Masters of the Mixed
24/04/17: A near record entry of 24 pairs took part in the 2017 Mixed Tournament at Eton yesterday, as undoubtedly the strongest field in the 32 year history of the competition enjoyed a fantastic day of Fives.
Seb & Charlotta Cooley proved themselves to be still the masters of the mixed format with a sixth consecutive victory together and an eleventh altogether for Charlotta.
With almost all of the top women taking part and several of the highest ranked men, the competition was fierce right from the start to claim the top two qualifying spots in each group and make it into the quarter-finals. The top eight seeds did make it through, although the order was almost overturned by Elana Osen & Ant Theodossi who led last year's runners-up Karen Hird & Riki Houlden 11-7 before losing 12-11. Natalie Lilienthal & Andrew Rennie's challenge was hampered by an early injury to Andrew and further down the tables there were impressive wins from Wendy Carling & John Cooley, Anna Platz & Jon Staley and Sarah Greasley & Andy Bishop to get themselves into the higher plate competition.
The morning group stages over, the field reassembled after lunch in the sunshine for the three afternoon competitions. The top eight pairs were into the quarter-finals of the main competition, the middle eight pairs all after the coveted Plate A Dossi Dish and the remaining seven - with Rennie now hors de combat and on photography duty - fighting hard for Plate B glory.
Plate B consisted of two groups played on a round robin basis followed by a final and contained several young and/or inexperienced pairs, all of whom improved hugely during the day. It was great to see Holyport staff pair Faye Kerr and Joe DaCosta playing in their first ever competition but it was one of the Holyport youngsters - Flaminia De Las Morenas - who along with Ipswich schoolboy Isaac Weaver came top of their group to take on Plate B bandits Emily O'Malley & Spencer Chapman in the final. The older pair came out on top 15-10 but the youngsters put in a great performance to make it that far.
Meanwhile, Plate A was producing some of the most exciting Fives of the day; the quarter-finals were fairly straightforward and notable mainly for a victory for Turnbull F over brother Turnbull N before the competition exploded into life at the semi-final stage. Ipswichians Eloise Carter & Will Gibbons held off the challenge of Harry Asquith & Ralph Morgan by the skin of their teeth in the first semi-final while in the other match Francesca Turnbull & Gareth Hoskins came from a long way behind to pip the disbelieving Carolina Valensise & Jack Flowers at the death, both matches finishing 15-14. The final - with a strong Ipswichian flavour - was a tremendous match and nip and tuck for a long time with the two schoolgirls playing at their absolute best before Eloise Carter took a grip on the contest with some stunning cutting and returning to take her and Will through to a well-deserved victory.
The main tournament this year produced eight quarter-finalists of a standard never before seen in the 32 year history of this competition. The Highgate challenge from Eve Smith-Bingham & Dan Marshall, Phoebe Bracken & Dave Mew and Amira Reimer & Joe Marks foundered at this point in the competition as they all went down 15-7 at the hands of Cooley & Cooley, Scoones & Ho and Hird & Houlden respectively. The other quarter-final saw regular partners Ant Theodossi and Ryan Perrie in opposition for once, with Ryan & Ashley Lumbard coming thorugh 15-10 winners over Ant & Elana Osen.
Seb & Charlotta Cooley have had things all their own way for a long time in the Mixed so there was a palpable sense of excitement during the first game of their semi-final as Ryan & Ashley matched them shot for shot and point for point all the way to 11-11. The Cooleys won the sudden death battle, though, and then went on to win the second game to 6, but it is greatly to Ryan & Ashley's credit that they had to work as hard as they did to avoid an upset. The other semi-final was a repeat of last year's as Karen Hird & Riki Houlden took on Emily Scoones & Jonny Ho. Hird & Houlden had the upper hand in the first game, winning to 7 but the second was a nail-biting epic, going all the way to 14-14 before Karen & Riki won the crucial point to make it into the final for the second year in succession, leaving Emily & Jonny frustrated at not having been able to force a deciding game.
The effort required in beating Emily & Jonny had taken a lot out of Karen & Riki, however, and with Seb & Charlotta having banished any lingering complacency after their semi-final scare, the result in the final was never really in doubt. Karen & Riki tried hard and there were some fantastic rallies, but the Cooleys always had the upper hand and ran out comfortable winners.
This was a wonderful day's Fives, a real celebration of the increasing depth and standards in the women's game in particular and a perfect example of why Fives is a great game for all. Thanks to all those who played, to Richard Black for presenting the trophies and to Mike Hughes and everyone at Eton for hosting the competition.
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat E.Smith-Bingham & D.Marshall 15-7
A.Lumbard & R.Perrie beat E.Osen & A.Theodossi 15-10
E.Scoones & J.Ho beat P.Bracken & D.Mew 15-7
K.Hird & R.Houlden beat A.Reimer & J.Marks 15-7
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat A.Lumbard & R.Perrie 2-0 (12-11, 12-6)
K.Hird & R.Houlden beat E.Scoones & J.Ho 2-0 (12-7, 15-14)
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat K.Hird & R.Houlden 2-0 (12-4, 12-3)
Quarter-Finalists Plate Final
E.Smith-Bingham & D.Marshall beat E.Osen & A.Theodossi 15-10
Plate A - The "Dossi Dish"
H.Asquith & R.Morgan beat S.Greasley & A.Bishop 15-8
E.Carter & W.Gibbons beat W.Carling & J.Cooley 15-3
F.Turnbull & G.Hoskins beat S.Xu & N.Turnbull 15-8
C.Valensise & J.Flowers beat A.Platz & J.Staley 15-1
E.Carter & W.Gibbons beat H.Asquith & R.Morgan 15-14
F.Turnbull & G.Hoskins beat C.Valensise & J.Flowers 15-14
E.Carter & W.Gibbons beat F.Turnbull & G.Hoskins 15-10
H.Asquith & R.Morgan beat C.Valensise & J.Flowers 15-8
Quarter-Finalists Plate Final
S.Greasley & A.Bishop beat S.Xu & N.Turnbull 15-7
Plate B Final
E.O'Malley & S.Chapman beat F.De Las Morenas & I.Weaver 15-10