West of England Open Championships
Sherborne School, Dorset
Sat/Sun, 26-27 October 2019
Organiser Ollie Arnold reports: This year the West of England Championships had another change of venue, as we were fantastically hosted by Sherborne School for the first time since the 2008 tournament. High quality play over the course of two days resulted in some spectacular matches — Dan Tristao defeated last year’s champion Ed Kay in the singles final to take his fifth title here, whilst Ed teamed up with Will Ellison for their fourth consecutive doubles title.
With a draw of 16 competitors in the singles, the first round included some highly anticipated contests. Matt Shaw and Tom Watkinson played a repeat of their London Open clash; a trademark comeback from Tom in the second set proved too little, too late as Matt closed out an 11-5, 11-8 win. Elsewhere, matches were going to seeding as top players Kay, Tristao, Ellison and Butler progressed. Dan Grant came through a tight second set to beat Ollie Arnold 11-1, 11-9, whilst Ben Beltrami showed little mercy in cruising past Pete Hanton. The match of the round was Theo Parker vs. Julian Aquilina, which Julian won in three close games: 11-7, 9-11, 11-8. Julian’s consistency proved just too much, although not before a purple patch saw Theo storm to the second set.
Four close quarter-finals followed: Kay saving a set point en route to beating Shaw in two and Tristao beating Aquilina 11-6, 11-8. The crowds were drawn to the other two quarters, however, with Beltrami vs. Butler and Ellison vs. Grant on court. As with many of their matches, Ben and Dave were neck and neck throughout, with Dave displaying fantastic retrieval of Ben’s many nicks, though this time the crucial points went Ben’s way. Meanwhile, Dan Grant unleashed a flurry of winners to take the first set versus Will 12-11, proclaiming himself the ‘s*** court specialist’! Unfortunately for Dan, any questionable bounces seemed to disappear from that moment on, with Will staving off a late surge to take the decider 11-7.
The Plate was well underway by this point, with Watkinson, Kirwan, Arnold and Parker progressing to the semi-finals whilst Louise Mathias and the Hantons moved into the Plate Plate, in a seemingly never-ending series of sub-tournaments. Whilst Watkinson breezed into the final, Arnold and Parker played out yet another match in a series which must be challenging ‘Aquilina vs. Tilston’ in length! This time it was Theo that won, although he did not have quite enough to beat Tom in the Plate final, losing 11-9, 12-10.
Back to the main draw, where Kay and Beltrami were straight into intense match-play. Onlookers were treated to awesome retrieval from Ben, though Ed remained undeterred in crashing nick after nick off both sides with inspiring accuracy. 11-6, 11-6 does not tell the full story of the match, with Ed needing the form that has taken him to the number one ranking this past year to win. Tristao vs. Ellison followed in a repeat of the London Open semi-final where Will had triumphed. Unsurprisingly, it was another long three-gamer for the pair who had won 60 Open Singles titles between them, but it was Dan that won in the end: 11-5, 6-11, 11-4. He had to weather an almost error-free second set from Will, but perhaps Will’s long match against Grant caught up with him in the end.
After the Saturday evening delights of a curry and Tom Watkinson’s many controversial statements, the singles final between Ed and Dan got underway. The first set was practically a masterclass from the former number one – just three errors from Dan as he moved Ed around the court with accurate drop-shots to take it 11-2. The Sherborne courts allowed for high quality singles: retrieval was made more possible by a slightly shorter court-length, but the side-wall nicks were generous, which resulted in long, rallies at the front of the court and attacking winners when an opportunity arose. Ed used this to his advantage in the second set, grinding it out 11-7. The result was in the balance early in the third set at 3-1 to Dan, before a run of four consecutive winners from him proved decisive: this was Dan’s fifth West of England Singles title, and his 31st Open Singles title -– behind only Neil Roberts and the GOAT…
In the doubles, Watkinson & Butler vs. Shaw & Beltrami was the pick of the quarter-finals. Tom’s hard-hitting and Dave’s doubles experience had their opponents on the ropes early, though once Ben and Matt found their groove they recovered to win 11-9, 11-6. Third seeds Arnold & Parker progressed quickly past Aquilina & Hanton, whilst Ellison & Kay also moved to the semis easily. Meanwhile, the Exeter pairing of Kennerley & Savery had Dan2 in serious trouble! Savery’s powerful right hand was finding left and back-wall nicks with ease, whilst Kennerley’s clever dropshots and lobs kept the previous champions honest. In all of this high-quality fives the enjoyment was apparent, with grins on the faces of players and spectators alike; it was an incredible advertisement for the spirit in which the game should be played, and both pairs were applauded off court after Dan & Dan had squeaked through 11-8, 12-10.
The Plate was also an exciting affair, with pairs from Bristol and Exeter fighting it out. Steel & Rew overcame the (almost) ageless pairing of Watson & Lewis, and the Bristol pair of Mathias & Davies backed up their main draw win by beating Kennerley & Savery. Unfortunately both pairs came unstuck against Aquilina & Hanton, who beat Mathias & Davies in the final.
Back in the main draw, Shaw & Beltrami played a clever game to run Kay & Ellison close, holding back on their pace until the opportunity was clear, although in the end the quality of the top pair won out, the game finishing 11-8, 11-7. Arnold & Parker were in ruthless form in their semi-final, racing out to an 11-7, 10-7 lead with the help of the generous Sherborne nicks. However, Grant & Tristao could not be ruled out and ground down the younger pairing to take the second set 12-11, saving multiple match-points on the way. A quick start from either pair in the decider could be decisive, and it came from Arnold & Parker on their way to an 11-7, 11-12, 11-2 win and a first West of England Doubles Final.
It seems Ed & Will had a clear game-plan in place for the final, as they charged out to a 9-1 lead in the first set. In some serious trouble, Ollie & Theo could only slow the inevitable and take a break, having lost the first set 11-3. Once they had refocused, the second set was tighter; neck and neck to 6-6 before the defending champions eked out a 9-6 lead. The Bristol pair fought back to 9-9 but could not force another point, as Ed & Will sealed the win. The difference in the second set was Will’s incredible consistency in hitting five winners to only three errors (+2) –- of the other three only Ollie could break even.
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend which was greatly enjoyed by participants. Thanks must go to all that entered, and especially to Sherborne School for their great hospitality and the use of their courts. I hope to welcome a bigger entry back to Sherborne next year, so save the date now! Focus now moves to the National Singles — Tristao seems to be peaking at the right time to extend his three-year winning streak!
1st round: E Kay bt S Watson 11-2, 11-4; M Shaw bt T Watkinson 11-5,11-8; B Beltrami bt P Hanton 11-0, 11-3; D Butler bt B Kirwan 11-5, 11-3; W Ellison bt J Hanton 11-3, 11-0; D Grant bt O Arnold 11-1, 11-9; J Aquilina bt T Parker 11-7, 9-11, 11-8; D Tristao bt L Mathias 11-6, 11-2
Quarter-finals: Kay bt Shaw 11-3, 12, 10; Beltrami bt Butler 11-8, 11-9; Ellison bt Grant 11-12, 11-5, 11-7; Tristao bt Aquilina 11-6, 11-8
Semi-finals: Kay bt Beltrami 11-6, 11-6; Tristao bt Ellison 11-5, 6-11, 11-4
Final: Tristao bt Kay 11-2, 7-11, 11-2
Plate: Watkinson bt Parker 11-9, 12-10
1st round: Davies & L Mathias bt T Lewis & S Watson 11-8, 2-11, 11-6; K Kennerley & J Savery bt A Rew & A Steel 11-7, 9-11, 11-2
Quarter-finals: W Ellison & E Kay bt Davies & Mathias 11-2, 11-1; B Beltrami & M Shaw bt D Butler & T Watkinson 11-9, 11-6; O Arnold & T Parker bt J Aquilina & P Hanton 11-0, 11-0; D Grant & D Tristao bt Kennerley & Savery 11-8, 12-10
Semi-finals: Ellison & Kay bt Beltrami & Shaw 11-8, 11-7; Arnold & Parker bt Grant & Tristao 11-7, 11-12, 11-2
Final: Ellison & Kay bt Arnold & Parker 11-3, 11-9
Plate: Aquilina & Hanton bt Davies & Mathias 11-2, 11-1