 18 months) and James Sherwood (out for three years). Despite the lengthy absences, neither player appeared to be suffering from major rust - with Ed's typically classy all round game (and trademark smash) still there and James's reflexes sharp from the outset, they topped the Group with three 2-0 wins, while second place went to last year's runner-up Alex Wessely and Matthew Lewin.

Group B began chaotically - with the organiser's partner a no-show, he took to the court alone against Will Capstick and Elana Osen. However, early in the second set, Will sustained a nasty looking injury to his hand (or his fingernail to be more precise) which brought the first retirement in the tournament's history and a trip to hospital. Since this left both the organiser and Elana partner-less, a new scratch pairing was born.

Meanwhile, tournament debutant Justin Shaw and Sahil Shah were engaged in a tight clash with Kotka Lim and (schoolboy) Hugo Young. Justin and Sahil emerged victorious in two close sets, but were unable to repeat the trick against myself and Elana, despite a close second set.

On paper, this suggested that Elana and I would have a smooth run to the final; however it was anything but, as a revitalised Hugo and Kotka produced a much improved performance to deliver what was probably the match of the tournament. Both players cut well, and Hugo in particular was hugely impressive at the set piece generally, with some splendid cut returning and sharp volleying. Even the disappointment of losing the first set 12-11 did not deter them, as they stayed level throughout the second and ultimately clinched it by the same 12-11 scoreline. Ultimately however, it was not enough; their first round loss to Justin and Sahil proving decisive and allowing Elana and I to squeeze through.

The final (comprising one set to 15) was an intriguing match-up, with two of the club's most senior players (and past winners) facing off alongside partners who had never been in the final before. However, Elana and James both acquitted themselves superbly, with James's top step reflexes again on show and Elana also exhibiting both great touch on top step and power and accuracy from the back of the court.

The match was nip and tuck throughout, with the score remaining 1-1 for more than ten minutes and neither pair having more than a one point lead at any stage as the score reached 11-10 to Ed and James. However, finally, a run of cut returns and volley winners, combined with perhaps a hint of fatigue setting in for Ed and James, allowed Elana and I to make the decisive move, with five consecutive points to clinch the title and make Elana a (fully deserved) first female winner of the competition.

FINAL - Laurie Brock and Elana Osen beat Ed Rose and James Sherwood 15-11