2000 Aberconway Cup
Mike Fenn reports:
The Tenth Championship was held on a sunny day at Eton on Sunday 30th April, a few weeks later than usual following a late Easter. Unfortunately the late Easter, combined with injuries, sons overseas or back at University and the 'retirement' of two Dads gave the lowest turnout since the inauguration of the Championship nine years ago. Fortunately, from an organisational point of view, eight pairs entered (half the 1999 total) including the first Father and Daughter pairing - John and Charlotta Cooley. With Tom unavailable, Peter Dunbar was drafted in to support Graham in defence of the title.
The eight pairs were divided into two Groups, each playing three matches the best of three games, with the winners and runners up in each group proceeding to the semi-finals. The Dunbars (Graham and Peter), the Walters (Tony and Jacob), the Markkanens and the Knowles were seeded 1-4 respectively with the two groups arranged according to known strengths, age, club etc.
There were no surprises in either group with the seeds comfortably reaching the semi-finals. That said the Sherrards did exceptionally well to take the Dunbars to nine points in one game and the Markkanens to ten in another. The Sherrards and Marriotts each won one match leaving the Cooleys and Pitts holding the wooden spoon.
And so to the semi-finals after an excellent lunch at the Watermans. Much thought was given to a light lunch by those participating in the afternoons play, with the exception that is of Walters senior who was seen demolishing a steak and large plateful of chips.
The first semi-final pitted the Dunbars against the Knowles. The pace, like the weather, was hot with the Dunbars taking the first game to love. Fortunately the Knowles found better form in the second and at the half way stage there was little between the pairs in the scoreline. However the Knowles were always struggling against the superior cutting and volleying of the Dunbars who took the second 12-7 and the match 2-0.
The second semi-final finished at the same time as the first with the Walters running out comfortable winners 12-6, 12-5. Olli Markkanen showed an all round improvement to last year but unforced errors by him and Pauli and the crisp volleying of Jacob were to prove decisive to the outcome
Two former title holders, but this year with younger sons, were to do battle in the final. Graham Dunbar was determined to take the title for a record fifth time whilst Tony Walters, two stone lighter than last year, was as equally determined to be in the winning pair. A change of socks by Tony and the scene was set for an epic battle. A quick toss of the coin determined that the match was to be played over five games.
A nervous start by Tony and two unforced errors saw an immediate change of cutter and a 3-0 lead to the Dunbars. At 3-2 a remarkable fifty plus rally had the spectators clapping enthusiastically despite it ending in an accidental let. With superior cutting and steadier play the Dunbars nullified Jacobs attacking volleying game and the Dunbars slowly pulled ahead 4-2, 5-2, 6-2, 6-3, 7-3, 8-3 - a pattern to be repeated in all three games. A brief rally by the Walters took the score from 10-5 to 10-7 but was finally ended at game ball with a cut out of court.
The Walters went 2-0 up in the second game, the only time that they were to lead in the match, before finding themselves 8-2 down. A run of six points to the Dunbars was a killer blow, not entirely down to poor play by the Walters, but the rub of the green and the superb return of cut by Peter Dunbar. "Come on concentrate" was the cry of the Walters as they fought back 10-4, 10-5, 10-6, 10-7, 10-8. Just as it seemed the Walters had clawed their way back two unforced errors gave the second game to the Dunbars 12-8.
"Come on Dad" was the shout in the third game as Jacob encouraged Dad to greater things 1-1, 2-2, but again a run of quick points dented the Walters dreams. Despite good 'at the feet' cutting by Jacob he was time and time again frustrated by the superb just above the ledge returns by Dunbar senior. The Walters pulled back to 4-6 and again 5-10 before the superior all round play saw the Dunbars take the game and match 12-7, 12-8, 12-5. The attacking volley play of Jacob Walters and the under wall return cutting and retrieving of Peter Dunbar were stong features of the match.
Regrettably this the closest final for several years was watched by only two spectators - the organiser and a semi-finalist. Mike Fenn thanked the players for their support and presented the Lord Aberconway Cup to the winners, Graham and Peter Dunbar. Graham thanked Mike and paid tribute to Tony and Jacob in "providing such a good final, the closest and most hard fought in recent years."
G.Dunbar & P.Dunbar beat P.Knowles & J.Knowles 2-0 (12-0, 12-7)
A.Walters & J.Walters beat O.Markkanen & P.Markkanen 2-0 (12-6, 12-5)
G.Dunbar & P.Dunbar beat A.Walters & J.Walters 3-0 (12-7, 12-8, 12-5)