Rackets World Eliminator 2019
The current World Singles Champion, James Stout, has decided not to defend his world title again having held it for the last 11 years. James is one of
the greatest players our game has seen and it has been a privilege to watch him play. A full tribute to Jamesâ€™ achievements and contribution to the
singles game will published by NARA and the T&RA in due course.
James Stout vacating his title means that we now have an Eliminator match to determine who plays Tom Billings in the Championship Match this Autumn. The Eliminator is being played between Alex Duncliffe-Vines and Will Hopton who are the third and fourth ranked players in the World Championship points ranking.
The Eliminator will be played over two legs in the UK as follows:
First leg: Queen's Club: Wednesday 22nd May - Will Hopton beat Alex Duncliffe-Vines 15/6 15/4 15/7 11/15 15/4
Will Hopton and Alex Duncliffe-Vines exchanged a point apiece as both settled down in front of the packed gallery at The Queen's Club. Hopton the struck the first blow as he quickly settled into his rhythm, picking up six points on the next hand to lead 7-1. ADV pulled back a point and then chances came and well, but the score remained locked at 7-2. After three hands each, it was again Hopton who found his mark, and although ADV was returning well, Hopton ran down three more points to lead 10-2. ADV pulled a point back but Hopton closed in on the first game with four more points to lead 14-3. ADV rallied and good speed around the court dragged the score back to 6-14, which held for a furtehr couple of hands each before Hopton finally struck the decisive shot to win the game 15/6, and an early lead.
Both players were now working hard and missed opportunities to score, but once again Hopton's serve was just that little more precise and he slowly, but surely, edged ahead; 3-0, then 5-0, then 6-0, before ADV replied. Pulling back two points gave a glimmer of hope but Hopton was always ahead, stretching the lead to 8-3, and then a further five points in another successful hand gave him a 13-3 lead. ADV pulled back a point but it wasn't enough and Hopton served the next two points to win the game a decisive 15/3, and a two game lead.
The third game followed a similar pattern with Hopton once again showing the early running, reaching into the back corners to recover and forcing ADV to aim just above the tin. Hopton established a small 2-0 lead but ADV was fighting, recovering to lead 3-2 briefly, before Hopton scored a further four points, 6-3. The game was fast scoring and Hopton edged further ahead but ADV came back again to level 7-7. Sadly for ADV that was the end of the resurgence as Hopton stepped up a gear, serving magnificently, backed up by effortless movement around the court, to reel off eight points on service like the oncoming tide, taking the game 15/7. Hopton was now 3 games to love ahead and his supporters were extremely vocal.
ADV needed to step up and he certainly did just that. With a renewed sense of urgency, he established an early 4-0 lead, finally waking the Cheltonian support. Hopton responded, chipping away at the lead until he led 5-4 and then 7-4. ADV worked hard to re-establish momentum gradually fighting back to 6-7. The game was tense and hung in the balance. Hopton again pushed ahead to 9-6, then 10-6, edging closer to the vital fourth game, a point apiece left the score 11-7. Now Hopton stalled as ADV played his best Rackets of the match, scoring single points but eventually levelled and then took a slender 12-11 lead. Hopton couldn't find a way back in as ADV snatched his serve before serving three sweet points to take the game 15/11, and establish a foothold in the match.
The fifth game saw Hopton regain the momentum, leading 6-0 after his first hand. ADV rallied but then disaster struck as his playing hand started to cramp, trailing 2-6. ADV fought valiantly struggling to hold his racquet, but it was Hopton who was now unstoppable. From 7-3, Hopton scored six points, without reply, to lead 13-3. ADV somehow salved a point but that was his last triumph on the night as Hopton took the game 15/4, a four games to one lead in the overall match.
The 100 strong gallery had witnessed a superb match between two of the top players in the game, with the eventual winner scheduled to play the watching Tom Billings in the same format in November.
Second leg: Manchester: Saturday 25th May - Alex Duncliffe-Vines beat Will Hopton 15/14 15/9 18/17 15/12
Alex Duncliffe-Vines stunned Will Hopton by overturning the three-game deficit, winning four games to love. ADV will now play Tom Billings for the World Championship in November. In the closest of matches, it was Duncliffe-Vines who was able to win the critical points. Both players were closely matched and the first and third games were balanced on a knife edge.
The players came North to Manchester to contest the second leg on a court they both know well. Given his commanding lead from the first leg, one game would almost certainly suffice to secure victory for Will. Could Alex reverse the result at Queenâ€™s and win by 4 games to love?
Alex opened the match with a serve from the left and was immediately put out after a bad bounce, allowing Will, varying the pace of the ball, to move to a 2-0 lead. Alex then got back in hand after a fine, low return and moved slowly to 5-4 and then to 8-4. Will clawed his way back, reducing his opponentâ€™s lead to 8-7. But a good run by Alex, serving well and mixing hard hitting down the side walls, cross court kills and the occasional drop shot, saw him increase his lead to 12-7 before losing service on a double fault. Will took advantage of this opportunity to win the next two points before Alex regained service and moved on to 13-9. An attempted drop then left him out of position allowing Will to put the ball away. Will then dug in to take the score to 13 all. Alex elected no set; and Will won the next point to take him to game ball. But Alex got back in hand and won the next point to equalise the score at 14 all. From the backhand side, he served hard down the middle, allowing Will to claim a let. The same sequence was repeated twice more before Alex claimed the point he needed, winning 15/14 after a game lasting some 37 minutes.
In the next game, Alex carried on where he had left off, quickly running to a 6-0 lead over Will, soon advancing to 9-2. But Will fought back with typical determination, levelling the score at 9 all before losing the service. After a fine, long rally, Alex took the next point and moved on impressively to win the game 15/9.
The third game initially took a very different direction. Alex won the first two points; but Will then got in hand and moved to 9/3, losing and almost immediately regaining service on several occasions. There followed some splendid play from both men with the advantage tilting back to Alex, who eventually evened the score at 11 all. But Will regained the initiative, moving to 13-11 before Alex clawed one back and then took the score to 13 all with a fine backhand kill. Will chose to set to 5. It looked as if the decision would pay off, as Will quickly took the score to 4/1 in the set. Nothing daunted, Alex got back in hand, and won three more points before losing the service once again to give Will game ball for the second time. But Alex immediately fought back, got in hand and managed to serve out the game to win 18/17.
Both players were now tiring, but Alex was brimming with confidence and quickly established a commanding lead at 11-3, varying pace and direction and playing to the gallery with several shots between his legs. Will fought back, but the scales had tipped too far in his opponentâ€™s favour and Alex eventually won the game and the match 15/12.
The match was a credit to both players, hard fought in the very best of spirits over 2 hours and 10 minutes. Will had his chances; but Alex deserved his fine victory against the odds, saving three match points along the way, so as to secure his place in the World Championship Challenge in November.
Many thanks to John Prenn and PlayBrave, sponsor of both matches.