Ladies Rackets Challenge - 21st Jan, Malvern College

22 Jan 2012

Neptune Women's Rackets Challenge upset at Malvern College and spirited performance from Will Vanston.

Malvern College staged the second Neptune Women’s Rackets Challenge match after inaugurating the event last season during the celebrations to reopen its Victorian rackets courts following a major re-fit. The Challenge, between two pairs of sporting all-rounders saw last year’s champions, the former British Open Real Tennis champion Alex Garside and lawn tennis star Alex Kurkjian, narrowly defeated by the challengers, former world Real Tennis champion Sally Jones from Warwick and South African squash player Barbara Vintcent in a thrilling battle that went down to the wire. Garside and Kurkjian looked well in control, cruising through the first two games of the best-of-five game match 15-3 15-0 and leading 7-3 in the third thanks to explosive serving and spectacular floor play. Vintcent then upped the pace, returning more aggressively and hitting a string of forehand winners while Jones varied her powerful serve to good effect. They levelled at 2 games all and despite trailing 9-12, fought back to 13-all and boosted by some miraculous retrieving from Vintcent, Jones served straight through to clinch the decider 18-13.

Until the last couple of years, few women had ever played the game but last season’s Malvern Challenge, the first national women’s event, generated so much interest that it led to the inaugural British women’s Open championship in March, in which the women’s world Real Tennis champion Claire Vigrass beat Barbara Vintcent in the final, and the first ever national schoolgirls’ championship. Growing numbers of women and girls are taking the game up thanks to support from professionals at the 14 schools where rackets is played, and at clubs particularly Queen’s where Alex Kurkjian, a passionate convert to the sport has organised all-women sessions attracting scores of talented racket sports players.


The new College champion Will Vanston, 17, from Hereford was also in action, partnering Old Malvernian Tom Bomford, a former national schools doubles title-holder, in a Men’s Challenge against the big-hitting Wykehamist pairing of Mike and James Bailey. Despite taking the opening game, Vanston and Bomford found the Bailey brothers’ power and experience too much to handle and bowed out 3-1 after a thrilling battle. Vanston who had been training hard with the College’s new rackets pro Noel Brett and Tom Bomford recently pulled off a major win when he beat his great rival, the former national Junior Colts' champion Jonny Maltz of Tonbridge in the opening round of the Foster Cup  Schools senior championship at Queen’s. The unseeded Vanston’s speed round the court and weight of shot was too much for Maltz, 18, the second seed and after the Malvernian had snatched the tight opening game 15-11 and had fought back from 3-8 down in the second, he took the match in straight games. Both teenagers are also nationally ranked squash players and their longstanding rivaly extends to both sports. This was Vanston’s first ever rackets victory over Maltz, after several previous losses including in the final of the National Schools Junior Championship in 2008. He went on to reach the senior semi-final but lost narrowly to the eventual winner Chris Stout of Cheltenham College, the younger brother of reigning world champion Jamie Stout.

Results from Malvern College:

Neptune British Women’s Rackets Challenge:

B. Vintcent and S. Jones bt A. Garside and A. Kurkjian 3/15 0/15 17/14 15/13 18/13

Neptune Men’s Challenge:

M. and J. Bailey bt T. Bomford and W. Vanston 9/15 15/7 15/10 15/11

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