2009/10 Under 21s Tournament: First Ever Winners

The first ever EFA Under 21s Tournament took place at Eton on Sunday 25th April, with some terrific Fives and two tremendously exciting finals, with the mens title being won by Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O'Neill and the ladies by Emily Scoones and Natalie Lilienthal.

After several attempts over the years and many false dawns, an EFA Under 21s tournament finally took place at Eton on Sunday April 25th. Despite the best efforts of organisers Laurie Brock and Gareth Hoskins the entry was a small one, thanks to ash cloud-induced flight delays, tennis tournaments, geography field trips, university exams, oversleeping, delayed trains and general apathy. Nevertheless, the two finals were both of high quality and tremendously close and a Mixed plate competition provided an entertaining afternoon's Fives.

The six pairs in the mens competition played each other in the morning in the group stages to determine who would go through to the final. The seedings were nearly upset by Ipswichians Will Gibbons and Dave Leach, who narrowly failed to convert potentially winning leads against top seeds Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O'Neill and second seeds Laurie and Callum Brock, who duly went on to qualify for the final. The second Ipswichian pair, Oli Watts and Pete Baxter, also pushed the seeds hard, whilst Aldenham schoolboys Carl Rennie and George Mizel and Old Cholmeleians Alex Franklin and Guy Woolf gave good accounts of themselves.

The Ladies final in the morning was an absolute classic. Cambridge University pair Eli Hullis and Olivia Prankerd-Smith, taking advantage of having played together regularly, gained the upper hand early on against scratch pairing Natalie Lilienthal from Cambridge and Old Cholmeleian Emily Scoones and hung on to win the first game 15-12. In the second, however, momentum began to shift as Emily began to dominate the buttress with Natalie returning cut well and supporting strongly. An 11-6 lead became an edgy 11-9 before the match was levelled at one all. The decider was nip and tuck all the way with all four players playing some terrific Fives. It would have taken a brave punter to have put money confidently on either pair winning right up until virtually the last point, and in the end it was Natalie and Emily who ran out 15-13 winners to take the title.

The non-qualifiers from the mens tournament then joined forces with the ladies for a quickfire round robin Mixed Plate competition with games up to 8. With the numbers not quite balancing, Carl and George continued playing together, but started each game 2-0 down. Despite the handicap, the Aldenham boys were good enough to come out on top and win the plate competition, although only by the smallest of margins with the same number of wins but a slightly better points difference than the top mixed pair Eli Hullis and Pete Baxter. The Watts siblings, Oli and Izzy, finished one point behind in third.

Meanwhile, on an adjacent court, the mens final was producing a match to grace any tournament. The match went pretty much to form in the first game, with the top seeded Berkhamstedian pair of Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O'Neill winning 12-9 despite some impressive rallying from the Brock brothers. In the second game, however, Laurie began to take control and with his younger brother Callum playing way beyond expectations and producing the best Fives of his life, the Westminster pair increased the pressure and the Berkhamstedians started to make mistakes. The Brocks took the second game 12-10 and reached game ball first in the third. In what proved to be the crucial phase of the game, however, they were unable to convert any of their foot down chances and Andrew and Jeremy snatched the third game 13-12. The fourth game was equally tense and a five game thriller looked on the cards for quite a while until finally the experience and shotmaking ability of the top seeds proved enough to win the game 12-9 and take the title with a 3-1 win.

Thanks are due to Eton for allowing us to use the courts; to Laurie Brock for his organisational efforts; to Lindsey Brock for her support and for presenting the trophies and to all the players who made the effort to turn out and make the tournament a great success. We look forward to seeing a lot more of you at next year's event.

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