BOURNEMOUTH, GREAT BRITAIN: The ITF Grade 1 Open Clay Courts Championships were plagued by bad weather in the Jubilee Week, but some play was possible each day on the clay courts, which were restored to excellent condition by the hard-working ground staff of the West Hants Club.
Congratulations to the referee, who managed to juggle and complete a heavy programme of around 465 singles matches, featuring more than 50 overseas visitors, using far-flung indoor courts on two days and by introducing various reduced scoring systems.
All doubles events were also completed. High winds on the last two days made for some odd adjustments, but the sun shone on finals day making players and spectators happier.
On finals day it was the Men’s 35 singles final which drew the crowds. Much was expected of the match between Jason Barnett and Colin Bennett who had emerged from a strong draw to play for the title. The first two sets were split, with Jason taking the first 64 and Colin replying with a 63 set. The final set featured service breaks either way and was settled by a tie-break which Colin finally won 8-6 after recovering from a 3-1 deficit. The match was an impressive display of long baseline rallies, which used all corners of the windy Centre Court, punctuated by the occasional volley. It was a match of extremely high quality from which many aspiring young players could learn much.
There were other results to savour. Seb Jackson lost only one game on his way to the 40 singles final where he beat David Ireland 61 62. Matt Coombes had quite a tussle against Chris Clarke in his semi-final but went on the beat Ben Knapp in the 45s final. Chris Hearn was taken to a first set tie-break in the 50s final but went on to a two sets defeat of Vince Gray while Paul French, the current world number one, had a comfortable passage through the 55s draw, culminating in a straight sets win over Alec Allen. The seeds fell away in the 60s and it was Niall Sweeney who exceeded his sixth seeding to beat John Hilton, seeded eighth.
Favourite visitor, Peter Adrigan from Germany made his way to the final of the 65s to meet Hans Adama Van Scheltema of the Netherlands who took the first set before unfortunately having to concede through injury in the second. The 70 singles saw Australian George Collins bound through the draw, taking out second seeded Clive Hutchings and, in the final Henk Nijeboer who had earlier survived a 12-10 tie-break against Rolf Westman of Sweden. Don Shears won the 75s with a two sets win over Derek Horwood.
Ken Sinclair of Canada paid a return visit to the tournament, to contest the 80s title this time, and reached the final against Henri Crutchet from France after being taken to three sets by both Paul Drane and Tom Baron. Henri, still looking fresh, was the straight sets winner. The 85s event, played as a round robin of four was won by Gerry Clarke of Ireland.
The Women’s draws were small but of generally high quality with many of the British team players competing at all age levels. Karen Cross, who captained the gold-medal winning 35s team in California earlier in the year won the 35 singles after a close first set with Kerry Pollard; Michelle Oldham, 40s team captain, played powerful, attacking tennis to defeat Isabelle Tyrrell in the 40s and Lesley O’Halloran of Ireland again won the 45 singles, played as a round robin of four players.
The 50s title went to Anthea Stewart who eventually overcame Chris French in three sets while Pat Wire won the 55s by default from Sally Freeman, who sustained injury during the semi-final. Marjory Love was severely tested by Pauline Fisher in the 60s with both players evenly matched and fighting hard to take the title, won eventually by Marjory on the final tie-break. Jenny Waggott was the winner of the 65 singles with a straightforward defeat of Christine Lockhart and Jacky Boothman was equally efficient in winning the 70s.
The 75 and 80 singles, with six entries each were played as round robins with a play-off between the group winners. Nola Collins of Australia won the 75s after taking the first set tie-break over Gill Thompson and Shirley Critchley was awarded a walkover in the 80s play-off.
There were some entertaining doubles finals, too, and the full results for the week may be seen on the Clay Courts page. Just click here and then click on “Drawsheets”.