Hopcroft Wins Foster Cup - Public Schools Singles Review
Hopcroft wins HK Foster Cup, Phillips wins Renny.
After a week of non-stop play at Queens Club, the Public Schools Singles Championships climaxed with the HK Foster Cup final last night. The gallery on the Championship court was packed (quite literally) to the rafters by an expectant crowd, hoping to see a match to rival last years thrilling final.
Sean Knight (WIN) had already played once that day, beating Dan Shiner in the delayed 'over-night' match, in 4 games. Tribute must be paid to Sean, with a heavily bruised nose and eye from the collision with Shiner's racket the day before, he could have taken the option not to continue the semi-final, but he did, and won convincingly in the end.
The final started off in tense fashion, both players looking for that extra edge to try and take a lead. With 10 minutes gone the score was still at 6-6. Both players returned serve very well, with few aces between them, however many returns were attempted efforts at hitting the ball straight, as opposed to using the side wall. Although this is highly effective when executed correctly, the danger is to mis-time the shot and have the ball sit somewhere in the mid-court, and thus ready to be 'dispatched'. This was the case in the opening game, where a lack of unforced errors meant that each rally was finished off with a decent shot or clean kill. Knight however pulled clear, finding a bit more rhythm on serve, and hitting the ball with more weight and pace to take the first game.
It was clear that the match was going to follow a similar, tense pattern throughout and could certainly be described as 'highly competetive'! The players gave each other little room and three or four times they came very close to striking each other with either ball or racket. Hopcroft had struggled with Knights fore-hand serve from the right throughout the opening game, and continued to be forced wider than he would have wanted. Knight used this extra space to kill the ball into the open court 'down the line'. Hopcroft however started to learn from this and begun to take the return on the backhand volley, with remarkable success. He took some wonderful balls off the sidewall which not only solved the problem of leaving open space, but also caught Knight off guard and the unforced errors started to creep in. Hopcroft is known for his consistency and this showed as he levelled the match with wonderful forehand hit to a perfect length.
The length of hitting had been a little loose in the first two games with a lot being planted on the back wall, but this started to correct itself mid-way through the third. Hopcroft especially was finding the right length on his straight backhand drives, leaving Knight with little room to work with in the back corner. Knight in general seemed to be playing the game from further back in the court, and increasingly Hopcroft started to dominate the centre. This control of the 'T' is something he has brought to Rackets from Squash and although not conventional, it is effective when in charge of a rally. In charge he was, and with Knight starting to look fatigued, Hopcroft took the third game and looked full of confidence and desire to win the next.
Having taken a 6 point lead in the fourth game, it looked as though Hopcroft was going to finish the match off with the minimum of fuss. However some faults began to creep in on serve, and Knight suddenly looked a little more relaxed, and begun to go for his shots again. Some impressive kills off the back wall and strong straight forehands got him back level to 6-6 and as such there was a glimmer of hope. It was not to be however as Hopcroft once again won a succession of points via hitting to a length and finding the right angles. He won the match and the HK Foster Cup following a Knight return of serve into the tin, at only just 16 years of age, a truly remarkable feat.
The Winners of the Public Schools Singles Championships
HK Foster Cup - N.Hopcroft (WEL)
Renny Cup - E.Phillips (HAR)
Incledon-Webber U16 - R.Owen (CHE)
Jim Dear U15 - J.Maltz (TON)
To view photographs from the championships, click here