Sunday, the 29th of March, saw the running of the Old Scholars, one of the most prestigious Club handicap doubles tournaments.
Richmond bathed in autumnal sunshine throughout the day and the excellent weather was reflected in the standard of the tennis.
Sophie Johnson and Diane Rennard, representing Monash University, showed early promise on the George Limb Court, overcoming the team on day release from the fashionable rehabilitation institution ‘The Priory’, Lizzie Brown and Andrew Schnaider in an easy contest. The ever-improving James Gould took breaks from doing his VCE homework in the Committee Room to partner his steady father to a series of victories, losing a set late in the round-robin section to Cora Trevarthen and Gerard Powell, representing the University of Melbourne, by which time their place in the semi-finals had been assured. The President follows a fine tradition of trophy-hunting by the leaders and senior committeemen of the Club.
Playing steadily all along was another team representing the University of Melbourne, Philip Barker and Robert French. French found the length on his serves as the day progressed and volleyed athletically, while Barker (better known as Captain Sir Peregrine Brace-Girdle-Brace, Bt.) was uncharacteristically ruthless in his single-minded desire to win.
Meanwhile, on the Alan Hamer Court, Will McCahey and Nick Shelton, representing Melbourne Grammar, were conquering all before them. Undefeated in the round-robin, they attributed their good play to a strict exercise and diet regime. Russ Middleton and Bob Adams, representing “a Melbourne high school”, played some steady tennis, qualifying for the semi-finals. Jeremy Howard and Josef Brunhuber, representing RMIT and Evelyn Howard and Fiona Hewson had some mixed results, narrowly missing out on qualifying. The Oxford pair of Griffith, Q.C. and J.V.C. Guest elegantly lost every match so as to allow James more time to expound upon his latest theorems.
A delicious luncheon was taken outside and then the dedans filled with the remaining throng to watch the semi-finals. On the Limb Court it was French and Barker (owe 15) against Middleton and Adams (receive 30) and on the Hamer Court it was the traditional Scotch v Melbourne Grammar contest of Gould and Gould against McCahey and Shelton. Grammar, buoyed by the victory in the Head of the River that day, was too strong for Scotch, winning 6/3. In the other semi, the match was well-contested throughout and stood at 4 games all when Barker, his ruthlessness thinly disguised by an air of apparent nonchalance, switched into a higher gear and brought the set to an end 6/4. French did not miss much, including some full stretch volleys at second gallery which Barker must have thought were for him to sweep at the back of the court.
By the final, between the University (owe half 15) and Grammar (love), the excitement reached fever-pitch. The wine had been flowing freely for some time, and the dedans gave all players their full and enthusiastic support. The standard of tennis was high, with many outstanding rests and fine contributions from each player. In the end, the well-practised cunning, guile and experience of French and near-sexagenarian Barker won the day in a thrilling 6/5. McCahey and Shelton were gracious in their defeat; French appeared thrilled with the plaudits and the glory, while Barker attributed his newly-found application to his dictatorial haircut, modelled on the late Romanian autocrat Nicolae Ceauşescu.