The 2009 North African Tournament.
The 2009 iteration of the North African Tournament took place on the 211th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Nile, which, through the mists of time, must have been divined to be a sufficiently fruity occasion which to commemorate with what has become one of the Club’s more eccentric tournaments.
A small, but – to borrow from Sir Max Beerbohm – “perfectly formed” field of six pairs commenced the first of five round-robin matches at the leisurely hour of 10:30 a.m.
The Bros. Norton appeared to be the early favourites, particularly given that neither of their opposing pair of Fiona Hewson and Michelle O’Rorke was on court at 10:30. In the spirit of the day no games were docked and the Nortons in any event proceeded to win their opening match.
Chris Webb flew in from Dubai to be paired with the veteran beginner Charles Wright. Playing together for the first time, they suffered a number of losses before improving late.
The evergreen combination of Jon. Sear and R. McCahey as always combined well, though not quite well enough to qualify for the final. Jonathan’s usual ebullience was on display in his devilish Farouking, while Rob’s cunning serving produced a number of aces.
The combination of Jeffrey Bird’s genteel stroke play and Tony John’s vigorous forcing claimed many victims throughout the day. Looking a certainty to qualify for the final, this charming duo inexplicably lost 7/3 in the last of their round robin matches allowing Lizzie Brown and Andrew Schnaider to sneak into the final by the narrowest of margins. Lizzie (or “Zizzee” as she was known on the day) had early that morning secured some industrial strength theatrical make-up. She applied it liberally; so much so that she emerged from the taxi which conveyed her to the Club several shades darker than her subcontinental driver. Some of the banter which was caused by Zizzee’s appearance cannot be published on this web site.
The experienced combination of Hewson and O’Rorke improved as the day wore on but graciously allowed Schnaider and Zizzee to beat them in the final match. Bird and John and Sear and McCahey missed out on qualifying by no more than an individual game.
In the final (timed, as all the matches, to 27 minutes), between the Nortons (owe 30) and Brown/Schnaider (rec ½ 30), the former were heavily favoured, having won all but one of their round robin matches. However, the receivers were off to a quick start, establishing a four-nil lead before a stunned audience in the dedans. According to the modified rules the Nortons gained both a Farouk in every game and an adjustment in handicap (Owe half 30 Rec 15). They quickly won the following two games, but Brown and Schnaider, now on song, re-established a 6/2 ascendancy with not many minutes left. The Nortons were not yet done and set about a rapid and ruthless comeback, serving accurately and laying short chases. The match stood at 5-6 and love-thirty in favour of Brown and Schnaider when the bell finally went. A few more minutes may have made for a different result.
Twenty-two players and friends came to dinner, magnificently catered by Ed Dixon. Lizzie Brown, by now back to her natural colour, won the best-dressed lady, judged by Sear and McCahey, in a “hoolahoop-off” from Kate Leeming and Judith Sear. Charles “Ali Baba” Wright was presented with the prize for the best-dressed gentleman, judged by Kate Leeming and Helen Wheeler. Jeffrey Bird introduced in verse a few well-chosen and entirely plausible remarks about the history of the tournament by Jonathan Sear. The night ended in the wee hours with much profit for the bar.