The National Winchester Fives Doubles Championship
Sunday, 12th March 2023
Organiser Harry Akerman reports: It was Bradfield’s turn to host the Barnes Bridge this year, but with warm wet weather following on the heels of a cold snap it was conditions made for sweating courts, and so with 48 hours to go (but after the trophies had already been engraved!) the decision was made to move it to Winchester. Photos arrived on Sunday morning of wet courts at Bradfield as 36 relieved players (and one relieved organiser) started what for many would be their last outing on these magnificent Winchester courts. The day saw three sets of father-sons playing, but only one family were brave enough to play with each other!
The outstanding game of the first round was Winchester’s Chris Lee partnering Will Kennedy in narrowly beating Ben Roberts & Aiden Witham. The game went on some time, threatening not only the playing schedule but, worryingly, the court showed early signs of sweating. Maybe it was the most intense game of the day….. but luckily the humidity dropped and disaster was averted! The games then went as expected through to the semi-finals, which were won by the first and second seeds, both in two games. Dan G & Dan T in particular were pushed so so hard, only narrowly squeaking past Ben Beltrami & Theo Parker 15-13, 16-15. The Dans admitted that a third game would probably have seen Ben & Theo come through as they were finishing the second game the stronger, and you wondered how much the Dans would have left in the tank for a final against reigning multiple champions, Will Ellison & Ed Kay.
And so to the final. Could Will make it title number 12 — and Ed’s 6th — in his pursuit of Dave Hebden’s 14? Could the Dans keep the tempo up, and would Dan Grant withstand the barrage he was bound to endure? Such was the intensity of their semi-final win that you felt Dan & Dan’s best chance was to win in 2 games, and they duly did the first bit by winning 15-13. Will & Ed came out stronger in the second and you suspected the third would also go the same way now they had their foot down. The decider was incredible, with neither pair getting more than two points ahead of the other right until the end. At 11-9 noone could confidently pick a winner, and whilst mistakes were occasionally being made, the general quality of play, the athleticism and the shot-making from all parts of the court made for a real treat to watch. There had to be a winner, of course, but there was more than one in the crowd (even if not on court) who thought that we really should be playing best of 5…. Maybe next year. Anyway, on this occasion the Dans triumphed for a second time, having last won in 2015.
The various plates were also hotly contested, and with no Hales there this year it was an opportunity for some new names on the trophy. There were many close games but the only 3-game match of the day other than the final of the main draw was the plate final. Shinan Zhang & Penn Chai had an extraordinary first game… winning 11-0 in what appeared to the casual observer to be a close match, only for Emrys Thursfield & Ashwin Ahuja to come back 11-8. However, Shinan’s superior fitness over the boys proved to be the difference in the third game. So for the third year in a row Executioners take the plate!
And so to next year — hopefully we will be in the brand new Winchester College sports complex, but we will really miss these courts which once again provided such brilliant entertainment on a thankfully dry playing surface.
Preliminary round: S. Zhang & P. Chai bt R. James-Duff & A. James-Duff 15-8, 15-5; E. Thursfield & A. Ahuja bt H. Akerman & J. Cheng 15-11, 15-8
1st round: W. Ellison & E. Kay bt Zhang & Chai 15-1, 15-3; C. Lee & W. Kennedy bt B. Roberts & A. Whitham 15-13, 15-12; D. Butler & S. Roberts bt S. Kirby & R. Christie 15-2, 15-2; O. Arnold & J. Aquilina bt B. Kirk & D. Spiegal 15-2, 15-0; B. Beltrami & T. Parker bt J. Chan & A. Cloke Browne 15-2, 15-2; J. Birch & T. Hebblethwaite bt W. Akerman & H. Bishop 15-4, 15-6; A. Passey & L. Keates bt R. Thompson & T. Kiggell 15-4, 15-4; D. Tristao & D. Grant bt Thursfield & Ahuja 15-5, 15-2
Quarter-finals: Ellison & Kay bt Lee & Kennedy 15-1, 15-4; Arnold & Aquilina bt Butler & Roberts 15-3, 15-7; Beltrami & Parker bt Birch & Hebblethwaite 15-5, 15-6; Tristao & Grant bt Passey & Keates 15-4, 15-4
Semi-finals: Ellison & Kay bt Arnold & Aquilina 15-5, 15-9; Tristao & Grant bt Beltrami & Parker 15-13, 16-15.
Final: Tristao & Grant bt Ellison & Kay 15-13, 11-15, 15-11
Preliminary round: Zhang & Chai bt Spiegal & Kirk 15-5; James-Duff & James-Duff bt Christie & Kirby 15-6
1st round: Roberts & Whitham bt Akerman & Cheng 15-9; Zhang & Chai bt Thompson & Kiggell 15-9; James-Duff & James-Duff bt Akerman & Bishop 15-10; Thursfield & Ahuja bt Chan & Cloke Browne 15-8
Semi-finals: Zhang & Chai bt Roberts & Whitham 15-10; Thursfield & Ahuja bt James-Duff & James-Duff 15-10
Final: Zhang & Chai bt Thursfield & Ahuja 11-0, 8-11, 11-4
First Round Plate Losers
Preliminary round: Chan & Cloke Browne bt Kiggell & Thompson w/o; Akerman & Bishop bt Akerman & Cheng 15-12
Semi-finals: Chan & Cloke Browne bt Kirk & Spiegal 15-4; Akerman & Bishop bt Kirby & Christie 15-6
Final: Akerman & Bishop bt Chan & Cloke Browne 15-10
The trophy winners
Three of the Plate finalists!