There was much excitement ahead of this year’s internal handicap doubles tournament, the OP President’s Cup, as word spread that we had achieved double the entry size compared to last year. As such, fans were gearing up for 11 Old and five current Paulines to take to the courts on Sunday 20 May.
Unfortunately, the magical format of two groups of four pairs was disrupted by a no-show (Malone’s whereabouts remain unknown), leaving us at odds. With all the other group matches already on court, the organiser convinced the abandoned Sam Roberts to stay and pair up with schoolboy Tom Liu, at the same time resigning himself to a day of two versus one. (Later it was acknowledged that this is often advantageous for the one, particularly with two receiving hands.)
Following smooth progress through the round robins – the closest match being 15-11 – it was decided that there would be a semifinal round involving the top two pairs from each group. Meanwhile, the remaining three pairs (and the organiser) contested their own playoff.
In the main event, the semifinals were both hard-fought. Despite a slow start to their campaign earlier in the day, Jackson & Russell proceeded to take out the previously unbeaten Group A champions Davies & Dean 15-9, whilst the other runners up Baker & Cheveley edged out Esin & Shaw 16-14, setting up a showdown between the current top two Paulines, each paired with a Thursday night stalwart.
Things started well for the left-right pairing of Baker & Cheveley, quickly racing out to a 10-1 lead. Matt was seemingly on course to become just the second player in the Cup’s history to defend the title. However, with four matches under each player’s belt the day’s efforts looked to be taking their toll – Matt had in fact called the trainer earlier, but failed to receive any attention before taking to court. In the battle of attrition which ensued, involving too many lengthy cross-court rallies to count, Jackson & Russell slowly overturned the deficit to level the scoreline at 10-all. Things were still far from over, and each rally had the crowd (all three of us by the end) on the edge of our seats. A tense match point came and went for the original front-runners, but Harry and Sam held steady and eventually made their breakthrough, clinching the match 16-14. This marks a maiden title for each of them at this event – an impressive feat given the quality and depth of the field this year.