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Brown Advisory Ladies British Open Singles Championships 2024

Update Apr 14, 2024
Published Jan 29, 2024

Jan 20, 2024 - Jan 21, 2024 The Queen’s Club T Lumley

18 ladies entered the Championship this year and 12 of these went into three qualifying groups, with the remaining six going straight into the Main Draw.

The three qualifying groups played best-of-3-game matches and the Group winners were Emilia Davis, Minty Oldham and Eve Shenkman. Emelia and Eve qualified convincingly without dropping a game, but Minty had to work a lot harder to earn her place in the Main Draw since two of her group matches went to a deciding game.

In the first round of the Main Draw Emilia Davis beat Minty Oldham for the right to play 2nd seed Tara Lumley. Eve Shenkman played India Deakin, with India going through to play top seed Cesca Sweet, who is current Ladies World Doubles Champion (with Lea Van Der Zwalmen) and the finalist in the Ladies Open in 2022 and 2023.

The quarter-final line up is the best we have seen in this competition, now in its 13th year. The four players winning through to the semi-finals, India Deakin, Georgie Willis, Claire Fahey and Tara Lumley, all won their matches without dropping a game. An especially good performance was by India Deakin in defeating top seed Cesca Sweet 15/9, 15/5. For India, a second 3-month residency at Queen’s up to Christmas as ‘the fellow’, working with the Real Tennis and Rackets Pro’s, getting lots of time on court, seems to have sharpened her game excellently, whilst Cesca, busy with her studies at Loughborough, has had little opportunity to practice by comparison.

In the first semi-final, however, India was up against the power and hard serves of Georgie Willis, 2022 Ladies Open Champion. Georgie generally hit the ball a bit too hard and deep for India, though the second game at 15/12 was very well fought, Georgie reaching the final by 15/6, 15/12, 15/2.

This excellent match was followed by a grand tussle between 2nd seed Tara Lumley, the 2020 Champion, and Real Tennis legend Claire Fahey, Champion in the first four years of this Ladies Open and the holder from 2023. Claire took an exciting first game 15/12 and held game ball in the second at 14-12, but Tara got back in hand and reached 14-14. Claire chose set 3 and twice regained the serve in the set, but Tara never let up and took the game 17/15. For much of the next game, Tara was playing catch up, but got stuck at 6, and again at 9, and Claire served effectively in the latter part of this crucial third game to take it 15/9. Leading 2 games to 1, Claire called on all her immense match-playing experience to maintain the initiative and prevent a resurgence by Tara, Claire taking the game 15/7 to set up a final against Georgie Willis.

In the early days of the Ladies Open 2011-2014, Claire set the standards and gave the event much-needed credibility. Since then, her commitments within Real Tennis, and with a young family, resulted in quite a gap in her appearances on the Rackets court since losing a brilliant inaugural World Championship to Lea Van Der Zwalmen 3 games to 1 in 2015, until her highly successful return to win the Ladies Open in 2023. There is no indication of any fall-off in her Rackets ability over the last ten years, but the overall standard of the other top ladies has gone up and up, as one would expect with the time and commitment they have given to improving their game. Tara Lumley, India Deakin and Georgie Willis have worked hard at improving their technique and fitness, greatly helped by the time and skill put in at promoting Ladies Rackets from Queen’s Head of Rackets Ben Bomford, together with many of the current leading men players, notably World and Open Champion Ben Cawston, and his predecessor in those titles, Tom Billings, and in the last couple of seasons the hugely improved Julius Manton-Jones, all these top men putting in very many hours of crucial practice with the top ladies, both in mixed doubles play and in one-on-one hitting and instruction. So, it was no surprise to find that Claire would have a much harder task in the final with Georgie Willis than in the five previous finals Claire had won, without dropping a game. And so it proved. The first three games could easily have gone either way, Georgie winning the first 17/14 in the best of 3 set, then Claire squaring up the match by winning the second game 15/12. The third game proved to be crucial, and this too went to set 3, this time at 13-all, and with both players understandably cautious at this stage, it was Georgie who managed to win the game, 16/14. With a 2 games to 1 lead, Georgie played with growing confidence, serving hard and not afraid to go for the big winners. Claire was finding it hard to get her service from the right box to be effective, her new backhand serve needs a bit of technical tweaking at the back of the swing before it becomes a real weapon, and when serving forehand from this right box, Claire’s ball was tending to hit the side wall too close to the short line, giving Georgie an easy ‘let’ off the back wall when turning. When in hand, Georgie’s forehand serve from the left box is the best in the Ladies game, and technically excellent, and gave her the opportunity to take the fourth game 15/6, to notch up her second Ladies Open to go alongside her win in the 2022 final against Cesca Sweet.

Ladies Rackets is on the up and up, both at School level and at the senior level. The evolution of mixed doubles, fostered so successfully by, especially, Mark Briers from Cheltenham and by Ben Bomford at Queen’s, is familiarising the ladies with the added pace from the men, so that top ladies now hit the ball themselves at far greater pace and are far happier at the ball coming to them at high speed. Two areas where future development is most needed is first on getting the grip on the Racket of many of the ladies more open, less influenced by modern closed lawn tennis grips, and secondly, concentration on getting the racquet lifted higher on the backswing, with a cocked wrist, again eliminating the lawn tennis influence of a low racquet-head position at the back of the swing.

This year sees the next Ladies World Championship. Will any of this year’s Ladies Open semi-finalists be able to loosen Lea Van Der Zwalmen’s grip on the World Title she has won on each of the four occasions it has been held? We shall see!

Howard Angus

Final result: G. Willis bt C. Fahey 17/14 12/15 16/14 15/6


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