Kinnaird Cup 2005

James Toop and Matthew Wiseman beat Tom and Peter Dunbar 12-5, 12-8, 7-12, 12-6 in the final at the Westway Sports Centre.

kinnaird group 2005

Tom and Peter Dunbar had earned first seed status by thrashing James Toop and Matt Wiseman in three very short games at the Northern Championship final just a few weeks before this match. Few thought the Olavians could come back from that 12-3, 12-3, 12-2 humiliation. Even if talk of an unkind draw was justified, surely they had too much ground to make up. So the Dunbars went into the match with realistic hopes of becoming the first brothers since the legendary Mays in the 1950s to lift the Kinnaird Cup together. For Tom it would have been the fourth win in a row - and he would have extended an unprecedented winning streak. Extraordinarily, he had never lost a match in the Kinnaird.

Toop and Wiseman had won the title when they were school-leavers back in 2000. Since then they had lost two finals and their chances reversing that trend seemed slim.

As the scoreline shows, the Olavians won 3-1. What it doesn’t make obvious is the quality of the game; it was the finest game of fives I have ever watched.Toop and Wiseman were obviously determined and immediately seized the initiative. They stretched the Dunbars with the pace of their game and with the range of their attacking strokes, especially to the back of the court. It became evident their strategy was to play a deep game away from the slightly younger pair's strengths upcourt. The Dunbars were forced to play a more defensive game than they had been used to. In fact Toop and Wiseman started out at such a pace - and left-hander Wiseman in particular seemed so pumped up - that those of us watching felt it couldn’t last. It seemed that Wiseman in particular was sure to tire. From the top step he was firing volleys back court, keeping the Dunbars on the back foot; from back court he was getting low and stepping forcefully into each shot. His cross-court shots from back left into the serving angle and thence to the buttress were especially punishing. Not that it was all one-way traffic: defending champion Tom and his apparently nerveless brother, playing in his first Kinnaird final, gave almost as good as they got. The privileged audience of about 30 was kept entertained and astonished by a series of lengthy rallies.Toop in particular showed extraordinary anticipation and reflexes in a series of low returns which I've never seen matched. One point saw him return Tom Dunbar's cut and two or three sharp volleys, then kill a half chance. There were very few errors, but the Dunbars made most of them and as a result Toop and Wiseman led 12-5, 12-8 after two games. In the third, the Olavians seemed to take their foot off the pedal and the Harrovians to sharpen up. We saw an invigorated Tom Dunbar courageously take the fight to his challengers. Were we seeing the tide change? Had the Olavians burnt themselves out? Perhaps it was just a nervous wobble on the brink of a sensational victory? Afterwards, the Olavians said they had just played it too safe. Whatever the reason, the initiative slipped away from them. The Dunbars suddenly seemed the sharper pair and took that game to seven. They were back in the match, a game down but looking dangerous.

However, the fourth game saw Toop and Wiseman return to the offensive and their greater weight and inventiveness of shot wore down their opponents, who seemed to be tiring. The Dunbars still kept up their rearguard action, but a couple of shots flew out of court, another hit a ledge and landed inches long and the cup was back in the Olavians' hands.

So, how had they recovered from the disaster in Shrewsbury? After the match, Toop said: “Shrewsbury was an exceptional result. They played really well and we were jaded from a draining semi-final, so although we lost heavily, it was not in our minds for the Kinnaird.” Tom Dunbar was philosophical. “It was also going to be tough without the quality and experience of Robin,” he said. “However, I did think we were ging to win. “Game one is always key and taking that gave them the belief and momentum they needed. Matt played a lot better than I expected with very few unforced errors. And going 5 - 0 down at the start of the fourth was critical.” Fitness had played a part, he said. “Having put in a lot of effort in the third, I was tired and couldnt give the same effort in the fourth. Cramp didn’t help. In our defence, for a lack of fitness not for losing, we both had bad injuries in the built-up to the Kinnaird.” Would they be back? “Experience is important in the Kinnard and Pete learnt and improved a lot over the year. I look forward to more battles in the future and am sure we will reverse the result.”

Perhaps crucial to this result was the fact that Wiseman had taken the 2003/4 season off; it seemed to recharge his batteries. Toop and Wiseman were unrecognisable from the pair which lost the Kinnaird final to Tom Dunbar and eight-times champion Robin Mason in 2003. Toop confirmed that their attitude had changed and this had allowed them to bounce back from Shrewsbury. “I am confident that we've got our desire back to how we were on leaving school,” he said. Peter Dunbar confirmed the transformation: “I was expecting them to play much better than in Shrewsbury but I hadn't realised quite how well they could play. They barely hit a ball down throughout the match.”

I believe this match set new standards for Eton Fives and it's a tragedy it wasn't filmed. It's also peculiar that more people weren't there to see it. If these two pairs reach next year’s final, do yourself a favour: go and watch.

Neither pair had been in any trouble on their way to the final. The two semi-finals the previous weekend saw the Dunbars beat Olavians Howard Wiseman and Chris Cooley 12-6, 12-4, 12-3 and Toop and Wiseman beat Salopians Ed Taylor and Ian Hutchinson 12-5, 12-4, 12-9. Both of those losing semi-finalist pairs had only just squeezed into the last four in the final round of matches on the preliminary weekend.

Wiseman and Cooley justified their fourth seeding by beating fifth seeds Edwardian Richard Tyler and Etonian Alex Illingworth 14-12, 5-12, 12-9, 6-12, 12-8. Taylor and Hutchinson, third seeds, had an equally close call against Cholmeleian Alex Varma and another Olavian Seb Cooley 8-12, 12-6, 12-5, 9-12, 12-7. The Dunbars had made short work of Cholmeleian eighth seeds Shanu Rasheed and Niifio Addy 12-1, 12-8, 12-3, who had been exhausted by a marathon third round match against Mike Hughes and T Walters 12-8, 4-12, 12-2, 8-12, 12-9. Meanwhile, Toop & M Wiseman were never going to lose to fellow Olavians Dave Mew and Pete Cohen (seventh seeds) 12-3, 12-7, 12-8.

Looking at the 16 players competing in the quarter-finals, one fact stands out: just five are in their thirties. I can't remember such a youthful line-up. It seems that the best fives players in the country are getting younger. Another healthy sign is that the Kinnaird attracted its largest entry for many years. Some 43 pairs took part in the main draw, a level of participation not seen for decades.

The event was under new management this year, and it really showed. The EFA had decided that it was time to put the game's flagship occasion on a more professional footing, Mark Herring was given the job and he recruited energetically. One progressive idea was to give the first pair from each of the country's fives-playing schools the right to enter the tournament, introducing many fine young players to the game's higher levels. On top of the large entry for the main draw, there were a further 24 pairs in a festival, an tournament introduced to give grass-roots players a few games on the Sunday of the preliminary weekend. A large and well-stocked refreshment marquee by the courts at Eton also helped to transform the atmosphere.

First Round (Eton):

J Hutter & M Skjott beat A Moore & V Patel 2-12, 10-12, 13-12, 15-13, 12-8

R Pattison & M Quinn beat P Worth & R Hillman 12-8, 12-10, 12-3

A Burrows & J Comer beat V Bhimayjani & J Hutcheson 12-7, 7-12, 12-7, 10-12, 12-4

R Bryan & S Ranasinghe beat M Fenn & C Friend 12-6, 12-6, 13-12

B Hyett & H Tobias beat B Kaley & T Saunders 14-11, 11-14, 2-12, 12-7 conceded

D Foster & A Theodossi beat N Cox & S Brooke 12-2, 12-9, 12-4

G Hoskins & S Chapman beat M Powell & A Wagg 12-3, 12-5, 12-7

R Heindorff & J Burke beat A Edmond & G Pender 12-2, 12-4, 12-6

C Lloyd & C Davies beat N Malangone & S White 12-9, 12-8 conceded

J Caudle & M Graves beat G Stringer & D Redmond 12-0, 12-0, 12-0

G Coren & C Morrell beat W Betts & M Gough 12-3, 12-3, 12-1

Second Round (Eton):

T Dunbar & P Dunbar (1) beat J Hutter & M Skjott 12-1, 12-0, 12-1

T Wyndham & S Woolfries beat R Desai & M Milner 13-11, 12-2, 12-6

M Hughes & A Walters (9) beat R Pattison & M Quinn 12-8, 12-11, 12-8

S Rasheed & N Addy (8) beat E Shek & J Saul 12-4, 12-3, 12-4

R Tyler & A Illingworth (5) beat J Knight & A Knight 12-0, 12-1, 12-1

J Reynolds & N Gill beat F Krespi & T Peterson 12-6, 12-4, 12-0

R Bryan & S Ranasinghe beat A Burrows & J Comer 13-10, 12-2, 12-5

H Wiseman & C Cooley (4) beat R Shetty & S Shetty 12-6, 12-4, 12-2

E Taylor & I Hutchinson (3) beat B Hyett & H Tobias 12-2, 12-1, 12-0

T S Fletcher & T L Fletcher beat P Sarmah & M Marriott 12-8, 12-3, 12-7

D Foster & A Theodossi beat G Hoskins & S Chapman 12-6, 6-12, 12-6, 12-8

S Cooley & A Varma (6) beat M Chen & E Miles 12-1, 12-0, 12-3

D Mew & P Cohen (7) beat R Heindorff & J Burke 12-3, 12-1, 12-3

M Herring & G Campbell beat C Wilson & S Fautly 12-6, 12-5, 7-12, 12-9

C Lloyd & C Davies beat J Caudle & M Graves 4-12, 12-1, 12-8, 10-13, 12-7

J Toop & M Wiseman (2) beat G Coren & C Morrell 12-2, 12-2, 12-6

Third Round (Eton):

T Dunbar & P Dunbar (1) beat T Wyndham & S Woolfries 12-3, 12-2, 12-5

S Rasheed & N Addy (8) beat M Hughes & A Walters (9) 12-8, 4-12, 12-2, 8-12, 12-9

R Tyler & A Illingworth (5) beat J Reynolds & N Gill 12-3, 12-3, 12-5

H Wiseman & C Cooley (4) beat R Bryan & S Ranasinghe 13-10, 12-3, 12-3

E Taylor & I Hutchinson (3) beat T S Fletcher & T L Fletcher 12-1, 12-1, 12-4

A Varma & S Cooley (6) beat D Foster & A Theodossi 12-4, 12-6, 12-4

D Mew & P Cohen (7) beat M Herring & G Campbell 12-1, 12-9, 12-8

J Toop & M Wiseman (2) beat C Lloyd & C Davies w/o

Quarter-finals (Eton):

T Dunbar & P Dunbar (1) beat S Rasheed & N Addy (8) 12-1, 12-8, 12-3

H Wiseman & C Cooley (4) beat R Tyler & A Illingworth (5) 14-12, 5-12, 12-9, 6-12, 12-8

E Taylor & I Hutchinson (3) beat A Varma & S Cooley (6) 8-12, 12-6, 12-5, 9-12, 12-7

J Toop & M Wiseman (2) beat D Mew & P Cohen (7) 12-3, 12-7, 12-8

Semi-finals (Westway):

T & P Dunbar (1) beat H Wiseman & C Cooley (4) 12-6, 12-4, 12-3

J Toop & M Wiseman (2) beat E Taylor & I Hutchinson (3) 12-5, 12-4, 12-9

Final (Westway)

J P Toop & M C T Wiseman (2) beat T G Dunbar & P R Dunbar (1) 12-5, 12-8, 7-12, 12-6

Pepperpot Trophy (Eton)

Final:

C Wilson & S Fautly beat M Fenn & C Friend 4-12, 13-10, 12-6, 12-3

Plate B Final:

R Bryan & S Ranasinghe beat A Burrows & J Comer 13-10, 12-7

Plate C Final:

D Foster & A Theodossi beat T Wyndham & S Woolfries 12-5, 12-8

Plate D Final:

M Skjott & P Sarmah beat G Halsey & T Hawke 12-1, 12-1

Festival (Eton)

Final:

Michaels & Smith beat Randall & Hyett 12-6, 12-7

Plate A Final:

Baxter & Giles beat Lewis & Carr 12-11, 10-12, 12-10

Plate B Final:

Joyce & O'Neill beat Warren & Prashar 12-7, 13-11

Report by John Reynolds