Under 21 Tournament: Et Tu, Butler
24/01/22: There was a brilliant Under 21 tournament in association with Advanta Wealth at Eton on Saturday, with lots of great matches and deserving winners in Isaac Jochim & Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy and Freya Butler & Jessye Tu.
The 2021 tournament fell victim to the pandemic so it was great to be back at Eton for the 2022 edition.
The women's tournament featured ten pairs and was heavily Salopian-based. Sadly one or two other key pairs were unavailable or had to withdraw but eight strong pairs came down from Shrewsbury School to join Old Salopians and former schools champions Katie Oswald & Emma Graham and current Oxford and former Cambridge captains Freya Butler & Jessye Tu. The morning play consisted of two pools of five pairs each playing each other to determine the afternoon rankings for the knockout rounds. The two older pairs won all of their group matches and used the time to shake off some of the rust from not having played much Fives in the case of Katie & Emma and get used to playing together for the first time in the case of Freya & Jessye.
Meanwhile, internal competition was fierce among the Shrewsbury schoolgirls to see which two pairs would join them in the semi-finals, with R.Farquharson & C.Mainwaring and P.Watkins & G.Norman coming out on top. Experience showed in the semi-finals, with the two top-seeded pairs both playing confidently, dominating the set piece and possessing too much accuracy and variety of shot for their younger opponents, who will have gained valuable experience.
The final was a fascinating match up - two players who dominated senior school Fives for a couple of years but who haven't played much since leaving school against two who only started playing seriously in their final two years at school (at Berkhamsted and St.Olave's respectively) but who have played regularly and continued to improve with their university teams. The answer didn't take long in coming: all of the hallmarks of the schools championships winning Katie & Emma were there - the strong cutting, aggressive volleying and fast pace, but the lack of match practice just meant everything was not quite as precise or controlled as it was when they were playing all the time and Freya & Jessye took full advantage, returning superbly and hitting the bottom of the buttress and the back corners with a consistency that always just eluded their opponents. In the end they ran out comfortable winners, 12-7, 12-5, and it was difficult to tell whether they were more surprised or delighted. Perhaps both in equal measure. This was a thoroughly deserved win for two players who have worked hard on their game over the last couple of years, practising regularly and improving gradually to take them to a first national title for Jessye and a second one for Freya, to add to her Universities win.
The plate competition produced some terrific close matches as the younger Shrewsbury pairs battled it out for internal ranking points and bragging rights and it was somehow fitting that the last game to finish of the entire day was the match between the two pairs in the Plate C final (effectively the 9th/10th play-off). I woudn't be the least bit surprised if we were seeing a couple of those players in the final of this competition in a few years time.
The men's competition was also missing a couple of potential big hitters but there was more then enough quality to produce an excellent day's Fives and - as with the women's competition - some less experienced pairs seized the opportunity for a day of match practice and significant improvement.
Despite there being no tournament last year, Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy was back looking for a third win with a third different partner, this time alongside fellow Old Olavian Isaac Jochim. The main threat came from a very strong Harrow School cohort, led by the talented Phoenix Ashworth & Jonny Barley and Olavian youngsters Franklin Baron & Genesis Nsenga. The fourteen pairs were split into three groups with eight pairs going through to the quarter-finals. Prajeeth & Isaac and Phoenix & Jonny won two of the groups comfortably and it was the Harrow second string of Fred Prickett & Nathan Shepard who got the better of Genesis & Franklin in the third group to head into the third seed slot. A hand injury to Franklin meant he & Genesis sadly had to withdraw before the quarter-finals, which meant the other pairs being bumped up a place and Salopians Ed Evans & Morgan Bevans getting a reprieve and clinching the last qualifying slot.
In the last eight, QEB old boys Abilash Sivathasan & Avinash Kumararuban fought hard and impressed against Prickett & Shepard but went down 15-10; the reprieve for Bevans & Evans didn't last long as they became the latest victims for Prajeeth & Isaac; Phoenix & Jonny brushed aside the Harrow fourth string of Casper Stone & Jack Artis and the other beneficiaries of the Olavian withdrawal were the Cambridge pair of Theodore Seely & Parnav Patel, impressive in the group stages and 15-9 winners against the Harrow third pair of Clutton & Tate. The semi-finals were then fairly straightforward with the Harrow pecking order confirmed and the Patel/Seely charge coming to a juddering halt against Sathiyamoorthy & Jochim.
The final pitted the two clear best pairs in the competition against each other and was an absolute belter. The rallies were fast, the movement mesmerising and the range of shot-making on view hugely impressive. In the end, though, the Olavian pair had that bit extra experience and quality when it counted and they ran out 12-8, 12-6 winners to deservedly take the title.
There was a full quarter-finalists plate for once, with some fine matches, and the main plate for the morning's non-qualifiers saw a five pair round robin won by Mill Hill school pair Robert Ebner-Statt and Billy Briggs, who just pipped Westway's finest Kacper Mikowski & Theo Santos to the top spot.
My thanks go to Eton for hosting the tournament, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship and to all those who came and played, and particularly to Ian Hutchinson and Andy Barnard for their terrific support.
I.Jochim & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat E.Evans & M.Bevans 15-1
T.Seely & P.Patel beat E.Clutton & W.Tate 15-9
F.Prickett & N.Shepard beat A.Kumararuban & A.Sivathasan 15-10
P.Ashworth & J.Barley beat C.Stone & J.Artis 15-5
I.Jochim & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat T.Seely & P.Patel 2-0 (12-1, 12-2)
P.Ashworth & J.Barley beat F.Prickett & N.Shepard 2-0 (12-5, 12-4)
I.Jochim & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat P.Asworth & J.Barley 2-0 (12-8, 12-6)
F.Prickett & N.Shepard beat T.Seely & P.Patel 12-4
E.Clutton & W.Tate beat E.Evans & M.Bevans 15-8
C.Stone & J.Artis beat A.Kumararuban & A.Sivathasan 15-14
E.Clutton & W.Tate beat C.Stone & J.Artis 15-11
1. R.Ebner-Statt & B.Briggs
2. K.Mikowski & T.Santos
3. L.Drummond & L.Siriwardana
4. S.Barker & J.Graff
5. A.Arango & J.Haddo
E.Graham & K.Oswald beat R.Farquharson & C.Mainwaring 2-0 (12-8, 12-2)
F.Butler & J.Tu beat P.Watkins & G.Norman 2-0 (12-5, 12-1)
F.Butler & J.Tu beat E.Graham & K.Oswald 2-0 (12-7, 12-5)
R.Farquharson & C.Mainwaring beat P.Watkins & G.Norman 15-8
S.Whittal & E.Hurford beat L.Thomas & O.Millar 15-14
A.Mupesa & A.Mupesa beat A.Cox & A.Pegge 15-12
A.Mupesa & A.Mupesa beat S.Whittal & E.Hurford 2-1 (8-12, 12-11, 12-11)
A.Cox & A.Pegge beat J.Fraser-Andrews & A.Beardsmore 15-7
L.Thomas & O.Millar beat C.Taylor & C.Sowden 15-3
A.Cox & A.Pegge beat L.Thomas & O.Millar 15-7
J.Fraser-Andrews & A.Beardsmore beat C.Taylor & C.Sowden 15-9