Top Seeds Win The Under 25s
26/10/20: Top seeds Phoebe Bracken & Marjolaine Briscoe and Hugo Young & Noah Caplin won their respective Under 25 in association with Advanta Wealth titles at Eton yesterday.
Watch the finals here:
Saturday's Universities tournaments had established the template for running a Fives tournament under the new COVID regulations, and with many of the same players back for a second day in a row, the Under 25s ran smoothly and succesfully.
There was a field of three for the women's tournament - several strong pairs having to pull out in the run up due to having to self-isolate - and fourteen for the men's competition and there were plenty of high quality pairs on show, demonstrating some of the best that the next generation of Fives players have to offer.
The women's competition was a Highgate v Shrewsbury shoot out with two Cholmeleian pairs and one Salopian pair playing each other in a round robin format. Ex-Oxford captain Georgia Allen and youngster Catherine Vos played some excellent Fives but were outgunned at the set piece, firstly by defending champions Phoebe Bracken & Marjolaine Briscoe and then by Salopians Issy Wong & Harriet Shuker, leaving those two pairs to battle it out for the trophy. Phoebe and Marjolaine make a formidable pair - Phoebe came into this tournament having won it every year since 2014 and Marjolaine has spent the last three seasons racking up wins in the U21, U25 and Universities tournaments as well as twice making the semi-finals of the senior women's nationals. They have not often come up against opposition like Issy & Harriet before, however, and the speed, power and athleticism of the Shrewsbury pair caught the champions cold at the start of the first game. Issy & Harriet moved out to a significant early lead and also made it to foot down first as Phoebe & Marjolaine began to find their range and reduce the deficit. Needing to convert the game point to capitalise on their early blitz, Issy & Harriet were unable to find the return and rally they needed and Phoebe & Marjolaine gradually reeled them in to level at 11-11 and then take the game 14-11. This was the decisive moment in the match, as the Cholmeleian pair had now got the measure of the Salopian power game and were returning a much higher proportion of cuts. The second game was mainly one-way traffic as Phoebe & Marjolaine raced towards another title, but there was no doubt that they knew they'd been in a match with a talented younger pair who will certainly continue to challenge at this level if they keep playing together.
The line-up for the men's tournament was very exciting on paper with a strong top end as well as strength in depth. There was a lingering disappointment that the potential pairing of Alfred Backhouse & Will Sissons didn't quite come together but with five time champion Riki Houlden now over 25, there were still plenty of pairs keen to hunt down defending champion Hugo Young and his now established partner Noah Caplin.
The 14 pairs were divided up into three groups in order to whittle down the field to eight quarter-finalists and the results generally went to form: Young & Caplin and Millhillians Charles Plummer & Hal Gibson-Leitao won their groups fairly comfortably, Tom McCahon & Nathan Turnbull got the better of Sahil Shah & Alex Abrahams in the battle to top Group B and Ipswichians Isaac Wagland & Sam Christopher qualified well. In the other key match ups to decide the last three quarter-final places, Salopians Pete Clark & Ed Evans were too strong for Newburians Will Seath & Poom Hall and Cambridge past & present pair Nick Choustikov & Phil Wilkinson; Olavians Isaac Jochim & Swastik Gupta outplayed the Old Elizabethan pairing of Viral Gudiwala & Akhil Shah and Westminsters Can Koksal & Ben Merrett got the better of Salopians Marcus Van Wyk & Tom Castling. Another Cambridge pair in George Poole & Alex Butcher and a Newbury/Shrewsbury alliance in Bilal Anwar & Ed Porter put in some promising performances, sharpening their game ready for an assault on the Plate.
The Plate featured the six non-qualifying pairs plus women's tournament runners-up Issy Wong & Harriet Shuker, who were keen to give some of the men's pairs a run for their money. The pairs were split into two groups, one with a Cambridge focus and the other a more Shrewsbury/Newbury affair. The winners of each group went through to the final, which saw Viral Gudiwala continue his bid to be the new Tony Stubbs with a second plate victory in two days as he and Akhil Shah beat Will Seath & Poom Hall.
The quarter-finals of the main competition all proved fairly comfortable for the four top seeded pairs: Jochim & Gupta were unable to make much of an impression on Young & Caplin; Plummer & Gibson-Leitao began to move through the gears at the expense of Evans & Clark; Merrett & Koksal's match against Abrahams & Shah took quite a long time but they were never really able to get close on the scoreboard and "wild cards" Wagland & Christopher ran into the in form McCahon & Turnbull.
Hugo & Noah - last season's breakthrough pair with great runs in both the Northern tournament and Kinnaird Cup - again looked in fine fettle in the first semi-final as Sahil Shah's dreams of a weekend double were extinguished thanks to some ruthless Fives from the top seeds. In the other half of the draw, Plummer & Gibson-Leitao produced a terrific performance to win through 12-9, 12-9 against the dangerous McCahon & Turnbull, following up their final appearances in the last two U21 tournaments with a first final in the U25s.
The man who stopped them winning the U21s back in December was there blocking their path again in the shape of Hugo Young and it was he & Noah who made the early running in the final, their greater consistency at the set piece and attacking threat around the court giving them the edge in the first game, which they won 12-7. When they raced to a 9-0 lead in the second game, it looked like it was all over, but Hugo had already faltered once this weekend from a similar position (in Saturday's Universities semi-final) and it only took a couple of unforced errors to give Charles & Hal a chance to get back in the match, a chance that they took with alacrity as Charles began to produce his best Fives in and around the buttress with Hal strong from the back of the court and beginning to find some effective cut returns. All of a sudden from 0-9 down, the Millhillians were 10-9 up and right back in the game. The subsequent passage of play was riveting and the best Fives of the competition. Hugo refound his equilibrium in the nick of time, with the help of some determined and timely contributions from Noah, but they were now up against a pair who were growing in confidence and feeling that victory might yet be within their grasp. In the end, though, it was Hugo & Noah who found the inspiration to get themselves over the line 15-13 after a captivating second game, giving Hugo a second successive win in the competition and Noah a first victory at this level, a fantastic achievement from a player who learned his Fives at Westway and who has gradually worked his way up through the ranks, having first played (not especially succesfully!) in this tournament as a young schoolboy at Westway eight years ago.
Our thanks go to Bill Norton, Ryan Perrie and Sherias Gumbs at Eton for hosting the tournament, to Advanta Wealth for their continued sponsorship of the event and to all those who came and played and made it such a memorable day.
M.Briscoe & P.Bracken beat G.Allen & C.Vos 2-0 (12-3, 12-0)
I.Wong & H.Shuker beat G.Allen & C.Vos 2-0 (12-4, 12-2)
M.Briscoe & P.Bracken beat I.Wong & H.Shuker 2-0 (14-11, 12-2)
H.Young & N.Caplin beat I.Jochim & S.Gupta 15-1
A.Abrahams & S.Shah beat B.Merrett & C.Koksal 15-8
T.McCahon & N.Turnbull beat I.Wagland & S.Christopher 15-6
C.Plummer & H.Gibson-Leitao beat P.Clark & E.Evans 15-0
H.Young & N.Caplin beat A.Abrahams & S.Shah 2-0 (12-2, 12-1)
C.Plummer & H.Gibson-Leitao beat T.McCahon & N.Turnbull 2-0 (12-9, 12-9)
H.Young & N.Caplin beat C.Plummer & H.Gibson-Leitao 2-0 (12-7, 15-13)
1. W.Seath & P.Hall
2. T.Castling & M.Van Wyk
3. B.Anwar & E.Porter
4. I.Wong & H.Shuker
1. V.Gudiwala & A.Shah
2. P.Wilkinson & N.Choustikov
3. G.Poole & A.Butcher
V.Gudiwala & A.Shah beat W.Seath & P.Hall 12-6