Sathiyamoorthy & Young Win A Thrilling Under 21 Final
16/12/19: Hugo Young won his fourth trophy of the season and Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy retained his title as they teamed up to defeat Millhillians Hal Gibson-Leitao & Charles Plummer in an exciting and high quality five game final of the U21s in association with Advanta Wealth at Eton yesterday.
The squeeze on the number of available weekends after Christmas meant that this year's Under 21 competition had been moved to a new pre-Christmas slot, which didn't prove to be a huge success in terms of numbers, with only five pairs making it to Eton for the men's competition. What was lacking in quantity, however, was made up for in quality with a terrific day's Fives and a final worthy of any tournament.
The bulk of the competition was played as a round robin, with the five pairs playing each other in two game matches. Going into the final round, Olavians Isaac Jochim & Swastik Gupta had already cemented third place with two wins and two defeats. Cambridge's Viral Gudiwala & Nick Choustikov and Olavians Arnav Barry & Louis Maclean battled it out for fourth & fifth, drawing 1-1 to share the spoils.
This left the two unbeaten pairs to face each other and with plenty of time available it was decided to play the final as a best of five match. The only disappointing aspect of that decision was that more people were not present to watch what has to go down as one of the best matches of the season, a scintillating three hour, five game battle between last year's runners-up, Millhillians Charles Plummer & Hal Gibson-Leitao, and the Olavian defending champion Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy, this time partnering Old Westminster Hugo Young, already a winner of the U25, Universities and Midlands titles this season.
The first game was fast and furious, with the return dominating the cut and points being scored at a rate of knots. Hal was producing some solid play, especially from the back court, and Charles was showing the sort of form that saw him win the EFA Young Player of the Year award a couple of years ago, his cut return and reflex volleying especially impressive, not least with an astonishing gameball cut return that looked like it was about to take his head off, but was somehow turned into a left-handed volley winner around the walls and into the buttress.
Hugo & Prajeeth were playing some very solid and steady Fives, and although their peaks were not perhaps quite as high as those of their opponents at their absolute best, their greater consistency and especially their improved cutting saw them begin to take control of the match from 7-7 in the second game, moving first to 12-7 to level at 1-1 and then take a 4-0 win in the third. Hal & Charles were never quite able to cut their opponents down with the same regularity and therefore had to produce some outstanding play in the rallies to both stop their opponents scoring and keep the scoreboard ticking over themselves. From 4-0 down in the third, they did just that and for the next 45 minutes or so looked the likely winners, hitting a fabulous purple patch to turn a 0-4 deficit into a 12-6 third game win and keeping their noses ahead for most of the fourth game. The match turned on the final stages of the fourth game. Hal & Charlie were 10-8 up and within two points of the title; they had a couple of half chances to get to 11 but couldn't convert. Hugo's winning run this season has given him the confidence to keep playing his game even in difficult circumstances and in his short career Prajeeth has already shown (not least in last year's U21 competition) that he has a knack of producing his best Fives in the big moments. Suddenly the finishing line - so close a few moments before - moved further away as the score was levelled at 10-10 and although it took them a while to get to 15 and win the game, Hugo & Prajeeth always looked the more likely winners from that point on.
With cramp kicking in a little bit for the Millhillians and Hugo & Prajeeth buoyed by their impressive comeback in the fourth game, the fifth looked like it might run away from Hal & Charles and it is greatly to their credit that they regrouped after losing an early flurry of points and continued to play well and pose a threat, although they were never quite able to produce the run of points they needed to get back on terms. Hugo & Prajeeth continued to cut well whenever their opponents looked like they might get on a run and closed the match out with great efficiency to claim the title after just over three hours of splendid entertainment.
The women's competition will be held later in the season.
My thanks go to Eton for hosting the tournament, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship and to the pairs who made the effort to come to Eton and produce such an excellent day of Fives.
H.Young & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat C.Plummer & H.Gibson-Leitao 3-2 (9-12, 12-7, 6-12, 15-12, 12-7)
3rd - I.Jochim & S.Gupta
=4th - V.Gudiwala & N.Choustikov
=4th - A.Barry & L.Maclean