Brown Advisory British Open Doubles Championship 2019
A scintillating tournament was drawn to its conclusion by a festival of Rackets at the Queen's Club. Sponsors, Brown Advisory, now completing their fourth year of Rackets sponsorship witnessed top class rallies from all four players.
The reigning champions, Tom Billings and Richard Owen had progressed smoothly through the tournament before encountering the toughest challenge in the semi-finals, where Mike Bailey and Nick James proved worthy opposition, as many would have forecast from this established pair. Having dropped a narrow first game 14/16, Billings & Owen stepped up into a two-one lead with two strong games, only for Bailey and James to level after a fourth dogged game. However, with the game in the balance, the extra fire-power of Owen and the supreme talent of Billings moved the momentum back in their favour as they closed down the match four games to two.
The number two seeds, Alex Duncliffe-Vines and Ben Cawston, also reached the final fairly comfortably, although were pushed by Mark Farmiloe and James Bailey in their opening match, and then the fast starting James Coyne and Ben Bomford in the semi-final. Both opposing pairs took a game off the second seeds. The semi-final did prove to be a momentous battle of wits, with virtually every game separated by a few points.
A packed gallery saw a showdown of the top seeds, with every vantage point taken up. After a couple of early skirmishes and a couple of hands apiece, it was Duncliffe-Vines and Cawston who generated a fragile 2-0 lead. This proved to be short-lived as Billings gripped the game, serving cleverly with good length, backed up by the impressive Owen, who showed great footwork with raw power and accuracy. Eight points on the Billings serve changed the momentum and with only one point on the opposing serve, the top seeds lead 8-3. Billings & Owen then extended their lead to a dominant 12-3 and, with only one point in response, it was Owen who closed the first game, 15/4; important first blood to the defending champions.
The second game was remarkable similar in the early exchanges before, once again, seven points on the Billings serve and a further four from Owen, established a 12-3 advantage. Duncliffe-Vines & Cawston dug deep into their repertoire but were simply not getting much change from their determined opponents. The score was soon 13-5, before the game was won with further powerful shots from the top pair, winning 15/5; and a two games to love lead.
The gallery knew it was now or never for Duncliffe-Vines & Cawston and they secured a small advantage in the third as Duncliffe-Vines served well and Cawston scurried to retrieve everything thrown at him. The young partnership held a 5-2 before the more seasoned champions clawed back the lead, although generally training by the odd point. The game reached 8-all, then 9-all, and then 11-9 Billings & Owen. The third game seemed to be swinging towards the top seeds. However, Cawston then stepped up to produce some top class serving, backed up by sublime shots by his partner. They inched closer to the game reaching 14-11, before losing the first hand. Duncliffe-Vines stepped up and, after a couple of lets, played out the final point with precision. 15/11 and back in the match, trailing one game to two. Game on!
The fourth game started quite tentatively with shots being traded either way. Billings seemed less certain and Owen's footwork was marginally slower, and many shots came back off the back wall. However it was still the Billings-Owen combination which inched ahead, 4-1 became 8-4, then 9-6. The match was tight and the game could swing either way. It was the second seeds who grabbed the game, with five points in a hand, and took what seemed to be a critical lead 11-9. More rallying and the champions were 12-11 ahead but two points later it was 13-12 Duncliffe-Vines-Cawston. A vital missed point with both players close together let in their opponents who seized the opportunity. Level at 13-all and then steaming through the set to five without reply. 18/13 and the match had turned, Billings & Owen regaining the vital momentum.
The fifth game was critical. Billings was back to his best and Owen was revitalised, taking a 4-0 lead on the opening hand. However, Cawston then Duncliffe-Vines came back strongly and soon it was 5-all. The match was far from over. But then Owen stepped up and found his touch in the box. Eight points later, all on Owen's serve, the score was 13-5, and situation looked forlorn. Duncliffe-Vines rallied and pulled back a couple of points but the Billings-Owen combination served a point apiece to close out the match 15/7.
The gallery roared its approval for both pairs after an exhilarating match. The top seeds had been pushed hard and came though the challenge and retain their primacy in the doubles game. Only one more step to ascend. The defeated finalists put on a brilliant display of resilience and determination, demonstrating they are a force for the future.
T&RA President, David Norman, warmly applauded both sets of players, thanked the sponsors effusively, represented by Louisa Cottrell, and Queen's Club for its continued support to Rackets. There was a huge roar for departing Queen's Club CEO, Andrew Stewart, who has proved to be a stalwart supporter of Rackets and will be seriously missed when he departs in July.
- T Billings & R Owen bt A Duncliffe-Vines & B Cawston 15/4 15/5 11/15 18/13 15/7
- A Duncliffe-Vines & B Cawston bt J Coyne & B Bomford 13/15 16/13 15/7 17/14 15/14
- T Billings & R Owen bt M Bailey & N James 14/16 15/4 15/2 13/16 15/6 15/2
- T Billings & R Owen bt A Gourlay & T Shields 15/2 15/1 15/1 15/4
- M Bailey & N James bt T Loup & H Hardman w/o
- J Coyne & B Bomford bt T Stevens & B Stevens 15/11 9/15 17/15 15/7 15/3
- A Duncliffe-Vines & B Cawston bt T Buckley & A Mason 15/2 15/7 15/7 15/11
- A Gourlay & T Shields bt J Marshall & P Baily 15/11 15/4 15/2 15/5
- T Billings & R Owen bt A Rozier-Pamplin & G Rozier 15/1 15/4 15/9 15/3
- T Loup & H Hardman bt A Titchener-Barrett & C Portz w/o
- M Bailey & N James bt F Clarke & A Wakely 15/1 15/5 15/1 15/3
- J Coyne & B Bomford bt N Brett & T Bomford 15/7 15/6 15/5 15/11
- T Buckley & A Mason bt N Navapurkar & M Seely 15/11 16/14 15/13 15/5
- A Duncliffe-Vines & B Cawston bt M Farmiloe & J Bailey 15/12 15/5 15/3 8/15 15/7
- T Stevens & B Stevens bt L Symonds & R Tulley 15/8 10/15 15/9 15/2 15/10
- N Brett & T Bomford bt O Cooke & A Pitallis 15/5 15/4 15/7 15/8
- F Clarke & A Wakely bt J Jamieson-Black & W Evans 6/15 15/12 15/10 15/17 4/15 15/11 15/7
- M Farmiloe & J Bailey vs T Foster & T Karossy 15/5 15/6 15/3 15/8
- T Loup & H Hardman bt T Calder & V Scott-Geddes 15/3 15/1 15/4 15/2
- A Rozier-Pamplin & G Rozier bt A Maxwell & A Green 15/3 16/15 15/9 11/15 15/2
- T Buckley & A Mason bt H Scott-Lyon & L Webb 15/9 13/16 15/12 15/5 15/6