2011 Midlands Tournament: Self & Cooley win in Repton
The Midland Tournament took place at Repton over the weekend with nearly 100 players taking part in a fantastic weekend of Fives, battling it out in the main tournament, the festival, the ladies tournament and a host of plate competitions as well as enjoying dinner at the Stuart Hotel in Derby on Saturday night.
The Midland tournament is notable for its level playing field approach, as the top ranked players pair up with younger or less experienced partners, creating a tournament full of exciting and close matches and an unpredictable element to the draw that is often missing elsewhere.
With the Sunday morning quarter-finalists met with wet and slippery courts, the results became even harder to predict as some players resorted to wearing socks on top of shoes in order to get more of a grip on the playing surface. None of this element of unpredictability prevented the cream from rising to the top, however, and the first semi-final saw Kinnaird winners Seb Cooley and James Toop on opposite sides, each partnering Olavian schoolboys. Cooley had teamed up with Chris Self the year before to win the Turnbull Trophy and that extra experience of playing together plus Seb's low centre of gravity on a slippery court were enough for them to edge past Toop and Harry Ravi. The other semi-final featured the besocked Olavian pair of Howard Wiseman and Tony Barker up against defending champion Ant Thodossi and Old Salopian George Thomason, winner of last year's Schools' Championships. This turned out to be the match of the weekend, a three game epic spanning two and a half hours plus, with a tense climax that featured Ant and George being denied a 15-10 win by a shot clipping the back step when it looked destined to go long, then being pegged back to 14-14 before finally claiming match point to go through to the final.
The final was a fascinating tactical match up as Theodossi and Thomason fought hard to implement a game plan that prevented offering too many scoring opportunities to Seb Cooley. After losing the first game, Theodossi and Thomason put their plan into action to great effect to race through the second game, winning 12-1. In the third and fourth, however, Chris Self responded superbly to the pressure he was being put under and with Seb in imperious form as ever, a tiring Ant and George were unable to maintain their second game dominance and the Olavian pair moved clear to claim the title 3-1.
The Festival in this year's tournament was probably unique in containing nearly as many Kinnaird Cup winners as the main tournament as legends of the game John Reynolds and Ed Wass rolled back the years partnering youngsters from their Old Citizen and Oakham Monday clubs respectively. After a gruelling series of matches, it was the Reynolds trophy cabinet that acquired yet more silverware as he he and City of London schoolboy Sam Packer defeated Olavians Tim Leech and James Rumble 13-12, 12-4.
Another feature of this year's tournament was the Ladies competition. As with the men's tournament, the star players teamed up with some of the younger and less experienced players, including a cohort from Wolverhampton Grammar School getting their first taste of the big time. This opened the way for two emerging pairs to come through the field and contest the final - Berkhamsted school pair Sarah Wiggill and Ellie Casey and Ipswichians Sarah Frost and Stephanie Smith. Frost and Smith had had the better of their first match earlier in the tournament, but the Berkhamsted girls came out firing in the final and came from behind to take the first game 13-12. The second game was the crucial part of the match and once Sarah and Stephanie edged it 12-9, the momentum swung irrevocably their way and the closed the match out comfortably in the third to take the trophy back to East Anglia.
As always, thanks are due to Repton School for allowing us to play on their 12 terrific courts and to Howard Wiseman and Dominique Redmond for organising such a terrific weekend.
Main Tournament results
S.Cooley & C.Self beat P.White & S.Kundu 2-0
J.Toop & H.Ravi beat R.Perrie & A.Cybulski 2-0
A.Theodossi & G.Thomason beat G.Hoskins & L.Brock 2-0
H.Wiseman & T.Barker beat N.Bunyan & E.Hewens 2-0
S.Cooley & C.Self beat J.Toop & H.Ravi 2-1
A.Theodossi & G.Thomason beat H.Wiseman & T.Barker 2-1
S.Cooley & C.Self beat A.Theodossi & G.Thomason 3-1
J.Reynolds & S.Packer beat T.Leech and J.Rumble 2-0
S.Frost & S.Smith beat S.Wiggill & E.Casey 2-1