13th March 2011 – Radcliffe & Co sponsor Winchester Fives National Doubles Championship

Winchester Fives National Doubles Championship

sponsored by Radcliffe & Co Life & Pensions Ltd

(Winchester College, March 13th 2011)

1st Round: Edmonds & Malde bt T Marshall & M Hale 11-3 11-3; Hughes & Kiggell bt Parker & Thomas 11-2 11-8; Ganendra & Kennedy bt Davies & Montagu-Pollock 11-12 11-9 11-6; Passey & Pearce-Smith bt Dorman & Lyons 11-1 11-0; Kirk & Butler bt Gunyon & Maltby 2-11 11-3 11-8; Coffey & B Hale bt East & Wilson 15-8 15-12 (sic); McManus & Munn bt Ainsworth & Arnott 11-0 11-2.

2nd Round: Ellison & H Mohammed bt Edmonds & Malde 11-2 11-3; Price & Pringle w/o Hughes & Kiggell; Akerman & M Mohammed bt Ganendra & Kennedy 11-1 11-6; Buchanan & Grant bt Passey & Pearce-Smith 11-9 11-8; Roberts & Tristão bt Kirk & Butler 11-2 11-0; Austin & Rew bt Coffey & Hale 11-7 11-8; Lee & J Marshall bt McManus & Munn 11-9 11-7; Fox & Minta bt Kirby & Christie 11-5 11-2.

Quarter-Finals: Ellison & H Mohammed bt Price & Pringle 11-3 11-5; Buchanan & Grant bt Akerman & M Mohammed 11-8 11-3; Roberts & Tristão bt Austin & Rew 11-3 5-11 11-7; Fox & Minta bt Lee & J Marshall 11-8 11-5.

Semi-Finals: Ellison & Mohammed bt Buchanan & Grant 7-11 11-5 11-9; Fox & Minta bt Roberts & Tristão 11-7 7-11 12-10.

Final: Ellison & Mohammed bt Fox & Minta 11-1 11-3. Plate: Price & Pringle.

A sizeable entry of 24 pairs contested the Winchester Fives Doubles for the Barnes Bridge trophyat Winchester College, and the organiser reluctantly took a late decision to play games to 11 ratherthan 15 in order to finish the competition at a reasonable hour.

Round 1 produced two cracking matches, the first won in three close games by the talented young Wykehamists Ganendra and Kennedy, and the second, also a three-gamer, by the determined Derby Moor combination of Kirk and Butler.

The second round saw the entry of the seeded pairs, some of whom were subjected to stern challenges but whom all eventually won through to the quarter-finals.

By this stage, these pairs – some of them new combinations, others established ones – were all accustomed to the buttress and the speedy new ‘5 star’ ball, and the play at times became bewilderingly rapid.

Austin and Rew, up from the West Country, provided Roberts and Tristão with a real test before going down narrowly in three games; Lee and Marshall gave Fox and Minta a good match, as did former champions Akerman and Mario Mohammed in their encounter with Buchanan and Grant; and holders and top seeds Ellison and Hal Mohammed looked impressive as they defeated Price and Pringle, the eventual plate winners, with something to spare.

The semi-finals contained the best fives of the championship, all four pairs playing with huge skill and great pace. Countless shots, including many services, were completely unreturnable, directed as they were into the area around the base of the buttress or the nick at the back or sides of the court. Volleying from the right-hand court – always a feature of good Winchester fives – was also much in evidence.

This was the game at its best, full of variety and devoid of the long slogging rallies that can render the Rugby version less than fascinating to watch. Both semi-finals went to three games, and the winning margin in the third was a mere couple of points in each case, with the top and second seeds coming through to face each other in the final, as last year at Bradfield.

The final itself was an anticlimax after such superb displays. Ellison and Mohammed continued to play their best fives and overwhelmed Fox and Minta, who were unable to find an answer in either game. This was the Wykehamists’ third successive win, and it opens the way to a ‘grand slam’ –consecutive wins at all four venues – at Sedbergh next year.

We are most grateful to Winchester College for the use of their courts, and to Radcliffe & Co Life & Pensions for their generous sponsorship of the event.

David Barnes.