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Mixed Tournament: More Silverware For Houlden & Hird

15/04/24: Riki Houlden & Karen Hird added to their bulging trophy cabinets with a second successive win in the Mixed Tournament in association with Advanta Wealth at Harrow on Sunday.

Seventeen pairs took part in this year's competition and they started the day divided into three groups.

Group A featured defending champions Karen Hird & Riki Houlden, fresh from their national titles the weekend before and hungry for more. They finished the group comfortably in first place but beneath them there was a threeway fight for the other two qualifying places. Rachel Wood & Alex Abrahams staked their claim early on with a come-from-behind 12-10 win over Jessye Tu & Viral Gudiwala. Also in the mix were Natalie Lilienthal & Will Thomas, but they were unable to find a way past either of Rachel & Alex or Jessye & Viral, who therefore took the other two qualifying spots, leaving Natalie & Will to concentrate on the Plate competition, along with Erin Leatherbarrow & Abilash Sivathasan and Cambridge University's Emma Spencer & Lewis Drummond.

There was also a dominant pair in Group B, with second seeds Emily Scoones & Ryan Perrie cruising through unbeaten ahead of Berkhamstedian siblings Zoe & Charlie Nicholls. Again the second and third qualifying places were hotly contested, with the Oxford Cholmeleians Lorenza Valensise & Joel Robb losing narrowly to Zoe & Charlie and then just about holding off Mandie Barnes & Ian Mitchell to claim third place in the group. Morgan Butler & Ollie Avery and Emma Gilbert & Rupert Swallow put in some good performances but were also left to join Mandie & Ian in the Plate.

Group C saw a gradual build up to a battle for the third and fourth seed positions. Sarah Jackman & George Linfield, Becky Palmer & Fred Prickett and Lucy Bland & Jamie Levinson all played some good Fives, with Sarah & George coming third ahead of Becky & Fred, but none of them were able to threaten the Ipswich pairing of Charlotta Cooley & Isaac Weaver or the Westminsters Elana Garfield-Osen & Hugo Young. These two met in the final game of the group to determine their positions for the knockout rounds and it was Charlotta & Isaac who just had the edge, winning 12-10.

Lorenza & Joel and Jessye & Viral were not able to make much impact on the top two seeds in their quarter-finals and Rachel rather ran out of puff as she and Alex went down 15-6 to Charlotta & Isaac. Elana & Hugo had a potentially tough test against Zoe & Charlie, but Charlie was suffering with a shoulder injury and they were never really able to threaten a victory, leaving the way clear for the four top seeded pairs to proceed to the semi-finals.

Once again, the semi-finals went to seeding, although the two matches were rather mirror images of each other - Charlotta & Isaac pushing Emily & Ryan quite hard in the first game before fading in the second, while Elana & Hugo lost the first easily to Karen & Riki, but put up much stronger resistance in the second. Neither were able to claim a game, though, as the top two seeds both made it through 2-0.

There was some unwanted drama before the final, with Karen going over on one of her notoriously fragile ankles in the warm up. It was clearly causing her some pain, but it wasn't bad enough to stop her playing. In some ways it might even have been a help rather than a hindrance, simplifying the gameplan to enable her to stand still and volley as much as possible while Riki enjoyed himself running around a lot to compensate. Either way, Karen & Riki were pretty much in control from the start and with a strong set piece underpinning their game, they had too much firepower for Emily & Ryan, winning 12-7, 12-3 to claim their second successive title.

Charlie's injury and Rachel's exhaustion meant a two pair quarter-finalists plate, which turned into one of the best matches of the day, Oxford present (Lorenza & Joel) winning the first game before Cambridge past (Jessye & Viral) hit back to win the next two to score a Light Blue win.

Elsewhere on the Harrow courts, the remaining nine pairs were fighting it out for the Plate, the coveted "Dossi Dish". Erin & Abilash had obviously eaten the right things for lunch, or had some tactical brainwaves during the break as they came out firing in the afternoon, winning successive games 12-11 - against Becky & Fred then Mandie & Ian - to storm their way into the final. The other semi-final was almost as close, with Sarah & George just being pipped at the post by Will & Natalie.

Natalie has become something of a plate specialist this season (watch out, Stubbsy...) and with the silverware in sight, she and Will raised their game still further to finally put an end to Erin & Abilash's tightrope act, running out 15-9 winners to claim the title. Becky & Fred took out their frustration at their 11-12 loss to Erin & Abilash on everyone else in Plate B and the all-Cambridge Plate C final was won by the CUEFC captains Emma & Lewis.

Our thanks go to Ian Hutchinson and Harrow for hosting the tournament, to Advanta Weath for their continued sponsorship and to everyone who came and played and maintained the reputation of the Mixed as one of the most enjoyable days of Fives on the calendar.



K.Hird & R.Houlden beat L.Valensise & J.Robb 15-2

E.Garfield-Osen & H.Young beat Z.Nicholls & C.Nicholls 15-9

C.Cooley & I.Weaver beat R.Wood & A.Abrahams 15-6

E.Scoones & R.Perrie beat J.Tu & V.Gudiwala 15-3



K.Hird & R.Houlden beat E.Garfield-Osen & H.Young 2-0 (12-2, 12-8)

E.Scoones & R.Perrie beat C.Cooley & I.Weaver 2-0 (12-8, 12-3)



K.Hird & R.Houlden beat E.Scoones & R.Perrie 2-0 (12-7, 12-3)


Quarter-Finalists Plate

J.Tu & V.Gudiwala beat L.Valensise & J.Robb 2-1 (9-12, 12-7, 12-7)


Plate A - The Dossi Dish



E.Spencer & L.Drummond beat E.Gilbert & R.Swallow 12-10



S.Jackman & G.Linfield beat E.Spencer & L.Drummond 12-6

N.Lilienthal & W.Thomas beat M.Butler & O.Avery 12-7

E.Leatherbarrow & A.Sivathasan beat B.Palmer & F.Prickett 12-11

M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat L.Bland & J.Levison 12-6



N.Lilienthal & W.Thomas beat S.Jackman & G.Linfield 12-10

E.Leatherbarrow & A.Sivathasan beat M.Barnes & I.Mitchell 12-11



N.Lilienthal & W.Thomas beat E.Leatherbarrow & A.Sivathasan 15-9


Plate B



L.Bland & J.Levison beat E.Gilbert & R.Swallow 12-6



M.Butler & O.Avery beat E.Spencer & L.Drummond 12-8

B.Palmer & F.Prickett beat L.Bland & J.Levison 12-1



B.Palmer & F.Prickett beat M.Butler & O.Avery 12-2


Plate C

E.Spencer & L.Drummond beat L.Bland & J.Levison 12-4


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