The more the merrier

There was plenty of action during the second year of the revived Family Championships. Not only were there more events for family teams to compete in, there were more entries across the board. The additional events, however, did affect the number in the established events but thankfully, only marginally.

With the postal events over by the end of the summer, the remaining four pairs in each event played off for the national titles over a weekend early November at the David Lloyd Leisure Centre in Dudley.

On the first day, the semi-finals dominated the schedule with all teams battling for a tilt at the title the following day with two matches providing the day's highlight. The first was a tense battle provided by Sheffield's Paul and Jack Ranson's F&S14&U fight-back from a set down only to lose out in the decider leaving Mike and Jamie Marks the 7-5,4-6,6-4 victors. Throughout the match, Jamie's underarm serve caused some consternation but it was employed to protect an elbow problem.

The other match was the M&D10&U semi-final between Debbie & Gabby McKeever, last years runners-up in the 14&U event, who were just unable to overcome the tenacious pairing of Melanie & Nicola Jennings losing out in two tie-break sets.

But it was the finals themselves which had everyone enthralled. In the 10&U category, the Jennings from Warwickshire failed to maintain the semi-final which saw them survive into the title round as the Devonian pairing of Annie and Rebecca Ley proved too strong in a match which, although they dominated 6-1,6-0, was played good spirit. The F&S10&U saw Paul Ranson back in action. Having gone down battling with his older son Jack the previous day, he led another fighting display with Finn his younger son, only to be piped at the post in the deciding Champions tie-break. For Finn, the disappointment of a 6-7(0),6-2,[10-7] defeat to an indefatigable pairing, Danny and Calum Ward of Essex, was too hard to bear as he no doubt wanted to emulate his father who had won the Father & Son title with his grandfather in the Remington sponsored days! 

There was plenty of action in the next category. Mike and Jamie Marks of Malvern won the F&S14&U title 6-1,6-3 at the expense of Surrey's Richard and Daniel Walmsley, with Jamie, still protecting that elbow, serving underarm. In the equivalent M&D14&U final, Sue and Kim Lawrence were pushed hard by the McKeevers who were appearing for a second consecutive time, in the final. On this occasion they lost 7-5,6-2.

The two mixed events, a new category for 2008, provided some of the closest matches of the weekend. Bristol's Nik and Annie Koehli were pushed hard by Buckinghamshire's Andrew and Romilly Smith. The latter took command from the outset but once the Koehli's found their range, the match swung their way but only after scraping through on a tie-break, to win 3-6,7-6(0),6-4. Another three setter was required to settle the M&S14&U title which went to Dawn and Simon Pritchard from South Wales. In a match where no quarter was given, their opponents Karen and Jonathan Rigby from Wigan, looked to be in command but having lost their concentration, the Pritchards took full advantage to get back into contention. They saved a match point in the third and finally, after two-hours and 20-minutes, claimed the match 2-6,6-3,7-6(8).

And so to the top events, the respective Open where the big guns came into play. The M&S Open saw two very competitive pairings clash in a match which could have gone either way but was secured by Natasha Li and Josh Gook of Southampton, who defeated Scarborough's Pamela and David Macfie 7-6(5),6-2 while Bedfordshire's Terry and Lucinda Mabbitt ran out of steam against Lancashire's Tony and Sara March, going down 7-6(6),6-0.     

The final of the M&D Open provided another marathon with Bristol's Joan and Julia Hassell emerging victorious over last year's 14&U champions, Libby and Emma Eden of Essex. The pair, who had eliminated the pre-tournament favourites Ann and Jo Louis in the postal stages, won 7-6(3),2-6,6-4 after two-hours, 10-minutes of what was, a battle royal!

Finally, Leicestershire's Richard and James Tutt lifted the Open Father & Son crown with a relatively easy looking 7-5,6-1 scoreline against Winchester's Marc and Charlie Dryden. The final pitched two highly competitive pairs against each other but it eventually went the way of one of last year's losing semi-finalists.

The whole weekend was classified a great success by players, winners and losers alike, with many committing themselves early to competing again in the 2009 event. To compete ion the 2009 event, please complete print off and complete the entry form and send, with your £15 cheque to Abbott Media Services, Cedar Lodge, Howe Road, Watlington, OX49 5ER.



Family Championships
Abbott Media Services, Cedar Lodge, Howe Road, Watlington, Oxon OX49 5ER