There were 44 entries in the Exhibition St. Cup singles, which concluded yesterday. Although nominally an RMTC members’ tournament, the rules were sufficiently flexed to allow us to welcome 5 players from Sydney as well as a prial of Williams from Ballarat.
Encouragingly, the event proved to be a triumph for the junior section of the club. Myself apart, the ages of the semi-finalists were 16, 19, and 21, and it was the youngest competitor of all, Michael Williams, who came through to win. Michael, who played off 29 (a mark he won’t see again), started Sunday by defeating our aspiring young professional Chris Chapman (2.5) by 8 games to 3, and then showed that he paid no heed either to age or reputation by bashing me up by the same margin. In the other half, Ed Welch (28.4) progressed to play Simon Carr (22.9) in the semi-final. It was a very good match of contrasting styles; Simon played fast with a traditional railroad service, whereas Ed played more carefully and relied on a sidewall serve. In the end the classic game got the better of the faster game, the match ending with Ed playing an exquisite cross court backhand to the base of the tambour.
The final was a wonderful match, with so much to commend both young players, who demonstrated an exceptionally mature understanding of match play and strategy. I might also add that the match was played with flawless court manners from both boys, and in an excellent spirit. Getting only owe ¼ 15 as a handicap, in the end Michael ran out a convincing 8-4 winner. Not only does he have a good eye for the ball, but also Michael is extremely strong and quick. One or two of his forehand volleys, as well as the occasional rocket-like force were genuinely unreturnable. I had no doubt that I was watching a future champion. Michael shared with me afterwards that he is keen to emulate his older brother Daniel who won the U21 Ford Strachan Trophy in 2007 and 2008 (but is no longer eligible); he would not have to improve much more to make that a realistic target later this year. Then he can start chasing some of the overseas youngsters – there is a 17yo at Seacourt, Hayling Island, with a handicap of 7.7.
There was also doubles – for early singles losers and doubles specialists. Josef Brunhuber, the winner in 2007, generously donated a most intriguing trophy, which was won by Andrew Gould and Owen Guest, who beat Fiona Hewson and Vince Scopelliti in the final. The P and VP were much too steady and experienced for their newly paired opponents.