Invitation Singles 2008
sponsored by Neptune
Alex Titchener-Barrett beats James Coyne 3-0
T&RA Invitation Singles Rackets 2008, Match report by Guy Smith-Bingham
The Invitation Singles, sponsored by Neptune, was won by Alex Titchener-Barrett in a brutal display on Sunday where he defeated James Coyne three games to love. It concluded a very successful eight days of rackets at Queen's Club where the best available eight players were invited to play in the first of the season's major championships.
There were a number of firsts for this year's event namely Neptune had stepped up to the plate to sponsor it (amongst many other tournaments over the season), the singles ranking system was used for the first time (it will continue to be trialled for the rest of this season) and there was also a qualifying tournament.
The qualifying tournament was also sponsored by Neptune, held at Marlborough this year, hosted by Robert Wakely and managed by James Beaumont. Play was continuous throughout Saturday and Will Hopton came through as a clear winner of his semi-final over Dave Makey and his final over Richard Spender (who had beaten Charlie Danby in his semi-final). Thus Will and Richard qualified but so did Charlie, as Tim Cockroft had to withdraw due to work commitments (Dave withdrew from a third place play-off due to an elbow injury).
The main event began soon after the Rackets Singles World Championships on Saturday 8 November with a tight match between Mark Farmiloe and James Coyne. This match set the tone for the majority of the performances over the week, in the reporter's view, in that all the players in the competition are very capable but had not spent enough quality time on court yet this season. The one exception was Alex Titchener-Barrett. It was abundantly clear that he was physically very fit and he had been practicing his serve, so it comes as no surprise that when every other competitor puts at least 30% of their serves on the back wall and he puts about 20% of his in the nick that he romps home to victory. Mark Farmiloe beat James Coyne in the closest match of the whole tournament. There was an extraordinary mixture of sublime technical accuracy and swashbuckling barbaric blasting which even injured the marker! Alex T-B's only loss of a game came in his first match against the top qualifier Will Hopton. This was a good match to start with as Alex's artillery was matched by Will's tenacious retrieving. After the second game when it was one apiece Alex's match experience showed through and his serve found a better length.
James Coyne provided the first major upset to the seedings as he defeated Mark Hubbard 3-0 later on the Sunday. Mark Farmiloe defeated Richard Spender comfortably after the latter received a blow to the forehead by the ball rendering him dizzy until match end.
On Tuesday Charlie Danby was on his best form as he was searing through his match against Will Hopton with some clean winners and decisive serving only to be reigned in by pulling a muscle in the third game. Seizing the opportunity on his off day, Will took the match three games to two. Mark Hubbard came out in full force, to regain some honour from Sunday perhaps, to defeat Mark Farmiloe three games to one in his second match. Will Hopton beat Alaister Orchard three games to love on Wednesday. This was an upset to the seedings but Will's match practice this season and renewed focus on court made life much easier for him than for Alaister who has been in the Far East with work commitments.
After the last round robin matches went according to seeding, the semi finals were set up with Alex T-B playing Mark Farmiloe and James Coyne playing Will Hopton.In the first semi-final, Alex served particularly well and took every advantage of Mark's full toss on the back wall service offerings. On a server's court this is an extremely good starting point if it is in your favour. There were some great shots down the wall and across court from both players but the clear majority were from Alex. The other semi-final was a somewhat surprisingly one-sided affair. James Coyne timed his serves well and found a better length with his shots in the rally. The gallery were expecting the occasional ball via the rafters but came there none! The tank has been tamed maybe.
The final was a brief occasion and after less than ten minutes of play Alex had twenty-one points in the bag before James could muster his first. There was a lot of hard hitting, as could be expected, and some good retrieving, but the interesting rallies were few and far between. It was not Saturday's Coyne that came out to play, it was more like the Coyne of old where all problems are solved by hitting the ball harder. Alex, although he did not play as well as he did in the semi-final, played a clean and fast match not letting James get into any sort of stride. His overall fitness will have showed through because to win this tournament is definitely the most physically demanding, as competitors have to play five top ranked players in eight days and no rest day between semi-final and final.
Thank you to Neptune for sponsoring our new initiative into ranking as well as the tournament itself, and to all who helped, marked, and tended the sick; also to Pol Roger for providing refreshments after the Final.