MCC Gold Racquet 2017
Jamie Douglas beat Ed Kay 4/6 6/3 6/4 1/6 6/2
The Dedans was full for the 150th Anniversary staging of the MCC Gold racquet challenge match between the holder and eight-time winner, Jamie Douglas and a new challenger for this event, Ed Kay of Cambridge and RTC. The Gold Racquet is, we believe, the longest continually held amateur singles tournament in Real Tennis, and over the years has been held by many of our greatest amateur players. This match, greatly anticipated, featured two of the current top amateurs in the country.
After some initial warming up games which were evenly divided the match really caught fire in the crucial seventh game of the first set. By this stage, the rallies had lengthened, unforced errors largely eliminated, both players were going for their shots and there was some fabulous retrieving. The game went to Jamie, 4-3, to the holder and the crowd was wondering whether Ed would withstand the onslaught. However, he proved more than equal to the challenge. The eighth game was also a tussle but with Ed winning this time. Ed then seemed to find a new level to his game, hitting at least four point-winning grill shots in a row and running out 6/4 winner in the first set.
Stung by this loss, the holder rapidly established a commanding lead in the second set at 4-1. Despite the best efforts of the challenger to save a couple of games, Jamie was able to win the set 6/3 tying the match at one set all. To the spectator, the first two punishing sets of Tennis, taking one and half hours, seemed to have taken their toll on the players. In the second set, Ed had seemed as if he was tiring. However, in the third set it was Jamie who seemed to be struggling a little with cramp in his legs. Nevertheless, he was able to win it 6/4 and the crowd now began to wonder if this might see the end of the match in four sets. However, Ed seemed to find a second wind, and with Jamie apparently increasingly struggling with issues with legs and hips, Ed took a 4-1 lead. At this point, the holder seemed willing to sacrifice the set in favour of building his energy, not really running for shots and consuming a lot of fruit in the change-over breaks. Ed was working hard to keep his concentration – this match was marked by both players apparently conducting an audible inner dialogue with themselves – and took the set 6/1 to level the match.
MCC members who have watched Jamie in earlier matches are aware that he can be at his most dangerous when he seems to be struggling with injury, and so it proved. We were to witness a display of Douglas power Tennis. His retrieval was back to the levels of the first two sets, his boasts were low and struck with tremendous force and to a very good length, and Ed struggled to live with the increased pace and power. Jamie rapidly took a four-game lead in this final set, and although Ed managed to pull back to 5-2, he was unable to prevent the holder achieving his ninth title. Overall, it was a tremendous match and the crowd was well satisfied with the three and half hour spectacle. Ed Kay now becomes the Silver Racquet holder and, all other things being equal and assuming form and fitness remain as now, we can look forward to an equally exciting match between these two players in 2018.