Hatfield House host real tennis championship

PUBLISHED: 12:49 19 February 2011

Johnny Beale and Sara Metherell kept their nerve to win the prestigious tournament

Johnny Beale and Sara Metherell kept their nerve to win the prestigious tournament


HATFIELD House Tennis Club once again hosted the Billy Ross-Skinner British Mixed Doubles Championship, sponsored by Neptune Investment Management.

Simon Mansfield rues one that got away at Hatfield House

And as on each of the previous occasions the event was closely contested, in all but the final match.

This year, entries were limited to the best 12 ladies available, partnered by 12 men of a suitable standard to give each pair an even chance of winning the title and there was a repêchage system to give first round losers a second chance.

The leading ladies competing included current World No 3 Karen Hird, World No 4 Freddie Adam and World No 8 Aldona Greenwood, however none of them managed to reach the final.

The winners were Sara Metherell (Queens) and Johnny Beale (Bristol), who saw off a challenge from last year’s runner-up Louise Mercier (Hatfield) and her partner Andrew Petrie (Cambridge) to win 6/1, 6/2 and add two new names to the trophy, in what was sadly one of the few one-sided matches in the tournament.

Johnny Beale stoops low to get in a return in the Billy Ross-Skinner real tennis tournament

Metherell and Beale had progressed to the final in convincing fashion and both seemed to get stronger and more confident as the event progressed.

Their first two matches against Alex Garside (Seacourt) and Simon Mansfield (Queens) and Freddie Adam (Oxford) and Andrew Mountain (Manchester), were won for the loss of only 11 games in four sets, although both these matches were closer than the score suggests.

Their toughest match was undoubtedly the semi-final against Karen Hird (RTC) and Richard Seymour-Mead (Moreton Morrell), which they still won 6/4 6/3, but only after a tight first set that could have gone either way.

In that set, Hird and Seymour-Mead were looking good when they changed ends at 4/3, but a series of misjudged forces from the Hazzard end, combined with tight serving and good retrieving from Metherell and Beale enabled them to take the set without their opponents regaining the Service end.

In contrast, Mercier and Petrie had come through some tough matches on their way to final.

Most notably, they struggled in their first round match against Nick Brodie (Hatfield) and Jo Sinclair (Queens) and only narrowly won 6/5, 3/6, 6/5, while in the semi-final they were tested, in another three-setter, by Viveca Stewart (Manchester) and Bill Fairbarns (Queens), which they won 6/4, 3/6, 6/4.

Unfortunately, the final failed to live up to expectations, as Petrie in particular failed to recapture the form that had got him and his partner into the grand final.

Mercier was solid at the Galleries, but was no match for the brutal forcing and lightning fast retrieving of Beale, nor for the extremely consistent support play from Metherell, who by the final had grown in confidence so much that she was faultless in all elements of the game.

Petrie whose own forcing game had blitzed previous opponents, found himself very much on the receiving end of Beale’s power game.

Whether or not this put him off his stroke, we will never know, but he certainly never recaptured the consistency he had displayed in the earlier rounds.

He made a number of unforced errors, in particularly at some crucial 40-all points.

Even so, it is debateable whether a fully on-form Petrie could have stopped Beale and Metherell, but it would certainly have made for a closer final.

Another notable match was Stewart and Fairbarns’ fantastic win against Catherine Walker (Hatfield) and multiple previous winner Anthony Clake (Oxford) in the quarters 6/5, 5/6, 6/3, after each of the first two sets had gone to 40-all in the final game.

Thanks must go to Viv Dawes for her organisation, ably assisted by Sheila Macintosh and Aldona Greenwood and to the Hatfield ladies, Liz Fisher, Gill Goddard and Sarah Sullivan for the wonderful food provided throughout the event.

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