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Men's Under 21s

22/01/24: Gwydion Wiseman & Alex Sapozhenko won the Men's U21s in association with Advanta Wealth at Highgate yesterday, beating Aadi Agarwal & Tanish Arjaria in a tight three game final.

This year's U21 tournament was held at Highgate in tricky conditions, a significant overnight rise in temperature resulting in sweating courts and slippery floors.

The assembled pairs were undeterred and coped well with courts that were difficult but not unplayable, adapting well to the change in trajectory of the ball and to the difficulties in moving and changing direction at speed while retaining secure footing.

Last year's winners were due to be back to defend their title and would have been heavy favourites, but Jack Pemberton's withdrawal due to injury meant some late changes and a much more open competition. Shrewsbury were there in good numbers, albeit without one or two of their top players, Cambridge University bought three pairs spanning the whole range from relative novices to potential contenders and there was a strong Olavian presence, with Pemberton's 2023 title-winning partner Gwydion Wiseman and schoolboy Alex Sapozhenko, highly rated school pair Tanish Arjaria & Aadi Agarwal and recent leavers Franklin Baron & Ethan Nancekivell-Smith all looking to go all the way.

The morning group stage featured some excellent matches and produced four pairs for the afternoon semis. Wiseman & Sapozhenko took on Baron & Nancekivell-Smith on one court; Franklin & Ethan are away at university and therefore lacking match practice and sharpness. They played well, especially in game two, but the more grooved pairing of Wiseman & Sapozhenko won through 12-4, 12-8. The other semi-final saw the top Cambridge pairing of Freddie Kottler & Max Krefting take on last season's outstanding U16 champions, who are already seasoned tournament veterans. The first game was a cracker, with Max & Freddie managing to get on the front foot, volleying strongly and cutting well against their younger opponents. Tanish & Aadi soaked it all up, though, playing with their trademark calmness and consistency, taking the first game to 8 before hitting overdrive in game two, quickly establishing a 10-0 lead to effectively end the contest.

The final was a terrific match and in the balance right up until the last few rallies. The court was less slippery than it had been earlier in the day but was still far from being easy to play on and the ball was still sliding down to the back left with great regularity. The first game was tight all the way through; Wiseman & Sapozhenko had their noses in front for most of it and got to gameball first. They probably should have won it but a couple of rash mistakes from Alex allowed Tanish & Aadi to get level and then win the game 13-12 with a cut going straight out of court. The second game was very similar, only this time round Alex showed he'd learned from his first game mistakes, finishing strongly to close it out 12-9 and level the match. There was just time to fit the deciding third game in before Highgate closed down for the evening and again all four players rose to the occasion. Aadi & Tanish play an incredibly controlled and mature game for a pair of L6th formers and didn't panic when they went behind, answering a four point burst from their opponents with four of their own to level at 8-8. As in the first two games, though, it was the little bit of extra set piece power and accuracy from Gwydion that got his pair back in front and once again Alex produced his best Fives when it was needed, hitting the front again and this time closing the game out 12-8 to take the title.

The plate competition was a Cambridge/Salopian battle, with Light Blues Lewis Drummond & Albie Gavshon going out at the semi-final stage against Shrewsbury's Louis Malanaphy & Freddie Ogilby, who moved into an all-Salopian final against Seb Motala-Evans & Giles Holliday. This was a repeat of an earlier group stage match which had been won by Louis & Freddie but which suffered a little perhaps from being a dead rubber. The rematch was a different matter, however, with the title of plate winners at stake and this was a tremendous match with some fantastic rallies, proof of how well all four players had learned to adapt to the conditions during the course of the day. Louis & Freddie made all of the early running, and at 8-0 up in a game to 12 looked to be almost home and hosed. Seb & Giles came fighting back, however and the game went to several rounds of 11-11 before Louis & Freddie finally found the winning shot.

One disappointing note was the lack of a women's competition again this year; the U21s is a great competion but always a tricky one to recruit for especially given the other demands on school logistics with U15 and U13 team competitions happening on the same day and a busy run of weekend tournaments from one week to the next. Nevertheless it is to be hoped that we can get a women's competition back on court in 2025.

My thanks go to Highgate for hosting the competition, to Advanta Wealth for their continued sponsorship and to everyone who braved the conditions and made it such an enjoyable day.


A.Agarwal & T.Arjaria beat F.Kottler & M.Krefting 2-0 (12-8, 12-3)

G.Wiseman & A.Sapozhenko beat F.Baron & E.Nancekivell-Smith 2-0 (12-4, 12-8)



G.Wiseman & A.Sapozhenko beat A.Agarwal & T.Arjaria 2-1 (12-13, 12-9, 12-8)


Plate A


Round One

L.Drummond & A.Gavshon beat M.Milbank & K.Ip 12-0

S.Motala-Evans & G.Holliday beat YL.Mak & M.Tomblin 12-2

G.Battersby & M.Draper beat J.Lai/T.Ford/M.Ahmed 12-0



L.Malanaphy & F.Ogilby beat L.Drummond & A.Gavshon 12-6

S.Motala-Evans & G.Holliday beat G.Battersby & M.Draper 12-5


L.Malanaphy & F.Ogilby beat S.Motala-Evans & G.Holliday 12-11


Plate B

YL.Mak & M.Tomblin beat J.Lai/T.Ford/M.Ahmed 12-3


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