2002 Aberconway Cup

Mike Fenn reports:

The Twelfth Championship contained no pairs from the first year. Several regulars were absent with one or two fathers hanging up their gloves whilst others were unable to enter due to sons abroad or away at University.

A hamstring injury to Graham Dunbar on the eve of the championship sadly meant that he and Tom, favourites to win the Aberconway for a fourth time, were unable to compete. Fortunately for the organiser the Walters came to the rescue and agreed to play despite a re-occuring back injury which had been aggravated by Tony in winning the Kinnaird Pepperpot Trophy three weeks earlier. A brave decision and in no way, I am sure, influenced by the withdrawal of the favourites!

And so on a dull but warm day eight pairs arrived at Eton ready to do battle. Newcomers included Richard and Julian Black, Julian being a relative newcomer to Eton Fives; Terry and Nick Shaw; Charlotta Cooley, the first daughter to participate and the fourth member of the Cooley clan to partner dad John; and David Pynor. The pairs were divided into two groups of four, each playing three matches the best of three games with setting at eleven. The Rodwells (Peter and James), Walters (Tony and Anthony), Markkanens (Oli and Pauli) and Shaws (Terry and Nick) were seeded 1-4 respectively, with each group arranged to known strengths, age and club.

Group Matches

There were no major surprises at the group stage with the four seeds comfortably reaching their expected places in the semi-finals. With the exception of the Blacks, son Julian having only played for a few months, the sons and daughter played the dominate role in each match. Much to the delight of Terry Shaw, this his first outing in four years, all matches were resolved in two straight games thus enabling him to sustain enough energy to support Nick in the semi-finals.

Semi-finals

The semi-finals were played in the afternoon after an excellent lunch at the Waterman's Arms. The first match and closest encounter witnessed the Rodwells, winners of Group 1, facing the Markkanens, runners-up in Group 2. In the first game the Rodwells soon established a 6-2 lead and from 8-6 took the first game 12-6. The second saw a reversal of fortunes with the Markkanens levelling quickly from 4-2 to 10-3 and the game 12-3. The crisp volleying and hard driving of Pauli, ably supported by Oli, had proved decisive. The Rodwells, shaken by the onslaught, had visibly wilted under pressure making several uncharacteristic errors. A surprise result was on the cards but in the third the Rodwells regained their composure and concentration and after an early lead at 3-1 took the game comfortably at 12-2 and the semi-final 2-1.

The Walters, winners of Group 2, won their semi-final against the Shaws, runners-up of Group 1. A good start by the Walters in winning the first three points and a run from 7-3 to 12-3 was decisive in the first game. Even a tacticle ploy by Shaw senior to adjust a slipping jockstrap failed to upset the rythme of the Walters game. The second was a much closer affair. The Shaws took an early lead with Nick covering the whole court in a series of scintillating attacking moves. Steady play by Terry, when able to get a look in, enabled them to lead 8-6. It was at this stage, as the Shaws tired, that the Walters took charge. Excellent cutting and crisp volleying from the left handed Anthony saw them move from 6-8 down to take the game 12-8 and the semi-final 2-0.

The Final

The promised rain arrived shortly before the commencement of the final, making life unpleasant for the few spectators and necessitating a change of court part way through the second game due to a leaking roof. James Rodwell, in his last year at school and a quarter-finalist in the Schools Open, with Dad Peter not fully match fit pitted against an in form Anthony and slimline Dad Tony, two stones lighter than last year but with a record of recent back problems. The scene was set for a close encounter.

The final, a re-run of last year, was to produce an outstanding Fives match with the two youngsters, ably supported by their fathers, playing an attacking game from the start. Superb cutting, crisp volleying and hard drives to the back court contributed to possibly the best final in the twelve years of the Championship.

The Walters settled more quickly and in the first hand quickly took a 2-0 lead only to lose the next six points before drawing level at 8-8. However the Rodwells took the next two points and the end of the game was in sight. However two unexpected slower cuts by Walters senior gave them the opportunity to level the scores which they did at 10-10. The final passage of play was dominated by the left handed Anthony and from a potential losing position of 8-10 down the Walters took the first game 13-10.

The second game saw the Rodwells take a 4-0 lead only to be pegged back by the Walters sharp volleying forcing errors in the Rodwells play. With the scores reading 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 it was difficult to choose between the two pairs. However poor cutting by the Walters at this crucial point in the game enabled the Rodwells to score three points in the one hand to lead 10-7 and to eventually close out the game at 12-9 to level the games at 1-1.

At the commencement of the deciding game a back twinge to Tony Walters seemed ominous for the Salopian pair but fortunately for them the Rodwells were losing steam and with a 4-1 lead the Walters took five points in the one hand to establish a commanding 9-1 points score. From there they went on to take the game 12-4 and the Cup 2-1. A reversal of last year when the Rodwells won the final by the same margin. Both pairs are to be congratulated in producing a game of the highest standard fitting for the final. It was a shame that there were so few spectators to witness an outstanding match played in good spirit.

In the presentation that followed, Mike Fenn congratulated Tony on becoming the oldest holder of the Cup and with Anthony winning it for a second time, the first as long ago as 1995 when Tony rather than Anthony was the more dominant player. He commiserated with the Rodwells in the loss of their title.

Results

Group 1

P & J Rodwell won 3, lost 0

T & N Shaw won 2, lost 1

R & J Black won 1, lost 2

G & J Nosworthy won 0, lost 3

Group 2

A & A Walters won 3, lost 0

O & P Markkanen won 2, lost 1

J & D Pynor won 1, lost 2

J & C Cooley won 0, lost 3

Semi-finals

P & J Rodwell beat O & P Markkanen 2-1 (12-6, 3-12, 12-2)

A & A Walters beat T & N Shaw 2-0 (12-3, 12-8)

Final:

A & A Walters beat P & J Rodwell 2-1 (13-10, 9-12, 12-4)