Sherborne School, Dorset
Saturday/Sunday, 22-23 October 2022
STOP PRESS The wrong kind of weather = sweating courts, the organiser’s nightmare. But they got through it with the help of heaters and dehumidifiers and the customary sawdust. Ed Kay eventually beat Dan Tristao to retain his Singles title, while the long-standing pairing of Ollie Arnold & Ben Beltrami notched up another win, beating the two Singles finalists. The Singles Plate featured two recent school leavers, with Gwydion Wiseman beating Oscar McIntyre. Daniel Brooke & James Smith won out in the Doubles Plate proper, while the contest between the losing quarter-finalists featured two up-and-coming pairings, with Cameron Low & Archie McCreath beating Lewis Keates & Oscar McIntyre in a predictably close decider.
Organiser Ollie Arnold reports: This year the West of England Championships returned to Sherborne School, who have hosted the tournament since 2019. Once again we were treated to two high quality draws, though players had to battle through slippery court conditions on the Saturday to complete their matches. In the end it was Ed Kay who came out on top in the singles (his third singles title at the West), and the pairing of Ollie Arnold & Ben Beltrami who won their first doubles title here.
Unfortunately, for a long period on Saturday the main story was not of the fives being played but of the sweating courts. Whilst the last-16 matches were completed relatively easily, the rest of the day was split between a truncated plate singles and the main draw quarter-finals, played one-at-a-time to allow for court changes when each became unplayable. As often happens, the closest games came from the 8th vs 9th seeds contest, where Cameron Low upset the seeding to beat Lewis Keates, and the 4th vs 5th seeds match between Julian Aquilina and Tom Watkinson. Playing over three hours on an endless rotation of four courts, in between copious applications of sawdust, Julian finally came through 11-4, 8-11, 11-4 to reach the safety of close of play.
Sunday morning began inconceivably early for a fives tournament, with the semi-finalists convinced to be on court and warming up prior to 9am. Ed Kay wasted no time in dispatching Ben Beltrami, whilst Dan Tristao came through a tougher semi-final against Julian; aside from one brief slippery moment, the courts were behaving and the tournament was back on track. The Plate singles final was contested by two of the newest players on the open fives circuit, with Gwydion Wiseman racing into an unassailable lead against Oscar McIntyre, and holding on to win 15-5.
The singles final was a story of two halves, with Dan dictating throughout the first game with trademark drop-shots and tight width to open his scoring with an 11-6 set. Ed persevered, however, and having taken the second set 11-4 he proceeded to win the decider to love, pressing high and taking all the time away from Dan. Ed has been in this winning position before as the National Singles Championship looms closer; perhaps this is his year…….?
Doubles progressed smoothly, with the top three seeds advancing easily to the semi-finals. The match of the day was fought out between Cameron Low & Archie McCreath and Tom Watkinson & Sam Russell; in both their previous meetings at the West of England this match had gone the distance. Cameron and Archie recovered from losing a tight first game to force the match to a decider, but it was not to be their ‘third time lucky’. Final score 12-10, 5-11, 11-6 to the fourth seeds.
Meanwhile, two doubles plates were taking place: the main plate and an additional plate for quarter-final losers. In the main plate the pairing of James Smith & Daniel Brooke (of the West of England Club) won out, a fantastic result for Dan at his first tournament. Following their disappointment at losing out in the main draw, Archie & Cameron eased past their opponents to win the additional plate.
Having progressed through high quality semi-finals, the top seeds Ed Kay & Dan Tristao and second seeds Ollie Arnold & Ben Beltrami contested the final. As always there was fantastic retrieval and hard-hitting on show, with most rallies ending with nick winners or errors forced by serious pressure. The key moment of the final came at the start of the second set where, having edged the first 11-9, Ben & Ollie raced into a 5-0 lead on the first hand. Despite some nervy moments as the top seeds reduced their deficit, Ben & Ollie held on with some crucial late winners to take their first title at the West.
As always, massive thanks must go to Sherborne School for hosting us, and to the players for persevering through some dismal conditions on the Saturday, all whilst taking turns in brushing and de-sweating the courts. Heads now turn to the National Singles Regional Qualifiers around the country, before the main prize is up for grabs in early December.
1st round: J Smith bt K Kennerley 11-7, 11-1; G Wiseman bt S Watson 11-5, 11-6
2nd round: D Tristao bt L Mathias 11-7, 11-7; C Low bt L Keates 11-6, 11-6; J Aquilina bt Smith 11-4, 11-1; T Watkinson bt J Sumner 11-4, 11-5; B Beltrami bt N Geere 11-2, 11-1; O Arnold bt O McIntyre 11-6, 11-2; T Parker bt A McCreath 11-4, 11-4; E Kay bt G Wiseman 11-1, 11-1
Quarter-finals: Tristao bt Low 11-3, 11-1; Aquilina bt Watkinson 11-4, 8-11, 11-4; Beltrami bt Arnold 11-3, 11-3; Kay bt Parker 11-6, 11-5
Semi-finals: Tristao bt Aquilina 11-3, 11-5; Kay bt Beltrami 11-1, 11-3
Final: Kay bt Tristao 6-11, 11-4, 11-0
Plate: Wiseman bt McIntyre 15-5
1st round: L Mathias & J Savery bt D Brooke & J Smith 15-5; C Low & A McCreath bt N Geere & A Landon 15-5; J Sumner & G Wiseman bt C Blakeley & R Christie w/o; L Keates & O McIntyre bt K Kennerley & S Watson 15-6
Quarter-finals: E Kay & D Tristao bt Mathias & Savery 11-7, 11-7; S Russell & T Watkinson bt Low & McCreath 12-10, 5-11, 11-6; J Aquilina & T Parker bt Sumner & Wiseman 11-2, 11-4; O Arnold & B Beltrami bt Keates & McIntyre 11-0, 11-3
Semi-finals: Kay & Tristao bt Russell & Watkinson 11-7, 11-3; Arnold & Beltrami bt Aquilina & Parker 11-4, 11-7
Final: Arnold & Beltrami bt Kay & Tristao 11-9, 11-6
1st Plate: Brooke & Smith
Quarter-final losers’ Plate: Low & McCreath bt Keates & McIntyre 15-13
Ominous weather conditions mean sweating courts
The GenSec steps in!
Ed digs deep against Ben for a place in the Singles final
Action from the other semi-final: Julian attacking Dan
Singles finalists Dan and Ed — silver and gold
Doubles champions Ollie & Ben
The Doubles finalists
James & Daniel win the Doubles Plate