2000/01 Keeling Cup

Malcolm Keeling reports:

After last season's rather special millennium tournament, raising funds for charity in memory of Tony Hughes, we reverted to the usual procedure this year, where the players competed just for pride and prizes!

As usual there were eight players contesting six rounds, which took place at various venues ... this season's line-up was: C.Friend, M.Hughes, P.Marshall, R.Mason, K.Rudman, E.Taylor, R.Tyler & E.Wass

As ever, we are most grateful to the schools for the use of court facilities...and this year we are indebted to Aldenham, Highgate, Berkhamsted and Ludgrove.

This year will be remembered for a combination of excellent fives, a lot of substitutions, many 3-0s and a very clear winner! No less than eight substitutions had to be made...five of which involved the somewhat reluctant organiser! We were grateful to Ian Hutchinson, Seb Cooley, Jon Mole and Jamie Halstead for making themselves available on the other occasions.

Karl Rudman got off to a flying start, looking to be playing more aggressively than in previous years. He lead the field after two rounds with seven out of eight points. He then performed a miraculous and spectacular nosedive, managing only half a point in the next four!

Courtney Friend, in his first tournament found, as many have in the past, that progress in the Individual can be a little 'slow' at times. In fact, he failed to bother the scorers until round 5! When he did, however, there was no stopping him...he extracted maximum points from his last two games and finished up fifth.

In this event, anyone who is substituted only gets half the points earned by his replacement and Mssrs. Hughes, Marshall & Taylor all needed to be subbed too often to give themselves a chance at the top placings. Although Mike, now known as 'half-points' Hughes somehow mangaged to finish up fourth! His well thought out tactic of making sure he was in Geneva for most of the rounds, was ingenious and very nearly won him a prize!

Marshall's 'stay-away' tactics backfired badly and they may yet prove to be of interest to Sir Paul Condon and his enquiries! After Round 1, he seemed resolute and determined to finish up bottom. In the clandestine circles of the game, whispers of him and a heinous match fixing scandal have been getting louder by the day!!!

It was good to have Richard Tyler back after a serious injury and playing as competitively as ever. His eventual position showed that his form was good throughout, and after one of the organiser's infamous arbitary decisions in the final round, he probably has every right to feel aggrieved at not finishing a place higher!!

Last year's champion, Robin Mason, arguably started again as favourite this year. However, he got off to a bad start with a 3-1 defeat, playing with Hughes against Wass & Rudman...he recovered in Round 2 but then suffered two consecutive 3-0 defeats in Rounds 4 and 5, which effectively put him out of title contention. In the end he managed second place by only winning three out six of his matches, which is somewhat unusual and has never previously been done!

The 2001 Individual was also memorable for another factor...the dominance of the eventual winner over the rest of the field. The point dropped in the Round 1 match, just mentioned, turned out to be the only point he dropped, as Eddie Wass went on to blitz his way through the subsequent five rounds, trailblazing to his third Individual title, a record winning total of twenty-three points, and a staggering 10.5 point winning margin! In at least two rounds, his volleying was the best I had seen from him in five years. He was seemingly unpassable at times, no matter what speed, height, spin or angle opponents applied to the ball. His improved fitness was clearly one major factor for him this year...and as a result, taking fewer "rests" during matches! I would venture to suggest that all Eddie's future opponents should keep praying that his fitness fades and that his cutting never reaches the standard of his volleying!!

We had 'the bet' again this year, where everyone puts in a fiver and attempts to predict what the final four placings would be. When the selections were revealed in the Crooked Billet, near Ludgrove, after the Final it was clear, as usual, that hardly anyone got very close to either naming all the four players correctly or getting them in the correct order. The winner, Robin, in fact only managed to get two names correct and in order, which doesn't say much for the rest! ...and one of those correct predictions was for the winner, which wasn't himself. He was actually the only one out of the nine entrants who didn't name himself for 1st place!...Oh Dear!?...another one for Sir Paul I think!!!! Anyway, Robin gratefully accepted the £45 pot and was shortly afterwards seen hurrying off in the general direction of the M3!

Results

Round 1

E Wass & K Rudman beat M Hughes & R Mason 12-9;7-12;12-7;12-8
E Taylor & R Tyler beat C Friend & P Marshall 12-5;12-9;12-4

Round 2

E Wass & M Hughes beat E Taylor & C Friend 12-9;12-7;12-11
K Rudman & R Mason beat R Tyler & M Keeling 12-9;12-1;12-5

Round 3

E Wass & M Keeling beat K Rudman & E Taylor 12-1;12-8;12-9
I Hutchinson & E Taylor beat R Mason & C Friend 12-10;14-11;14-12

Round 4

R.Mason & R.Tyler beat P.Marshall & M.Keeling 12-8;12-5;12-4
E.Wass & E.Taylor beat C.Friend & S.Cooley 12-4;12-3;12-10

Round 5

E Wass & C Friend beat M Keeling (sub for E Taylor) & R Mason 3-0 12-2;12-8;12-5
P Marshall & J Halstead (sub for M Hughes) beat K Rudman & R Tyler 9-12;14-12;12-9;12-7

Round 6
M Hughes & C Friend beat K Rudman & M Keeling 3-0
E Wass & R Mason beat R Tyler & J Mole 3-0

Here is a summary of the prizewinners (top three places) for both this year and also over the past nine year history of the Individual Challenge...a tale of nine years and nine players...one might say!

Final Positions 2001

1st Place - Eddie Wass (23 points)
2nd Place - Robin |Mason (12.5 points)
3rd Place - Richard Tyler (12.5 points)

(maximum 24 points)

1993 - 2001
Player..........1st Place..........2nd Place..........3rd Place
B.Matthews.........5.......................-.......................1
E.Wass...............3......................1.......................-
R.Mason..............1......................3.......................3
R.Tyler................-......................2........................2
P.Marshall............-.......................1.......................1
M.Blundell............-......................1.......................-
E.Taylor...............-.....................1........................-
C.Cooley..............-......................-.......................1
M.Keeling.............-......................-.......................1

On a personal note to finish... this has been my last Individual Challenge as organiser, which also coincides with my retirement from playing Fives. I am genuinely so grateful for everything the game has given me.

I am delighted to say that this tournament is to continue next season (and hopefully for many years beyond) under the guidance of Richard Tyler, who will, I am absolutely sure, do an admirable job as Organiser. I shall be staying very much in touch with the Individual and hopefully with all my good friends in the world of Fives.

I will sign off here, if I may, by saying what a huge amount of fun the whole adventure has been for me over nearly forty years of association with this great game!