Cambridge University Sports Centre
Saturday/Sunday 4th-5th December 2021
STOP PRESS With his victory in the National Singles Championship Dan Tristao moves equal with James Toop with six titles, five of them in consecutive years, and equal with Neil Roberts in his number of open Singles titles — 33 in all, second only to Wayne Enstone on 94!
The David Gardner Longboat aka The Plate was won by Sam Russell.
Charlie Brooks reports: Dan Tristao won his fifth consecutive National Singles title and his sixth in total, equalling James Toop on both counts, to be the joint second most successful National Singles player after Wayne Enstone. A large crowd saw Dan beat Will Ellison in the final, in a familiar showdown between the most successful players of the last decade. It had all the hallmarks of previous clashes both at this tournament and others around the country… Enviable range of shots? Tick. Phenomenal retrieval? Of course. A close game? We’d be disappointed if it wasn’t!
Will stormed into a 6-0 lead within the first few minutes, playing all-round Fives to keep Dan moving, and finding regular winners. As Dan settled and found his range, especially the touch and angles at the front of the court, he first turned the tide and then asserted dominance. Dan has honed these tactics to perfection and knows how to take advantage as a game wears on. Will was drawn into this pattern and was made to cover the full depth and width of the court seemingly numerous times each rally. Despite chasing everything down, Will could not dictate the points and Dan came away with the first game, 15-11.
The second game started in very much the same vein. Evenly matched, long rallies, but Dan with a telling edge. This brought the score to 13-7 and what everyone assumed would be the inevitable outcome. Not Will though! A superb fightback, where he upped his level to match and better Dan (with the help of mishit winner!) to draw level at 13-13. A rally for the ages followed, with enough drama for an entire match — control of the point ebbing and flowing, the two opponents covering inconceivable distances; it turned out to be a microcosm of the final. It was Dan who eventually triumphed, winning the next couple of points as well for a 15-11, 15-13 victory.
As you’d expect from the National Singles, there was some scintillating play throughout the draw, not just in the final, with a range of techniques on show; the energy of Watkinson and Kay, the power of Arnold and Beltrami or the accuracy of Aquilina and Tristao.
On Saturday, the day had culminated in an epic semi-final between Ed Kay, who has been in the past two finals, and Will. Using his intimate knowledge of his home courts, Ed pulled away at the end of the first game with a couple of unreturnable shots off both hands to win 15-9. The second game saw a score reversal as Will’s experience came to the fore.
And so to the decider. As with the final, these two players are so closely matched; it was nip and tuck throughout: 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13! Another breathless rally ended with Ed on the floor after more retrieving, but showing great sportsmanship managed to scramble away to allow Will to play his shot to win the point and, not long after, the game.
In the quarter-finals, Julian Aquilina certainly gave Ben Beltrami a run for his money, before Ben’s shot making and experience at this level pulled him through to the semis. Julian has shown fantastic consistency this season, putting his opponents under pressure with his high-paced line-and-length game. This was enough to force a win in the first, but Ben’s shot making fired him level, blasting many a winner in the second. Many more followed in game three, before Julian’s superior fitness seemed to be putting him in the ascendency. But no; alas, he had left himself too much to do.
Undoubtedly this lengthy 3-gamer took its toll on Ben. He fought valiantly in the semi-final against Dan, but never looked to have the upper hand. 15-10 in the first showed that he has the ability to stay with, and challenge, Dan; the winners were at times incredible. By the end though, Dan was finding it easier to control rallies and took the second to 6.
Elsewhere, there were reasonably comfortable first round victories for Andrew Boyd, Tom Watkinson and Charlie Brooks. They booked themselves quarter-finals against the top 3 seeds, with glimmers of hope of an upset — such is the level at the top though, these are few and far between.
In the plate, Sam Russell showed superb consistency in the group games and then the final against Cameron Low. As ever in this competition, the standard of matches was very hight indeed. In particular, the group game between Sam and Ollie Arnold was exactly the high-quality affair to be expected. The score ended 15-5, but that did not reflect the encounter, which was 5-5 after about half an hour. In the other group, Cameron had upset the seedings by beating Theo Parker; his languid style belies a steely determination that outlasted Theo’s array of shots.
This year saw one of the biggest turnouts ever, with 57 players competing across 4 qualifying events (Edinburgh, Tiverton, Derby and London). Combined with the Challenger event on the same weekend, the numbers grew to 70. Here’s to 100 participants in the near future!
1st round: D Tristao (1) bt G Wiseman 15-9, 15-5; A Boyd (8) bt T Parker 15-5, 15-3; J Aquilina (5) bt L Keates 15-5, 15-7; B Beltrami (4) bt C Davey 15-3, 15-1; W Ellison (3) bt C Low 15-2, 15-4; C Brooks (6) bt O Arnold 15-9, 15-4; T Watkinson (7) bt S Russell 15-2, 15-8; E Kay (2) bt A McCreath 15-0, 15-0
Quarter-finals: Tristao bt Boyd 15-9, 15-9; Beltrami bt Aquilina 11-15, 15-2; 15-9; Ellison bt Brooks 15-2, 15-7; Kay bt Watkinson 15-0, 15-3
Semi-finals: Tristao bt Beltrami 15-10, 15-6; Ellison bt Kay 9-15, 15-9, 15-13
Final: Tristao bt Ellison 15-11, 15-13
Group 1: Low bt Parker 15-9, bt Wiseman 15-1, bt Keates 15-2; Parker bt Keates 15-7, bt Wiseman 15-6; Keates bt Wiseman 15-6
Group 2: Russell bt Arnold 15-5, bt McCreath 15-6, bt Davey 15-4; Arnold bt McCreath 15-6, bt Davey 15-4, McCreath bt Davey 15-11
Final: Russell bt Low 15-6, 15-4