Kinnaird Cup 2002
"High Fives for game that needs no replays"
Giles Coren "My Week" Article in the Times Preliminary Round Weekend
This week has been all about sport. No, not the Champions League, that vulgar procession of overpaid cheats and ruffians. I'm talking about sporting anticipation. No, not for the World Cup - jeez, anyone would think it was David Beckham's ankle that was going to be lying on a catafaque in Westminster Hall for the nation to file mournfully past. No, I am talking about the Kinnaird Cup, the National (and by implication, international) Open Eton Fives Championship.
This noble and ancient game, which requires no video replays to overrule umpiring decisions because there are no umpires (because if players don't cheat you don't need them), has its grand annual tournament to-day and to-morrow at the fives courts at Eton College. And I am playing in it. Even as you read this I am buying six litres of Lucozade Sport and a hundred weight of bananas at the little tuck shop on Eton High Street to get me through the gruelling series of matches against the mightiest fives players in all the world (who are almost all, by coincidence, former public schoolboys from the lower half of England).
I don't usually play in the Kinnaird Cup, because I am rubbish. No, but rubbish. My main function is to feign injury and demand a draw when my partner (it is a doubles game) is knackered because he has to do everything himself.
But this year I am taking part because at the very last minute (yesterday) the John McEnroe of the game - a psychotic fives genius called John Reynolds who dominated the sport in the 1980ss, winning the tournament a record 11 times, but whose taste for the finer things in life brought about a premature decline - was short of a partner.
With every other able-bodied man who owns a pair of fives gloves already spoken for or dead, Reynolds asked me if I'd partner him for the weekend. He is a fellow journalist, and we are professional soulmates if nothing else.
The tournament begins at 11am at the fives courts at Eton College. Come along and watch, it's free. My assumption is that because Reynolds used to win it all the time, everybody will be doubly keen to beat us, and because I am rubbish they probably will.
Tournament report next week, unless I can persuade the sports pages to go big on it on Monday.
This year, we received the same number of entries as twelve months ago - twenty-six pairs. This meant five groups of four turning up at Eton on Saturday 6th April 2002 to play on a round robin basis with the top two pairs from each group going forward to join six seeds on the following day for the second round and quarter-finals.
Those pairs not winning through to the second round were entitled to enter for the Pepperpot Trophy and seven took up the challenge. In the end, the father and son pairing of Tony and Anthony Walters won through by beating Mike Fenn (his 36th continuous Kinnaird) and Courtney Friend 12-8, 12-1 in the final.
Back to the main competition proper and the Group Results were as follows:-
Group 1: 1st D.R.Hawkins/W.E.Powell and 2nd J.A.Caudle/M.Graves
Group 2: 1st J.P.Reynolds/G.R.P.Coren and 2nd E.J.Sanderson/P.M.Cohen
Group 3: 1st M.J.Moore/A.H.Illingworth and 2nd P.V.Boughton/S.D.Burnell
Group 4: 1st N.O.Addy/S.Rasheed and 2nd E.T.Rose/M.J.Barter
Group 5: 1st S.J.Fautly/D.G.Mew and 2nd E.C.Ryder/E.Thompson
In the second round, all six seeds progressed to the quarter-finals along with J.P.Reynolds/G.R.P.Coren and M.J.Moore/A.H.Illingworth (in these latter two pairings, it is certainly worth remembering that Messrs.Reynolds and Moore are past winners of the Kinnaird). Two of the unseeded pairs of E.T.Rose/M.J.Barter and N.O.Addy/S.Rasheed gave their seeded opponents a tougher time than might have been expected, both taking a game along the way and, in the latter case, it was an exceedingly lengthy match, marching well into the afternoon.
In the quarter-finals, the first three seeds, R.A.Mason/T.R.Dunbar, E.A.Wass/J.C.Halstead and J.P.Toop/M.C.T.Wiseman, all progressed comfortably through to the last four. However, the fourth seeds, S.K.P.Cooley/K.Rudman succumbed to the fifth seeds, R.C.Tyler/E.O.Taylor, in a lengthy and hard fought five games having led by two games to one.
The semi-finals took place at Ludgrove on a cold dull miserable day and those brave enough to watch were hardly warmed or excited by the early play. All four pairs took time to settle with no real flow to either match.
The new pairing this season of Robin Mason and Tom Dunbar, the number one seeds, made several uncharacteristic unforced errors in the early play against the fifth seeds and former finalists Richard Tyler and Ed Taylor. Tyler and Taylor made a good start to lead at 6-3 in the first game, but Mason and Dunbar levelled eventually at 9-9 before taking it 12-9. In the second Tyler and Taylor had their chances, leading at one stage by four clear points, and at 11-8 should have levelled at one game each. It was not to be. Excellent cutting by Mason, steady attacking play by Dunbar and within minutes the game was theirs at 14-11. Tyler and Taylor were unable to pick themselves up from this sudden reversal of fortune and were soon 0-7 down in the third. A fight back at 3-11 down came to no avail as the now flowing game of the experienced Mason ably supported by his young partner, Dunbar, took the third and the match 12-6.
The other semi-final was a repeat of last years final with once again Ed Wass and Jamie Halstead, seeded two, defeating the third seeds James Toop and Matt Wiseman 3-1, the scores of 12-5, 9-12, 12-4, 12-7 almost matching last years result of 12-5, 8-12, 12-10, 12-7. Toop and Wiseman appeared to settle first soon establishing a 4-1 lead but in their endeavours to play their customary attacking game volleyed four shots in succession out of court, lost their composure and soon lost the game 5-12. The second was a reversal of the first with Wass and Halstead achieving a 4-1 lead only to be pegged back to 8-8 before losing 9-12. At one game each the makings of a five game match appeared on the cards. However the greater experience of Wass and Halstead saw them home as comfortable winners taking the third 12-4 and the fourth 12-7 after almost squandering an 8-1 lead in the latter. Throughout the match the crisp volleying of Wass ably backed by Halstead and the many unforced errors of the Olavian pair proved decisive. It was a shame that this match was marred somewhat by a series of disputed lets and the enthusiastic if somewhat vociferous outbursts of the Olavian pair.
On to the final at Ludgrove and, before commenting on how it went, I need to make mention of a couple of minor miracles. Firstly, it started bang on time at 2.30p.m. and, secondly, in stark contrast to the weather for the semi-finals, it was glorious. Some sort of record?
Ed Wass and Jamie Halstead certainly started the match as if to prove their seeding all wrong. They led 7-2 and 9-5 through better use of the buttress. However, Robin Mason and Tom Dunbar fought back to 9-9 before losing the game 12-9. For those statistically inclined, it may be interesting to note that both pairs conceded two points in this game by cutting out. No further points were lost this way during the match.
The second game was by far the most competitive of the match with both pairs clearly realising its importance. This said, Mason and Dunbar always seemed to have the edge and were never behind, eventually winning it 12-7. The third game was always going to be crucial and we did not have to wait long to realise that the match was swinging quite violently to Mason and Dunbar through their superior return of the cut. In fact, Mason and Dunbar lost the first point of this game but quickly rattled off the points to take it 12-1. In the fourth and, ultimately, final game, Mason and Dunbar continued where they left off in the third. They led 4-0 and 8-1 before a spirited recovery by Wass and Halstead partially stopped the rot and the gap was reduced to three points at 8-5. Unfortunately, the effort could not be sustained and Mason and Dunbar went on to lead 10-5 and, eventually, won the game 12-6 and the Kinnaird Cup was theirs.
Many congratulations to both pairs but, especially to the winners, Robin Mason and Tom Dunbar. This was Robin's sixth Kinnaird success and, for Tom, his first in only his second appearance in the competition. I am reliably informed that his other appearance was back in 1996 (aged 13) when he partnered his father, Graham, and they reached the quarter-finals.
As usual, our very grateful thanks to both Eton and Ludgrove for looking after us so well.
Finally, I must make mention of the amusing article by Giles Coren in the Times on Saturday 6th April 2002 (it is reproduced at the beginning of this report). As you will see above, Giles and John Reynolds reached the quarter-finals (one of the two unseeded pairs to achieve this) where they had the misfortune to come up against the number one seeds and eventual winners.
First Round Groups:
1st D Hawkins & W Powell 3-0
2nd J Caudle & M Graves 2-1
3rd J Rodwell & M Herring 1-2
4th J Knight & A Knight 0-3
1st J Reynolds & G Coren 3-0
2nd E Sanderson & P Cohen 2-1
3rd A Walters (Sen) & A Walters (Jun) 1-2
4th S Ranasinghe & S Randall 0-3
1st M Moore & A Illingworth 3-0
2nd P Boughton & S Burnell 2-1
3rd M Quinton & R Pattison 1-2
4th W Boyd & O Youngman 0-3
1st N Addy & S Rasheed 3-0
2nd E Rose & M Barter 2-1
3rd S Albert & N Fry 1-2
4th S Spurrell & S Walters 0-3
1st S Fautly & D Mew 3-0
2nd E Ryder & E Thompson 2-1
3rd M Fenn & C Friend 1-2
4th G Bates & S Chapman 0-3
R A Mason & T G Dunbar (1) beat J A Caudle & M Graves 12-0, 12-3, 12-0
J P Reynolds & G R P Coren beat D R Hawkins & W E Powell 12-9, 12-3, 12-5
R C Tyler & E O Taylor (5) beat E J Sanderson & P M Cohen 12-4, 12-3, 12-9
S K P Cooley & K Rudman (4) beat P V Boughton & S D Burnell 12-0, 12-0, 12-3
J P Toop & M C T Wiseman (3) beat E T Rose & M J Barter 11-13, 12-3, 12-3, 12-8
H M E Wiseman & P Markkanen (6) beat N O Addy & S Rasheed 2-12, 14-13, 14-12, 12-8
M J Moore & A H Illingworth beat S J Fautly & D G Mew 12-9, 12-3, 12-8
E A Wass and J C Halstead (2) beat E C Ryder E Thompson 12-0, 12-3, 12-3
R A Mason & T G Dunbar (1) beat J P Reynolds & G R P Coren 12-0, 12-4, 12-1
R C Tyler & E O Taylor (5) beat S K P Cooley & K Rudman (4) 12-4, 7-12, 12-13, 12-8, 12-2
J P Toop & M C T Wiseman (3) beat H M E Wiseman & P Markkanen (6) 12-2,12-3,12-4
E A Wass and J C Halstead (2) beat M J Moore & A H Illingworth 12-5, 12-5, 12-4
R A Mason & T G Dunbar (1) beat R C Tyler & E O Taylor (5) 12-9, 14-11, 12-6
E A Wass & J C Halstead (2) beat J P Toop & M C T Wiseman (3) 12-5, 9-12, 12-4, 12-7
R A Mason & T G Dunbar (1) beat E A Wass & J C Halstead (2) 9-12, 12-7, 12-1, 12-6
1st A Walters (Sen) & A Walters (Jun) 2-0
2nd M Quinton & R Pattison 1-1
3rd J Knight & A Knight 0-2
1st M Fenn & C Friend 3-0
2nd S Albert & N Fry 2-1
3rd S Ranasinghe & S Randall 1-2
4th W Boyd & O Youngman 0-3
A J Walters & A D Walters beat S B Albert & N C D Fry 12-1, 12-10
M R Fenn & C K Friend beat M J Quinton & R S R Pattison 12-6, 6-12, 12-3
A J Walters & A D Walters beat M R Fenn & C K Friend 12-8, 12-1
Report by Martin Samuel and Mike Fenn