National Doubles Championship
Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, April 9/10th
On paper, the results may suggest that the 2016 National Doubles Championship was a rather uneventful affair, with no three-game matches and hardly any close games. However, there was no lack of quality on show, which was no great surprise, given that the field contained the top ten from the doubles rankings and thirteen of the top sixteen.
In the end, Will Ellison and Charlie Brooks – the 2013 & 2015 champions, who were reunited after injury forced a temporary separation last year – took the title relatively easily, but it didn’t look as if things would go that way at the start.
For instance, the Cambridge pair of Ben Beltrami and Ed Kay looked like they were a threat in dispatching Ollie Arnold and David Butler without much alarm, but they failed to apply much pressure in the semi, when they allowed far too many errors to creep in.
Likewise, Tom Dean and Matt Shaw cruised past veterans Hamish Buchanan and Robin Perry, who by their own admission were slow to get out of first gear. However, the younger men only achieved any parity with the top seeded Charlie and Will late on in the second game of the semi when, rather bizarrely, they swapped sides to play on their weaker hands.
By contrast, although they reached the final, the two Dans looked rather less assured, with Dan Grant severely restricted by a back injury that meant he always looked vulnerable. However, a telling attack didn’t come until the final, when Will and particularly Charlie exposed his lack of mobility. So, although the final was close in the early stages, as the match wore on, the former champs turned up the pressure and found the winners to claim their third title.
The plate also looked pretty high-quality on paper, but in the end, the winners – Arnold & Butler – proved to be a class apart. However, a mention must also go to Carr and Hebblethwaite, who played some powerful fives and were by no means outclassed in such a high-class field.
Quarter-finals: Brooks & Ellison bt Carr & Hebblethwaite 15-1, 15-5; Dean & Shaw bt Buchanan & Perry 15-5, 15-10; Beltrami & Kay bt Arnold & Butler 15-7, 15-10; Grant & Tristao bt Aquilina & Tilston 15-8, 16-15
Semi-finals: Brooks & Ellison bt Dean & Shaw 15-4, 15-11; Grant & Tristao bt Beltrami & Kay 15-12, 15-6
Final: Brooks & Ellison bt Grant & Tristao 15-5, 15-2
Plate: Arnold & Butler