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2009 Midlands: Wiseman and Cooley reign at Repton

Dominique Redmond reports:

This year's Midland Tournament took place at Repton on the weekend of October 31st/November 1st. Nearly forty pairs made the pilgrimage to Derbyshire for one of the most sociable and fun events on the Fives calendar. The Fives was pretty good too, with Olavians Howard Wiseman and Seb Cooley coming away with the trophy.

This year’s tournament saw many new faces as well as the usual Midlands attendees. We had almost forty pairs descend on Repton School’s 12 superb Fives courts.

We used the popular draw back system that saw all pairs mixed together in six pools and their finishing positions decide whether or not they went forward into the main tournament or backwards into the festival.

The pools contained many great matches with many school pairs and lower ranked pairs really giving the seeded pairs a run for their money. Pool One saw a surprising upset with St Olave’s school’s top U16 pair of Tony Barker and Harry Ravi qualifying in second place behind the top seeds, Old Olavians Howard Wiseman and Seb Cooley.

Before the knockout stages could begin we had to have the four pairs who finished third in their pool play in a pre-qualifying match to secure a place in the last 16. The last 16 matches were the last scheduled for the Saturday’s play and the top eight seeds all came through unscathed.

After the last match of the day all players retired to the nearby 4 Star Menzies Hotel to take full advantage of their swimming pool and jacuzzi before an evening of fine food and wine. The evening started with drinks in the lobby before a splendidly convivial dinner. After dinner many people stayed on for more drinks and conversation while others made it into Derby’s town centre for some Halloween Fun. Most even made it back afterwards!

On Sunday morning we were graced with some traditional Fives-playing weather - rain, wind and more rain but none were deterred. The quarter-finals in both the main tournament and the festival were played over three games. The main draw saw all but one match go to the third game. Howard and Seb were the only pair to win their match in straight games against the young Berkhamstedian pair Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O’Neill. Both games were extremely competitive but the experience of the Olavians got them the victory. The festival also had some very close and well contested matches.

While the quarter-finals in both events were coming to an end the main plates got underway with two pools of five pairs playing two games against each pair in the pool. The top pair in each pool would then play against each other in a final.

The Main semi-finals saw Howard and Seb take on Doug Foster and Mark Herring in a very close and well-contested match, with accurate cutting and fast volleying, Howard and Seb securing their place in the final with a 12-4, 12-7 win. Meanwhile, Anthony Theodossi and Ryan Perrie - in their first major tournament semi-final - took on Dave Mew and Richard Tyler. This was a brilliant match and although the rallies were close Dave and Richard’s experience and exceptional placement booked them a place in the final with a 12-7, 12-4 straight games win.

A few courts along, the semi-finals of the Festival section were taking place, with defending champions Bill and Elliot Christie taking on Anita Ganguly and Rugby Fives partner Dan Grant. After what seemed like days Anita and Dan managed to win the match whilst the other semi-final was an all-Berkhamsted affair with James Holroyd and James Steadman reaching the final. The main tournament plate was also reaching a conclusion, with Gareth Hoskins and Ian Mitchell clear winners in one group, whilst Mike Skjott and Jonny Saunders just edged out Nick Bunyan and Nigel Cox in the other.

The main tournament final saw Dave Mew and Richard Tyler take on previous finalists Howard Wiseman and Seb Cooley. Dave and Richard got off to a flying start leaving the top seeds chasing the game. Howard and Seb steadied themselves and came back, starting to narrow the gap, but left themselves too much to do and lost 8-12. The second game got off to a slow start, with long rallies always being won by the cutting team. Howard and Seb then got an amazing run of points to give them a lead that Dave and Richard could not catch and a rhythm they could not break. One game all. The third game got underway and was just as tough and competitive as the first two. This was a constant battle, with one pair going ahead only for the score to be quickly leveled again. At 7-7 Wiseman and Cooley got a useful run of points to take them into a 2-1 lead. The Olavians now had their eyes on the prize, upped their level of play and were always one step ahead in the fourth, which saw great top step play and amazing retrieving and volleying. Howard and Seb took the fourth game and with it the match 3-1.

The festival final saw the Berkhamsted School pair of James Steadman and James Holroyd take on ex Ladies and School champion Anita Ganguly and Dan Grant in an exceptional final. The Berkhamsted pair only just snatched victory beating Anita and Dan 13-11, 12-9. In the Plate, Gareth Hoskins and Ian Mitchell dragged themselves over the finish line, beating Mike Skjott and Jonny Saunders in an entertaining – if rather tired – final.

I would like to thank everyone for taking part, especially the Rugby Fives players who made the effort to play and practice for this event. I would also like to thank all the players who drove players to and from the courts to the hotel. Congratulations to all the finalists for playing to such a high standard. I do hope to see all and many more of you at next year’s event.