2008 Aberconway Cup
Mike Fenn reports:
The eighteenth Championship took place at Eton College on a cold snowy day a complete contrast to last year which was played on the hottest April day on record. No mothers entered with their son or daughter but with a nice rounded entry of sixteen pairs life appeared relatively easy for the organizer with four groups of four.
Unfortunately the weather ruined all the carefully laid plans and although there was little snow at Eton heavy snow had fallen overnight in the Home Counties and was still falling in the Sevenoaks area two hours before the appointed hour for the tournament. With trepidation Mike Fenn crawled round the M25 in blizzard conditions until midway when suddenly the roads cleared for a free run to the College. It was with great relief that from the field of sixteen entries only two pairs failed to arrive, one pair getting stuck on the M3 and the other remaining at home.
Many of the regular pairings were unable to enter this year including the holders Peter and Rex Worth due to Rex taking off on his travels a few days beforehand. On the plus side seven pairs entered for the first time. The players were placed in four groups hastily re-arranged into two of four pairs and two of three with the Hughes, Walters, Bests and Hornes seeded 1-4 respectively. The four pair group matches played the best of three games setting at eleven whilst the three pair groups played the best of five games, a decision the organizer was later to regret! The winners of each group went through to the semi-finals.
The top seeds the Hughes comfortably took top position against three first time entrants in Group 1 in less than an hour. Bill and Connor Christie came a creditable second narrowly pipping third placed Adrian and George Fort with Mike and Robert Dunk taking fourth place. All the new entrants enjoyed the experience and, hopefully will be back again next year.
In Group 3 Tim and Jonathan Best also reached the semi-finals relatively easily. It was good to see Geoff Davies back on court after a ten year gap and with his son Nick finishing in a creditable second place. David and Robert Cooper took third position, and special credit for the oldest player on court, and newcomers Graham and Richard Matthew fourth.
The second seeds and Group 4 winners were Anthony and second son T Walters, their tightest match being against first timers Peter and Edward Boughton. Mark and Nathan Cousins came third in a difficult group.
None of these Groups took more than an hour and a half to complete their matches. This meant the extra ordinary goings on in Group 2 had a deserved substantial crowd. Chris and Richard Horne - the only survivors from the first competition in 1991 - faced Grant (40 something) and Guy (13) Williams winning 12-11 in the fourth game after two and a quarter hours. Richard Horne just held control of the fascinating last game and a half in which his father, and particularly Guy Williams, were at times little more than spectators. Newcomers Peter and Tim Scholey finished third, but like the other first time entrants looked forward to next year.
The eagerly awaited all Hertfordshire semi-final between the Hornes and the Hughes was a wholly predictable disappointment. After their respective activities in the morning the Hughes soon realised that keeping the rallies going against the exhausted Hornes was always going to be enough. In both games the Hornes started brightly and then the errors came. The Hughes were worthy winners in a canter. The Walters started as if they were going to win in a similar way, but the Bests came back and the first game was hard fought at 12-9. From then on the Walters took control but the relevant effort expended by the Walters in comparison with that of the Hughes could not have helped the former as the final approached, particularly as Mike Hughes, (by almost twenty years) was the youngest father in the last four.
It had been a good year all round for Salopian Fives, and again Shrewsbury provided both finalists. The Hughes had won in 2006 and been defeated in the final in 2007, and were by far the fresher pair. Tony Walters has been in more Aberconway finals than any other man. Just when it seemed the final was going to be as big an anticlimax as the Hughes semi final the Walters came alive in a second game of extremely high standard to take it 14-11. However the effort was too much and the Hughes took the next two games easily to regain their title.
Christopher Horne, ever the optimist, had asked Mike Hughes over lunch to do the presentation if the Hornes had made the final. If not tongue in cheek it was certainly done more in hope that expectation that he would be relieved of his normal duties this year. Indeed, after commenting on the very high standard of fives throughout the day he ruefully congratulated Mike Fenn on not only yet again getting the seedings right, but ensuring that the best unseeded pair was again in the fourth seeds group. He then thanked him for his organization, Eton for providing the courts and the Watermans Arms for the lunches. Tony Little, the Headmaster of Eton College, had started his afternoon on a quiet walk round his domain. He stayed to watch the final and very kindly agreed to present the Aberconway Cup.
All present agreed to meet again at the same place for the same purpose next year, and it is to be hoped that the news of this excellent tournament will spread further.
M & C Hughes beat C & R Horne 2-0 (12-4, 12-3)
A & A Walters beat T & J Best 2-0 (12-9, 12-4)
M & C Hughes beat A & A Walters 3-1 (12-6, 11-14, 12-3, 12-3)