Ladies Championships 2020: Top Four Into The Semis
09/03/20: The 2020 Ladies Championships qualifying rounds in association with Advanta Wealth took place at Eton yesterday, appropriately on International Women's Day.
This year's tournament saw an unusually low entry - disappointing but the result of a number of factors, including coronavirus, the proximity and increasing number of competing school and age group tournaments and the general challenge of translating the increasing number of women players into competition entries.
What is not in doubt, however, is the increasing quality at the top end of the ladies game and while there is still a large gap between the top four pairs and the rest (and indeed within the top four pairs themselves), this is in large part due to the way the top women's players are pushing the boundaries further each year and playing regularly at a higher and higher level in open tournaments and league and friendly fives. The pairs behind them - the quarter-finalists here and some of the other recent and current best school-leaving pairs - should take heart that their own standards are also improving and should take note as to what is required to take the next step up to elite level.
The initial group stages worked well as a way of establishing seeding positions for the knockout rounds. Defending champions Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley (1) and Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones (2) are already well established in their respective slots and made their way through with minimal fuss. The match between Dominique Redmond & Elana Osen and Harry Asquith & Marjolaine Briscoe was a fascinating one to determine who went into the 3rd seed position and who into the 4th. By the end of the game, all four players were playing some terrific Fives, with long rallies, athletic retrieving and winners from all angles. Dom & Elana had done the damage early on in the match, however, their superior cutting in the opening exchanges and their smart tactical plan to target the back left - to Marjolaine in particular - paying dividends and getting them into an early lead. Harry & Marj adjusted their game and coped much better in the second half of the match but Dom & Elana had got into the lead and never really looked like relinquishing it, winning 15-10. There were strong performances in the group stage from Highgate pair Emma Williets & Mia Barry and North Oxford's Rachel Wood & Francesca Turnbull and they were joined in the last eight by the other Highgate pair of Catherine Vos & Lorenza Valensise and veterans Fiona Barnes & Mandie Barnes.
The quarter-finals all went to form, with Karen & Charlotta and Ashley & Emily not having to engage much more than second gear. Dom & Elana and Harry & Marj had to work a bit harder to see off the challenges of Rachel & Francesca and Emma & Mia respectively but both qualified comfortably enough to set up two intriguing semi-finals at the end of March, which will take place at Eton alongside the Kinnaird semis in what should be a great afternoon of Fives to watch.
The remaining pairs took part in the Festival, a smaller competition than usual but no less competitive for that. The two young Ipswich pairs fell at the semi-final stage, but gained valuable experience and showed signs of promise, leaving the final to Old Olavians Emily O'Malley & Jessye Tu and the scratch pairing of North Oxford newcomer Kirby Clayton (one to watch out for in future tournaments as she continues to improve) and Sian Evans, returning to the game after ten years away living abroad and starting a family. Emily & Jessye were always in control of the final and ran out deserved winners.
Thanks go to Mandie Barnes for organising everything, to Mark Williams for his assistance, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship of the event, to Tony Stubbs and David Mew for their support and to all those who came and played and made it such an enojoyable day's Fives.
C.Cooley & K.Hird beat F.Barnes & M.Barnes 3-0 (12-1, 12-0, 12-2)
H.Asquith & M.Briscoe beat E.Williets & M.Barry 3-0 (12-6, 12-3, 12-3)
D.Redmond & E.Osen beat R.Wood & F.Turnbull 3-0 (12-3, 12-1, 12-6)
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones beat C.Vos & L.Valensise 3-0 (12-2, 12-0, 12-0)
Semi-Finals: Eton, 2:30pm, Sunday 29th March
C.Cooley & K.Hird v H.Asquith & M.Briscoe
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones v D.Redmond & E.Osen
E.O'Malley & J.Tu beat A.Phillips & A.Parker 2-0 (12-4, 12-1)
S.Evans & K.Clayton beat E.Embiata-Jolata & A.Hashmi 2-0 (12-0, 12-1)
E.O'Malley & J.Tu beat S.Evans & K.Clayton 2-0 (12-0, 12-3)