2001 National Schools' Championships

Mark Williams reports:

Two hundred and forty-five pairs from twenty-three different schools contested this year's Championships at Harrow School.

The format was much as before, with a Pools stage in each competition at first, and Plates for those who failed to progress beyond the second round. It was especially pleasing to welcome representatives this year from Stoke Newington for the first time, and to see City of London with 5 senior pairs. Bob Felce lead the annual pilgrimage from Zuoz, including a healthy number of girls, who also participated in the national Mixed Competition the previous weekend. The Championships were contested in a friendly and uncontroversial manner throughout, and there were many closely fought but good humoured matches, which were a credit to both players and coaches.

HSBC once again generously sponsored the Championships, as well as entertaining their guests and the fives Masters at a grand champagne reception and dinner at Harrow. Our thanks are due to the Head Master, Bursar, two House Masters and the Catering Manager for providing courts in much improved condition, accommodation and catering respectively, and especially to Tom Dawson for overseeing all of the arrangements at the Harrow end. Finally my thanks to Ken Hughes, and all those who kindly volunteered to run Plate competitions for their help in running various aspects of the Championships on the day.

OPEN COMPETITION

Forty-six pairs from fourteen schools entered the Open Competition, and pairs from St Olave's, Highgate, Shrewsbury and Eton (3 each), Berkhamsted (2) and Harrow, and King Edward's (1 each) reached the third round. Highgate 1, Eton 1 and Harrow 1 all won easily, and Berkahmsted 1 were pushed hard by Shrewsbury 2, but still won in straight games. The other matches provided several shocks however. Shrewsbury 1, number 2 seeds, were a game up against Highgate 3 when Jacob Walters severely wrenched his ankle and had to retire. This was a great shame since he had been a losing finalist last year, and had every chance of going one better this time. St Olave's 2 were involved in a splendid tussle with Eton 3 which drew level at 2-2 before St Olave's took control of the fifth. After a very close third game, Highgate 2 found themselves 2-1 down against St Olave's 1, but pulled through the fourth and fifth relatively easily. Eton 2 lead 2-1 against King Edward's 1, but then lost the fourth to love, before winning the fifth 12-5. Thus three of the seven seeds had fallen at this stage and more shocks were to come.

On the morning of the quarter-final, James Willis of Harrow woke with a nasty virus which affected his balance and had to withdraw. This prevented Peter Dunbar from defending his title, and also deprived Willis the chance of playing in the Doubles Rackets final at Queen's. Highgate 2 were the beneficiaries. All three other quarter-finals went to four games. Highgate 1 dropped the second game 12-14 to St Olave's 2, but otherwise won easily. Eton 2 dropped the third game 12-15 to Highgate 3, but otherwise won comfortably. The match of the round however was between Berkhamsted 1 and Eton 1. Berkhamsted played very positively and aggressively in a tight first game to win 12-8. Eton then rallied well to level the match 12-8. Berkhamsted then upped their game, maintaining consistent pressure and aggressive tactics to win the third and fourth games 12-7, 12-5 as Eton rather lost the will to fight.

The various withdrawals and upsets left a lower semi-final that no one could possibly have predicted, with the second and third seeds conceding. Highgate 2 won relatively comfortably in straight games against Eton 2 who never really recaptured their form of two days before. The other semi-final was a classic however. Highgate 1, number 1 seeds, who had had a relatively easy passage thus far were taken completely by surprise by Berkhamsted 1, who stormed into a 2-0 lead 12-0, 12-5 in what was effectively the final, with more aggressive, robust and attacking play. It's fair to say that they had won over most of the neutral support, and Highgate knew that they were in a dogfight. Highgate dug deep and improved their set piece play and accuracy in the rallies, but the third game still took an age. Eventually Highgate came through 12-5, but it was closer than that. Rodwell and Herring refused to yield for Berkhamsted however, and there followed two very close games, contested hard to the end, where Highgate just had sufficient nous and determination to see off opponents still playing the game of their lives. It was a wonderful testament and climax to the work that Jeff Tolchard has done at Berkhamsted (he has just taken early retirement), and his pair played with distinction to silence one or two who had questioned their seeding position. In many ways it was a shame that they couldn't quite finish the job, but as some consolation, Jeff received a standing ovation from his peers at the dinner that evening.

And so to a final between Highgate 1 and 2 which in prospect seemed rather an anti-climax. Thanks to Rodwell and Eleftheriou who rose splendidly to the occasion, the match was extremely watchable however, with some wonderful attacking fives from both sides, and remarkable retrieving from the second pair, who refused to yield in a close third game until the final point was played (12-10). In the end however, the class and speed of thought and reaction of Varma, and the steadiness and skill of Young proved decisive as the first pair won in straight games. The match reflected great credit on Brian Matthews and his coaching team at Highgate, and was played in an excellent but competitive spirit throughout, and was Highgate's first win at this level since 1995.

Semi-finals:

Highgate 1 (A.S.Varma & H.Young) beat Berkhamsted 1 (J.M.Rodwell & M.R.Herring) 0-12, 5-12, 12-5, 12-9, 12-7.

Highgate 2 (O.D.Rodwell & G.A.Eleftheriou) beat Eton 2 (E.P.J.Nissen & R.C.Wallace) 12-5, 12-5, 12-9.

Final:

Highgate 1 beat Highgate 2 12-8, 12-2, 12-10.

The Paul Dicker Plate was won by Lyceum Alpinum 2 (S.Cybulski & M.Stotter).

Plate B was won by Highgate 4 (D.Davis & A.Lewis).

Plate C was won by King Edward's 3 (V.Dewan & R.Kalia)

UNDER 16 COMPETITION

Thirty-two pairs from nine schools entered the Under 16 Competition, and pairs from Highgate (5), Eton and Shrewsbury (3 each), Berkhamsted (2), and St Olave's, Aldenham and Mill Hill (1 each) reached the second round. Eton 1 and 2, Highgate 2 and 3, and Shrewsbury 1 all won in straight games, but Berkhamsted 1 dropped a game to Highgate 4, and there were two close five setters. Highgate 1 were given a real battle by Eton 3, who only lost 9-12 in the fifth. Four of the five games between Mill Hill 1 and Shrewsbury 2 were set before Mill Hill just squeezed through 14-13 in the fifth.

All the quarter-finals produced interesting matches. Although Highgate 1 won in straight games, Mill Hill 1 came very close in all three 14-13, 15-13, 12-9. Similarly Shrewsbury 1 made Berkhamsted 1 battle all the way through another straight games win 12-8, 13-12, 13-10. Eton 1 won the first, second and fourth games easily, but Highgate 3 fought hard to win the third 15-13, which was the only game Eton dropped in the tournament. The match of the round was between Highgate 2 and Eton 2 however. Highgate seemed in control against last year's Under 15 winners and went 2-0 up. Eton 2 squeezed through the third game and won the fourth easily, and lead 8-6 in the fifth. Highgate somehow found the determination to pull back and go on to win 12-10.

Berkhamsted 1 fought hard in all three games in their semi-final with Eton 1; Bartholomew's aggression and left-handed Page's deft touches ruffling a few feathers. Ultimately however, the Eton pair had too many shots, and showed sufficient determination to see off the challenge in straight games. The other semi-final between Highgate 1 and 2 see-sawed both ways, and as can be seen from the scores, only one game was close. The second pair ultimately triumphed 12-3 in the fifth.

Hard though Patel and Savitz fought in the final with some remarkable retrieving and determined cutting, they could not match the Eton pair's consistency and class. The Nissen brothers, having things much their own way, won in straight games pretty comfortably. Charlie the elder cut consistently well, retrieved efficiently and played plenty of good attacking volleys. Eddie the younger (under 15) showed real class and balance to take control of the match with telling returns of cut and volleying to length. This was Eton's first win since 1994 at this level and their fourth victory overall.

Semi-finals:

Eton 1 (C.P.A.Nissen & E.P.J.Nissen) beat Berkhamsted 1 (R.J.Bartholomew & A.R.E.Page) 12-6, 12-8, 12-9.

Highgate 2 (A.Patel & R.M.Savitz) beat Highgate 1 (T.A.Cowley & D.C.Goldschmidt) 2-12, 12-4, 12-9, 4-12, 12-3.

Final:

Eton 1 beat Highgate 2 12-1, 12-8, 12-5.

Plate A was won by Shrewsbury 4 (P.Lewis & S.Lock)

Plate B was won by Berkhamsted 6 (J.M.Rozwadski & J.L.Read)

UNDER 14 COMPETITION

Forty-eight pairs from ten schools entered the Under 14 Competition, and pairs from Highgate Junior (5), Highgate, Eton, Shrewsbury and Mill Hill (2 each), and St Olave's, Q.E.Barnet, and Harrow (1 each) reached the third round. This was a remarkable achievement by a very strong Highgate Junior entry, four of their pairs reached the quarter-final, and the only pair that didn't gave Eton 1 a real fright in four close games. Mill Hill 1 had to play well to beat Shrewsbury 2 3-1, and Highgate Junior 3 just saw off Shrewsbury 1 in five games. Meanwhile Highgate Junior 1, Highgate 1 and Harrow 1 all won easily.

All of the quarter-finals were won in straight games by the first pairs of Highgate Junior, Highgate, Eton and Harrow. Highgate Junior had too many shots for a much improved Eton pair in the semi-final, and Harrow had to hold their nerve in the fourth game against Highgate to win 12-10 after losing the first game.

The final was a wonderful match, closely contested and with varying styles which was inevitable since Sewell was twice the size of any of the other players on court. The giant would go for straight winners and powerful shots, whereas the others played much more accurately and delicately, and retrieved more consistently. Each pair won one of the first two games easily, but Harrow took an important lead to win the third 12-8 with Bone playing some telling shots, and Little and O'Callaghan looked flustered for the only time in the match. They rallied well in the fourth with some determined accurate play as Harrow eased off a little, but in the fifth the pendulum swung each way, and it was anyone's match as Harrow took an 8-7 lead. Highgate Junior now produced some splendidly consistent rally play and volleying to take control as Sewell tired, and they won without conceding a further point. This was the fourth time that Highgate Junior have won this competition in the last 12 years; a remarkable achievement, since by definition on each occasion, the players are a year young.

Semi-finals:

Highgate Junior 1 (M.R.Little & A.A. O'Callaghan) beat Eton 1 (W.G.Beckett & G.E.M.Thompson) 12-6, 12-6, 12-5.

Harrow 1 (H.A.P.Sewell & J.A.C.Bone) beat Highgate 1 (J.D.Bicknell & S.N.Wild) 6-12, 12-7, 12-6, 12-10.

Final:

Highgate Junior 1 beat Harrow 1 3-12, 12-3, 8-12, 12-3, 12-8.

Plate A was won by King Edward's 1 (H.Bhogal & H.Bhatti)

Plate B was won by Highgate Junior 6 (L.E.Motion & C.W.Pavitt)

Plate C was won by Highgate Junior 12 (S.R.Ball & M.T.Newby)

UNDER 12 COMPETITION

Thirty-seven pairs from five schools entered the Under 12 Competition, and pairs from Highgate Junior (6), St Olave's and Summer Fields (1 each) reached the quarter-finals, and all matches except the final were best of three games. Highgate Junior 1, 3 (beating Junior 2) and 6 and Summer Fields 1 all won their matches, and Highgate Junior 1 and 3 duly won their semi-finals in two games.

In the final, Newby and Ball (Junior 2) fought well, but were no real match for Yiannakas and Nicoll who achieved an impressively consistent and high standard all round the court. This was Highgate Junior's eighth successive success at this level.

Semi-finals:

Highgate Junior 1 (P.Yiannakas & T.M.Nicoll) beat Highgate Junior 6 (Z.Goddard & A.N.Roberts) 12-6, 12-0.

Highgate Junior 3 (M.T.Newby & S.R.Ball) beat Summer Fields 1 (T.D.A.Bossom & G.K.Sethia) 12-8, 12-5.

Final:

Highgate Junior 1 beat Highgate Junior 3 12-4, 12-7, 12-1.

Plate A was won by Highgate Junior 15 (N.Lindo & W.Nicoll)

Plate B was won by Highgate Junior 4 (J.Ritchie & J.Bond)

UNDER 15 COMPETITION

Thirty pairs from eleven schools entered the Under 15 Competition, which excludes the best players from this level. All matches except the final were best of three games, and pairs from Shrewsbury (2), and Highgate, Ipswich, Harrow, Berkahmsted, Eton and St Olave's (1 each) reached the quarter-finals. The first pairs of Shrewsbury, St Olave's and Eton all won in two games, whilst Shrewsbury 2 dropped the first game to a determined Harrow 1. In the semi-finals, Shrewsbury 1 beat Shrewsbury 2 comfortably, but Eton 1 lost the first game narrowly to St Olave's 1, and only won an even closer second game 13-12 before comfortably winning the third.

In an absorbing final, where the largest margin in any game was 12-8, Lewis and Gerrard's ability for Shrewsbury to hold their ground by the box and volley was ultimately decisive in the first two games. Willan and Taylor played much more positively in the third game to win 15-12, and the fourth was a long tense affair before Shrewsbury eventually and deservedly triumphed. It had been a well matched and well contested final, and was Shrewsbury's first success at this level.

Semi-finals:

Shrewsbury 1 (P.S.Lewis & T.D.Gerrard) beat Shrewsbury 2 (C.J.Granger & A.J.H.Erskine) 12-0, 12-7.

Eton 1 (D.G.Taylor & A.H.Willan) beat St Olave's 1 (H.R.J.Manning & B.R.Dennis) 11-13, 13-12, 12-6.

Final:

Shrewsbury 1 beat Eton 1 12-9, 12-10, 12-15, 12-8.

Plate A was won by Shrewsbury 3 (W.H.R.Jenkins & H.Inanishi).

Plate B was won by King Edward's 1 (D.Parikh & N.G.Curtis)


UNDER 14 BEGINNERS COMPETITION

Thirty-eight pairs from twelve schools entered the Under 14 Beginners Competition, for those who had not played fives before the last year. All matches were best of three games, and pairs from Shrewsbury (3), Q.E.Barnet (2), and Highgate, Orley Farm and Eton (1 each) reached the quarter-finals. Eton 1 and Shrewsbury 1 and 2 won easily, but Q.E.Barnet 1 came back to defeat Highgate 1 despite narrowly losing the first game 14-15. In the semi-finals Eton 1 and Shrewsbury 1 won their matches easily against Shrewsbury 2 and Q.E.Barnet 1 respectively.In the final, Love and Bruce for Eton took an early lead in the first game, but Nelson and Evans fought back well for Shrewsbury, and took the lead once the game was set. In probably the decisive phase of the match, Eton regained their composure and wrestled back the initiative with good volleying 14-13. Eton always had the edge in the second game of a final played at a very high standard for this level, and ran out worthy winners 12-8. This was Eton's third successive success at this level.

Semi-finals:

Eton 1 (A.O.T.J.Love & E.C.A.Bruce) beat Shrewsbury 2 (B.J.Alderson & L.A.Wong) 12-6, 12-0.

Shrewsbury 1 (R.J.A.Nelson & M.K.Evans) beat Q.E.Barnet 1 (R.J.Gibson & J.B.Tookman) 12-8, 12-4.

Final:

Eton 1 beat Shrewsbury 1 14-13, 12-8.

Plate A was won by Highgate 2 (A.Deedat & J.L.Bamber).

Plate B was won by Shrewsbury 6 (N.A.Zoulias & A.Agrawal)

LADIES COMPETITION

Fourteen pairs from six schools entered the Ladies Competition, and pairs from St Olave's, and L.A.Zuoz (2 each), and Chislehurst & Sidcup, Ipswich, Newstead Woods and Eaton Norwich (1 each) reached the quarter-finals. All matches were best of three games, and L.A.Zuoz 1, St Olave's 1, Newstead Woods 1 and Eaton Norwich 1 won in straight games. In the semi-finals Newstead Woods 1 and L.A.Zuoz 1 defeated Eaton Norwich 1 and St Olave's 1 respectively in two games.

The dramatic improvement in Zuoz ladies fives was again evident as Binz and Rumph won the first game 12-7. They were leading substantially in the second too with the title within their grasp when Cooley and Ganguly began to catch up tenaciously. Nerves began to tell and Newstead Woods levelled 12-9. The third game was even throughout with neither side ever really gaining a clear advantage. It was inevitably set at 11-11, and stayed there for several rallies before Newstead Woods triumphed in a real cliffhanger. So congratulations to all four girls on a marvellous match played in a generous spirit throughout. The trophy returns to Kent for the fourth time, but our commiserations to Bob Felce who has been bringing players across from Switzerland for many years now, and who richly deserves a trophy one of these days.

Semi-finals:

L.A.Zuoz 1 (N.Rumph & R.Binz) beat St Olave's 1 (K.Johnson & H.Toop) 12-5, 12-10.

Newstead Woods 1 (C.Cooley & A.Ganguly) beat Eaton Norwich 1 (L.Gallan & L.Addison) 12-9, 12-6.

Final:

Newstead Woods 1 beat L.A.Zuoz 1 7-12, 12-9, 12-11.

Plate A was won by L.A.Zuoz 3 (L.Albert & N.Buhler).

Plate B was won by Chislehurst & Sidcup 1 (S.Greaves & C.Smith).

The dates and venue for next year's Championships are currently under review, as a compromise is being sought with the Rackets Championships at Queen's to avoid clashes if possible. Possible venues are Shrewsbury (preferred) or Highgate, and the dates will be approximately the same (i.e. end of March)

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