Congratulations to George Peel and OUTC captain Mark Fischel on winning the Wroth Cup (club level doubles championship). They were convincing winners, beating Adrian Fawcus and Jean de Portales 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
When we found out we were playing Seacourt in the Brodie cup semi-final, one of the Oxford team was horrified—playing a club with a reputation for bringing on rapidly improving juniors in a handicap competition was always going to be tough. This attitude turned out to be shared by the junior members of the Seacourt team who felt that if ‘the adults get one game of three’ they’d be in good shape.
On the other hand, this was the first home Brodie semi-final in many years, and our Oxford tambour gives a huge advantage. The first line of defence was the Blues’ Mark Fischel, who was quickly locked in a battle of wills with his opponent. The first set secured 6/3, the second rested on a series of five games all of which went to multiple deuces. Luckily, Mark—who when his head wasn’t involved retained a wonderful set of instinctive shots—prevailed 6/3, and Oxford’s first adult point was in the bag.
For the second round in a row, Jean de Pourtalès met his partner on the way onto the court. He and Doug Holden bonded quickly enough to sneak the first set against an experienced pair, but once Simon Flynn and Jess Garside settled it looked bleak for the Unicorn club. Seacourt took the second set 6/2, but Jean decided not to be distracted by Jess’s increasingly piercing screams of frustration, and as his volleying matched Doug’s consistent play from the back of the court they took the decider 6/3. This was the best doubles set of Doug’s brief Oxford career, and having lost their ‘banker’ Seacourt were wobbling. Marker Andrew Davis summed up the state of play: ‘Win ugly’, he said, ‘but win’.
I did my best to let them back into it, going 5/3 down to an opponent who had a great eye for the ball and kept returning my serves. Luckily, I eventually managed to decipher the hand gestures coming from supporters in the dedans, and found a subtle, slow sidewall serve that caused problems. Despite two set points against, I came back to win 6/5 and found myself 5/0 up in the second set. This inspired my opponent, who saved set points including one off 1 yard. The shot was a long looping one, which I’m told would have landed about chase 4, but which was dispatched into the net. Those in the dedans were critical, but each of them would have hit it too and winning the next match point saved my bacon.
Their now inevitable defeat heralded a youth movement from Seacourt. Graham Piddock, recovering from being beaten by a bandit in the last round ran up against a young man of 14 years whose ostensible handicap bore no relation to his talent. The first set was a lesson in placement and in boasting, but Graham dug in for the second, running a lot closer than the 2/6 score suggests.
The final doubles saw Grant Bates champions Oscar Marshall and Harry Lawes take on another youthful Seacourt team. In winning our club tournament Oscar and Harry were barely challenged, but they found themselves up against hard-volleying, hard-hitting opponents who were determined to make a point. More work on court placement is needed, but it was a noble defeat nonetheless.
So 3/2 Oxford, both a fair reflection of the day and a gritty win. Earlier in the season the Brodie team had been inspiring; today they were determined to do enough to win. A local derby against Radley awaits in the final, and the team are three wins from Oxford’s first Brodie win.