Manchester Gold Racquet 2019
Manchester Gold Racquet 2019
Eight pairs entered the Manchester Gold Racquet in 2019, a smaller number of entries than usual, but ideal from an organisational standpoint. What we lacked
in quantity, however, was more than made up for by the quality of the Draw. Under the current World Championship Procedures, the Doubles was a Tier
2 Qualifying Tournament this year, whereas the Singles was not. Accordingly, the decision was taken to give priority to the Doubles and play the Doubles
Semi-Finals & Finals before the Singles. A set of Chicago balls had been obtained for use in the Tournament and were much appreciated by the players.
In the first round of the Doubles, there were fairly straightforward wins for the seeded pairs, setting up Semi-Finals between the second seeds, Alex Duncliffe-Vines & Ben Cawston and the third seeds, Ben Bomford & James Coyne; and between the top seeds, Christian Portz & Peter Cipriano and the fourth seeds, Mike Bailey & Nick James.
In the first Semi-Final on Saturday afternoon, James & Bailey had a fairly straightforward victory against Portz & Cipriano in less than three quarters of an hour. The winners set off at a great pace in the first game, moving rapidly to a 9/0 lead, with Portz and Cipriano then having to play catch-up, ultimately unsuccessfully, going down 15/7. Some of the best play in the match marked the opening points of the second game, but thereafter James & Bailey moved rapidly onward to win the game 15/2. The third game was, if anything, more one-sided than the second, with Bailey & James taking only about ten minutes to take the game and the match 15/7, 15/2, 15/1. Bailey was the outstanding player throughout, whilst Portz & Cipriano made too many errors to press their opponents hard.
The second Semi-Final lasted a little longer and was rather more competitive. In the opening game, both sides stayed on fairly even terms to 5 all; but ADV then enjoyed a period of service dominance taking him & Cawston into a 14/7 lead. They were then put out, but immediately regained service, whereupon ADV served an unreturnable ace to the backhand to take the game 15/7. ADV & Cawston remained very much in the ascendant during the second game, with Cawston the dominant player, missing & mishitting nothing. Despite the occasional whiplash forehand and one or two neat drop shots from Coyne, ADV & Cawston moved inexorably onwards to take the game 15/4. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, when the tables were comprehensively turned in the next game. Coyne & Bomford were dominant throughout, and the occasional error began to creep into their opponentsâ€™ play. It did not take long, therefore, for them to take the game 15/0. But the fourth & final game reverted to the pattern of the first. Coyne & Bomford stayed in contention during the opening stages of the game, but some fine serving by both ADV & Cawston took them to 15/5, winning the match 15/7 15/4 0/15 15/5.
The Final on Sunday morning, therefore, promised an epic contest between the second & fourth seeds; and that is exactly what the gallery got. In a thrilling match lasing an hour and fifty minutes, Bailey & James overcame ADV & Cawston to take the title by three games to two. The early exchanges set the pattern with a number of fine rallies during which Bailey was outstanding playing forward on the right. An example of his skill and timing was an extreme angled shot from the front right to win a splendid rally at 6 all.Despite plenty of powerful & skilful play from both sides, however, Bailey & James moved decisively ahead to lead 14/7 and saw off a late charge by their opponents to take the first game 15/10.
In the second game, despite some fine shots by ADV & Cawston, Bailey & James were on top throughout. Bailey maintained his wonderful form, playing mainly forward on the right, punching through the ball and missing little, whilst his partner covered the left-hand side and the back of the court. So they were able to take the game 15/3. But there was still all to play for, as soon became apparent in the third game. ADV & Cawston went into an early 6/1 lead with some fine serving by ADV in particular. Bailey & James then started to reassert themselves, with Bailey again playing with great skill & judgement, pegging their opponents back to a lead of 6/5. But then mistakes began to creep into their game and they struggled to regain the initiative and their opponents eventually won the game 15/9.
Neither side could make a decisive move during the opening stages of the fourth game, though the play was of the highest standard. But from 7 all, ADV & Cawston opened up a significant gap, taking them to 12/7 and they soon moved on to take the game 15/9. So all was set for a decisive final game. The play ebbed & flowed in the early exchanges, with neither side able to gain a clear advantage. Whilst ADV was serving well, Bailey was having difficulty in holding his serve. But ADV & Cawston then managed to advance their score to 8/5, at which point the gallery was able to savour some of the finest rallies of the match. Despite fine play from their opponents, ADV & Cawston took their score to 10/8 and then 11/10. Cawston then served wide to James who ran it down and put the ball to the back of the court where it died, letting Bailey & James back in hand. After a further change of service hands, Bailey & James were able to serve their way to victory, winning 15/10 15/3 9/15 9/15 15/11. The applause from the gallery rang long and loud, acknowledging a magnificent match which showed the great game of rackets at its very best.
In the Singles, as in the Doubles, there were no major surprises in the first round. In the first Quarter-Final, the top seed, Alex Duncliffe-Vines, won 15/10 15/9 against Peter Cipriano who had had a comfortable victory 15/5 15/2 in his first round match against Sam Cook. Ben Cawston, the second seed, had a comfortable win, 15/1 15/3, over the local professional, Darren Long, who had seen off Lewis Symonds, a regular supporter of the Gold Racquet, in an excellent firstâ€“round match, one of the highlights of which was a winning volley by Long off a hard hammer serve from Symonds. The fourth seed, Christian Portz, also won his Quarter-Final against Theo Taylor, 15/7 15/6. Theo is currently studying at Manchester and played well throughout the Tournament, seeing off his fellow student, Jack Mitchell in the first round. But there was an upset in the other Quarter-Final, when the third seed, James Coyne, was put out by Robert Shenkman, 18/15. 15/12. Coyne had arrived late after tiring journey and Shenkman was playing on his home court. But it was a notable victory for the younger player, who has been concentrating on his Tennis in recent months.
Shenkman went on to meet Duncliffe-Vines in the first Semi-Final. He played extremely well against the World Championship Challenger and returned his service well, despite its severity & accuracy. But he could not generally match his hard low stroke-play in the rallies. ADV looked strong and sharp throughout the match, claiming victory in three straight games, 15/4, 15/9, 15/6.
The other Semi-Final was a tighter match. Portz, who had not played particularly well in the Doubles showed much better form against Cawston. The play in the first game was evenly matched to 9 all. A beautifully judged drop shot by Cawston just above the wood from the back of the court to the back-hand side was one of the highlights of this period in the game. But Cawston was beginning to make one or two errors and Portz started to get on top, hitting the ball hard and low to take the first game 15/12. This pattern of play continued into the next game, with Portz still striking the ball with great assurance whilst Cawston tried to vary his tactics, albeit without great success. A long service run took Portz to 13/4, and a heavily cut service which Cawston could not return took him to game ball allowing him to win the game 15/4. But Cawston was not inclined to accept defeat. In the third game, he matched Portz stroke for stroke and took an early lead at 7/2. But Portz fought back, to level the score at 13 all when the game was set to five. Service then alternated between the players, but Portz was unable to take advantage of his opportunities and Cawston moved inexorably to win a hard-fought game 18/14. Cawston maintained his momentum in the fourth game, serving tightly to Portz, particularly on the back-hand and building up an early lead. But Portz fought back, cutting his opponentâ€™s lead to 9/7. Cawston, however, then took the score to14/7 with a long service run and, after a glorious and hard-fought rally, was able to take the game 15/7. That was effectively the end of Portzâ€™s challenge. In the final game, Cawston was on top from the beginning and won it fairly easily to take the match 12/15 4/15 18/14 15/7 15/3. It was by some way, however, the best Singles match of the Tournament.
The Singles Final was something of an anti-climax. It was the last match to be played on the Sunday; and Cawston was out of sorts from the outset. ADV, on the other hand, continued to show the strength, athleticism, power and skill which he had displayed in his Semi-Final and was able to win the match comfortably 15/8 15/1 15/2.
The Plate Singles for the first round losers was won by Lewis Symonds, who beat Jack Mitchell 14/17 15/10 15/0; and the Plate Doubles was won by Shenkman and Long, who defeated Symonds & Taylor in a spirited encounter 15/10 2/15 15/1.
At the Tournament Dinner on Saturday evening, after an admirable meal and excellent wine, the organiser announced that he intended to stand down after fourteen years in that role and that Robert Shenkman would take over with effect from next season. He thanked all those who had contributed to the success of the Tournament over the years, the players themselves, Jamie Bebb who had supported him throughout, the professionals, the Chef and, of course, the Clubâ€™s General Manager, the inimitable Stella Heap, and all her staff.
- Portz bt Tancer 15/2 15/11
- Shenkman bt Roumani 15/3 15/9
- Cipriano bt Cook 15/5 15/2
- Taylor bt Mitchell 15/6 15/10
- Long bt Symonds 15/11 14/17 16/15
- ADV bt Cipriano 15/10 15/9
- Portz bt Taylor 15/7 15/6
- Shenkman bt Coyne 18/15 15/12
- Cawston bt Long 15/1 15/3
- ADV bt Shenkman 15/4 15/9 15/6
- Cawston bt Portz 12/15 4/15 18/14 15/7 15/3
- ADV bt Cawston 15/8 15/1 15/2
- ADV & Cawston bt Roumani & Tancer 15/4 15/10
- Portz & Cipriano bt Shenkman & Long 15/0 15/9
- Bomford & Coyne bt Mitchell & Cook 15/7 15/6
- James & Bailey bt Symonds & Taylor 15/4 15/3
- ADV & Cawston bt Bomford & Coyne 15/7 15/4 0/15 15/5
- James & Bailey bt Cipriano & Portz 15/7 15/2 15/1
- James & Bailey bt ADV & Cawston 15/10 15/3 9/15 9/15 15/11