The club’s season is yet to start, but some of its keenest players are already on court and, even better, winning trophies. Tom Webster and Andy Pringle both went to play in the South East Open doubles at Christs Hospital on August 20th, and Andy came home with the Plate – which he won with Pete Winzeler, an ex-Executioner, who hopes to return to the club this season, now that he has returned to teach in the UK after a few years in the States.
The inaugural Executioners Cup – played in a Champions League format – reached a fitting climax last night; and, the only disappointment was that no one was there to witness it, except the two finalists.
Much had been expected of the clash between Andy Pringle and Ben Chua after their clash in the aptly named ‘Group of Death’ in the preliminary stages, and the final certainly delivered.
Although the rest of the matches in the championship had been played over a single game to 15, Andy and Ben agreed that the final should be decided over the best of three games to 11; and, that was despite the match being played on the hottest day of the year, when Andy’s car reckoned the the temperature outside was about 34 degrees when he arrived.
The first game started off well for Andy, as he took a 5-3 lead, but that was a little deceptive. In truth, he was very rusty, having not played for three weeks, and Ben began to take advantage. The younger man started to find his length more consistently, forcing more mistakes from Andy, and so it was that Ben went on to claim a run of eight unanswered points and took the game to 11.
The second game started off like the first, with Andy taking an early lead. This time, though, he kept his head and, through a combination of better length and fewer unforced errors, built on the early 3-0 advantage. The crucial period of play was when the game stalled with Andy 8-4 up; and, despite several changes of hand and many hard-fought rallies, neither player could add to their score.
After what felt like an age, though, Andy nicked a point to go 9-4 up. That seemed to sap Ben’s will, and the defending champion went on to close out the game 11-4 and force the match into a deciding third game.
In other words, after those two games and about an hour’s play in the prodigious heat, Andy had effectively won a game 16-15 – and, indeed, the competition had been that close. Which was proved by the lengthy break that both players then took!
If there was any thought that Andy was now in the ascendancy and would go on to beat a dejected opponent, that couldn’t have been more wrong. On the contrary, Andy started the third game very slowly and soon found himself 0-5 down.
From that seemingly precarious position, though, he gradually began to assert himself. The single point to bring him to 1-5 down was crucial in steadying the ship, and it was soon followed by a few more, taking Andy from 0-5 down to 6-5 up.
By now, it was clear that Ben was feeling the heat – not just from the sauna on-court, but also from the Beef Rendang he’d eaten before the final – and Andy’s experience came to the fore. Refusing to be panicked, he stuck to his guns, moving Ben around the court, varying his length and width, and hitting several crucial ace serves when his opponent threatened to get back into the match.
In the end, the last few points were almost one-way traffic, as Ben’s strength and confidence seemed to desert him. Finding a few nicks and delicate angles, Andy was able to force errors from Ben and even hit the odd clean winner – the result being that he closed the game out 11-6 and sealed the title.
It was just the kind of final the tournament had been looking for, and our thanks must go to Richard Dyke, both for coming up with the idea of this new format and for organising it. Roll on next year, when we hope that even more players will take part.
Saturday 17th June brought that most keenly contested of competitions to St Paul’s School: the Executioners doubles tournament, held annually (well, annually-ish) around the end of each season. We have great pleasure in recording below organiser Guy Matthews’ report from the event; and even greater pleasure in not recording his speech from the Sun Inn afterwards.
On the hottest day of the year, 11 intrepid souls ventured into the oven of the St Paul’s School courts for arguably the biggest event in the fives world – the Executioners end of season doubles tournament. Unbelievable scenes as all 11 players turned up within half an hour of the start time. After finding the only available piece of paper – a receipt for two lattes and a cookie – and a pen, the organiser started scribbling and came up with the perfect combinations of pairs. Showing the type of foresight which has made him a laughing stock in psephological circles, the organiser said loudly: “Duncan Neal and Robert Mathias” are the pair to beat.
Given the odd number, the organiser laid down an exciting rule that each pair would have to sub the organiser in for one of their four matches. Hale & Steel opted to grasp the nettle early and the organiser stepped in for Hale for the first game: Neal & Mathias 15 – 0 Matthews & Steel. Elsewhere Compton & Webster embarked on a steady and victorious campaign through the group stages; Stokes & Rogers notched up a couple of early wins. Little should be said for the efforts of Wall & Peterson except that they are both fine and decent fellows and that an absence of talent was vastly counterbalanced by a joie de vivre akin only to a pair of young ex-public school boys trooping off to the polling booth to vote for Corbyn.
As things developed it became clear that Duncan Neale was hustling hard. Turning up in prescription dark glasses, soaked in sweat and talking of 2 hours of sleep, he hit sly front-of-court winners reminiscent of Frank Akerman schooling the colts on the Jesters tour. The organiser rightly stepped in: Compton & Webster 15 – 7 Matthews & Mathias. Hale & Steel deserve praise for some valiant efforts as they sought to overcome the poor start; as the group stages drew to a close it became clear that the undefeated Compton & Webster would be facing Stokes & Rogers in the final, with Hale & Steel against Mathias & Neale in the playoff for third place.
The organiser – now at a loose end – challenged the fifth place finishers to a two-versus-one wooden spoon playoff. Matthews 15 – 3 Wall & Peterson. Scenes. Wall uttered a phrase that can be summed up with the acronym ‘FML’ and stomped off the court. In the bronze place playoff Hale & Steel headbutted the concrete wall that is Duncan Neale and eventually succumbed. The final was an ambitious best-of-three-to-eleven affair and at one game all, all four players were lying on their backs on the court with mutterings of ‘calling it a draw’. Cue explosion from the organiser and the final game was begun. Congratulations to Compton & Webster who triumphed over a spirited Stokes & Rogers.
To The Sun Inn in Barnes. Absolute scenes as Peterson bought champagne and a table tennis table was discovered (off point, but Matthews 21 – 12 Stokes). The organiser gave a short speech, praising Andy Pringle for being an utter legend as Captain of the club and all who turned out for such a terrific day.
After a season packed with more singles matches than ever before – well, probably! – there are just two players left in our 2016/17 singles championship.
They are defending champion Andy Pringle and Ben Chua, who remarkably have progressed from the same group – the aptly nicknamed ‘Group of death’.
That encounter was a tough match, won 15-11 by Andy, so we can expect anothet thrilling clash in the final – which looks set to be played on June 21st. Spectators are welcome…
The line-up for the semi-finals in this year’s singles championship has been decided, and it has a decidedly ‘experienced’ look to it. Changing from the ‘ladder’ system we’ve used in the last few years has produced a lot of singles games, and you can see the full results on the Championship page on this site, but if the system was expected favour younger players, the reality is anything but that.
In one semi, Andy Pringle (defending champion, pictured left with Guy Matthews) will face Tony Julius, both of whom now qualify for official Veteran status within the RFA rules; and, in the other semi, we see Dick Warner, a man who can (and will, we imagine!) call both these players children. Mind you, what he’ll call his opponent – Ben Chua, the only player in the last four of less than 45 years of age – is anyone’s guess. We imagine that will depend on the outcome of the match – which we’ll bring you as soon as it’s been played…
So, the semi-final draw is:
1: Andy Pringle v Tony Julius
2: Dick Warner v Ben Chua
After a few weeks’ frenetic activity, the line-up for the quarter-finals in this year’s singles championship has been decided. Changing from the ‘ladder’ system we’ve used in the last few years has produced a lot of singles games, and you can see the full results on the Championship page on this site. However, to save you the bother, this is a brief report of what happened…
Group A was dominated by Tom Webster, whose dedication and smart observation of the rules catapulted him to the top of the group. Alex Wall snuck into second place on points difference. Laying down the marker was defending champion Andy Pringle, registering a clean sweep in Group B (aka the Group of Death), although he was pushed hard in his clash with second-placed Ben Chua. Experience registered a win over youth in Group C, as a resurgent Dick Warner notched 7 points to top the table ahead of Penn Chai, despite an unfavourable head-to-head record. Charles Compton was unbeaten to take pole in Group D, while Tony Julius’ demolition job of Guy Matthews saw him move into second.
That means the quarter-final draw is:
1: Tom Webster v Tony Julius
2: Andy Pringle v Penn Chai
3: Dick Warner v Alex Wall
4: Charles Compton v Ben Chua
It was a case of So near, yet so far for Andy Pringle & Alex Steel in their fifth campaign in the National Winchester Fives Mixed Doubles Championship, held at Bradfield. Although they played superbly – probably the best they’ve ever played as a pair – they just fell at the final hurdle, finishing as runners-up for the second year in a row.
As in 2016, they were undone by a younger pair, Tessa Mills and Ollie Arnold, but can be very happy that not only did they come through a very tough round-robin to reach the final, they pushed the eventual winners very hard in what was reckoned to be the highest-quality mixed doubles match in recent memory. In the best-of-three-games final, they only lost the third and deciding game 15-10.
Mind you, with three titles to their names, they still hold the record for the most number of victories in this event, as well as the record for the highest number of consecutive appearances in the final.
For the full story of the event, click here to visit the RFA website.