2003 Mixed Championships
Olly Cooley reports:
The mixed competition began, as many Fives tournaments seem to, late. Most of the players who had arrived at the Westway either had a partner in the ongoing Ladies' final, or simply preferred to watch it.
At 3 o'clock, the tournament finally got underway with two pools of five pairs, the top two going through from each pool. Pool B contained a couple of men's pairs, the result of last minute withdrawals. The Howard Wiseman mixed doubles rule, that the man is only allowed one serve, led to debate as to who was to be designated the female player, and several swift sex changes occurred between matches.
The eventual winners of pool A were Fiona Barnes and Andrew Mitchell, having edged favourites Helen and James Toop into second place with an 8-7 victory. Pool B was equally well fought, as winners Charlotta and Olly Cooley triumphed over Kerry White and Anthony Theodossi by the same narrow margin.
It is always a pleasure to see a well-matched and closely contested tournament, and the knock-out stages offered just this, with very little to decide between the top four pairs. The close scorelines tell just part of the story, and the spectators' only complaint can be that time constraints forced both the semi-final and final to be reduced to one game to fifteen. The late start also forced the abandonment of the plate competition, as many players preferred to head home once they were no longer in the main tournament. In the first of the semi-finals, the enthusiasm of the Cooleys could not quite match the power of the Toops, who won 15-13, while the experience of Barnes and Mitchell was not enough to match White and Theodossi, who also won through 15-13.
With both pool winners knocked out it was a testament to the competitiveness of the tournament, and the sometimes unpredictable nature of Eton Fives, that no pair remained undefeated. The final promised to be an engaging and hard-fought affair. Those spectators who did stay were disappointed only by the fact that it lasted just one game, as the four players on court embarked on a frenzy of furious hitting, including more than one close call at match point. Helen and James eventually emerged as champions, having won 15-12.
This was the first visit to Westway for myself and many of the other players, and I think we all agree that these are excellent courts, currently in splendid condition and very convenient for those living or working in London. They are an invaluable addition to the ever-growing list of Eton fives courts across the country, and I hope to see many more matches and smaller tournaments held there in future.