Andrew Aitken Trophy: Return of the Big Q
07/09/15. Laurie Brock reports:
THE ANDREW AITKEN TROPHY 2015
FINAL: Harry De Quetteville and Nathan Malik beat Ed Rose and Kotka Lim 15-13
19 players assembled for the fifth annual Westminster fives tournament, in its first year under its new name, and were greeted by fittingly glorious weather.
The players were split, as usual, into two pools of five pairs, with the organiser making up the fifth pair in pool B by playing on his own.
In pool A, Ed Rose and schoolboy Kotka Lim swiftly established themselves as the pair to beat, racking up comfortable victories over Freddie Krespi and Olivia Prankerd-Smith and Sam and Nik Williams, before also overcoming (by a closer scoreline) John Reynolds and schoolboy (and debutant) Oliver Black. However, matching them stride for stride were Callum Brock and George Illingworth, who also won their first three matches in extremely impressive fashion to set up a crunch encounter with Rose and Lim in the final round. In the end though, Brock and Illingworth ran out of steam, with Rose in particular returning brilliantly as he and Lim stormed to a 12-3 win and a place in the final. Mention should also be made of a titanic struggle for the wooden spoon in the pool, with the two Williams's narrowly prevailing 12-11 over Krespi and Prankerd-Smith.
The pair to watch in this pool soon emerged as schoolboy Nathan Malik and Harry De Quetteville, with Harry clearly possessed of a long memory and still smarting at having missed out on the final by a single point four years ago. They were pushed all the way in the first round by Alfred Jackson and Elana Osen, surviving a scare before pulling away at the end to win 12-9. Thus relieved, they won two further matches to leave themselves on the brink of the final with only the organiser left to play. However, as many people will know, it is not always as easy as it looks to play 2 against 1, and first Alfred and Elana, and then Shaneil Patel and Alex Wessely succumbed to the "massive psychological disadvantage" (Harry's words) of playing against one person to lose narrowly 12-10. Will Illingworth and Ed Levy however, had no such difficulties, having improved markedly as the day went on, and comfortably solved the riddle to win 12-6. Will and Ed were left to rue a dreadful start that left them 10-1 down to Shaneil and Alex in the first round, which they were (just) unable to recover from, and but for which they would have been in contention for the final. Despite his defeat, the rules dictated that De Quetteville and Malik had to beat the organiser to make the final, and things started badly as they found themselves 3-0 down. However, they slowly established a grip on the match and, despite a late fightback, clinched victory 12-10.
The final (played to 15) was a fitting tribute to the event and was especially notable for the outstanding performance of both schoolboys throughout, and particularly under pressure. Rose and Lim stormed out of the blocks, racing into a 3-0 lead in the first hand, and continued to seemingly have the edge in the early stages, with Lim in particular returning cut superbly. However, Malik and De Quetteville remained calm, varying their cut returns cleverly to work their way back into the match. De Quetteville in particular produced a fine run of points on the top step, utilising his customary touch and at times astonishing reach to draw the match level. There it stayed for virtually the rest of the game, with neither pair able to make a decisive move. 6-6 became 8-8, which became 10-10...12-12...and finally 13-13. At this stage the watching crowd saw some of the best rallies of the match, with Rose producing both a seemingly impossible scrambled get into the hole and then a perfectly placed smash to the back left court to end spectacular points. However, with the pressure at its height, Malik in particular came to the fore with some stunning cutting that kept Rose and Lim at bay. The stage was thus set for De Quetteville and Malik to finally reach match point, and then, as a Rose back court drive flew long, to claim victory, ending a fantastic match.
I would like to thank everyone for playing and express the wish that everyone enjoyed the day (and the evening for those that came to the dinner afterwards).
I hope that the tournament can continue to flourish in Andrew's name, and, for the sake of my health, that we get even numbers next year! The only question that remains is how the engravers will fit Harry's name on the cup.