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Mike Fenn reports:
This year’s Fathers & Sons Championship took place at Eton College on the same day as the Kinnaird National Championships final. This had its attractions in that there were many more spectators at the College than normal but with the downside that all watched the Kinnaird match rather than the semi-finals and final of the Aberconway!
Missing this year were recent winners the Hughes and Worths out before the day due to injury leaving slightly weaker pairings at the top level. Matters worsened on the day when the second seeds Andy and Tom Husselbee had to withdraw when their car broke down on the way to Eton. This could potentially have been the organiser's worst nightmare but fortunately the Husselbees were in a five pair group and with a spot of quick re-organisation the Championship got underway with four groups of four pairs in each.
One of the joys of the Fathers and Sons is the friendly spirit in which the matches are played with encouragement given by the experienced players to the young beginners. The serious part only kicks in when seeded pairs are matched together. Although billed as a Father & Sons Championship mothers and daughters can also enter. This year witnessed three new pairs Gareth and Tom Hoskins, Mandie and Abi Barnes and Peter and Vicky Westwood with the youngest son Tom Hoskins aged nine and the eldest father Tony Walters aged sixty-nine. Other newcomers were Monty Evans, Harriet Asquith and Connor Christie with Charlotta Cooley, and Jake Walters making a welcome return after several years’ absence. Several records were to be set with Gareth Hoskins becoming the first player to have played with father and son, first entering with father Barry in 1991; a record ladies entry of five players; and Tony Walters playing in his tenth semi-final.
The best of three games group matches were played in the morning session with most showing a reasonable balance of scores with no pair losing too dramatically. As expected the top four seeds progressed without too much trouble to the semi-finals. Grant and Guy Williams topped Group 1, Tony and Jake Walters Group 2, Philip and Robert Wilson Group 3 and James and Milo Skelton group 4. No matches went to three games. The two youngest players Tom Hoskins and Gwydion Wiseman more than held their own in supporting their fathers and showed great improvement as their confidence grew.
The first semi-final between the holders Grant and Guy Williams and Philip and Robert Wilson was the higher standard of the two producing some long and scintillating rallies, with one rally in excess of fifty points. The two boys were the best players on court demonstrating great periods of attacking play and ferocious volleying. The Williams played well as a pair with a complete understanding of each other’s position on court especially when under pressure. The first game score of 12-4 to the Williams does not reflect the closeness between the two pairs but in the second of the best of three the Wilsons fell away to a 12-1 defeat.
The second semi-final between Tony and Jake Walters and James and Guy Skelton was a much closer affair going the full three games but on balance of a lesser standard than the other semi-final. Jake on his return to the tournament after several years’ absence was the most dominant player on court with young schoolboy opponent Milo Skelton showing great maturity for his age with great returns of cut and crisp volleying. Father James Skelton, not a regular player until recently, showed signs of his earlier prowess at the game and had the edge over Tony Walters. The outcome of the match was in the balance until the last few points, the Skeltons taking the first 12-9, the Walters the second 12-6 and in a nip and tuck third the Skeltons with their nose in front throughout 12-10.
The final was to prove a slight disappointment with the top seeds Grant and Guy Williams proving too strong for the lesser experienced James and Milo Skelton who were feeling the strain of a close semi-final. Grant and Guy ran out comfortable winners 12-3, 12-0.
The Aberconway Cup was presented to the winners by Richard Black, the Chairman of The Eton Fives Association.
Grant & Guy Williams beat Philip & Robert Wilson
James & Milo Skelton beat Tony & Jake Walters
12-9, 6-12, 12-10
Grant & Guy Williams beat James & Milo Skelton