The first official event of the Australian Open 2010 carnival, the Pro-Am, was held in Hobart on Sunday January 24th.
A fantastic dinner the night before, catered for the by super chefs Biz and Ian Ritchard ensured a well nourished field for the Pro-Am. Rob Fahey wowed the diners with his stories of hitherto unheard of historic tennis figures and Graeme Bradfield proved that lack of decency is no barrier to a successful auction.
In todays final, crowd favourite Peter Scollard teamed with RMTC’s Chris Chapman to defeat the team of Liz Eden, Ros Pitt and Pete Boyles. Both Scollard and Chapman were on fire in every match, their victory surely built arround Scollard’s near unplayable serve and Chappy’s superb retrieving.
Tomorrow is a practice day with the first round singles matches in the men’s and women’s starting on Tuesday.
See you at Scollard’s for the tournament welcome drinks!
Tuesday January 26th
The Australian Open started in earnest on the Hobart court with five matches played. A large and parochial Hobart crowd was treated to both the modern power and classic length versions of the game.
The first match of the day saw Brad Dale play Mike Happell. This was Dale’s first game of competitive tennis for some time and a ruthless Happell was unlikely to give an inch. Dale played some very good shots, however Happell was too consistent, barely missing a ball.
Happell defeated Dale 6/0 6/1 6/0
The second match on court was Bret Richardson vs Pete Boyles. With very similar handicaps this match looked like it would be the most competitive of the day. Someone forgot to tell Richardson. Using a devastating return of serve force and glorious volleying Richardson raced to a 6/1 3/0 lead before Boyles steadied. Richardson still managed to win the important points and closed out the set 6/4.
The third set saw Boyles begin to restrict the Richardson return of serve and drop his error rate to be leading 4/1 when much to the surprise of the large crowd Richardson retired hurt with an abductor strain.
Boyles defeated Richardson 0/6 4/6 4/1 retired hurt
The third match proved the upset of the day when the evergreen legend of the game Barry Toates matched his guile against the youthful exuberance of Peter Estcourt. In the first set some tight serving and heavy cut from the hazard end put Estcourt under immense pressure. Estcourt’s work rate was very high, but Toates controlled the set comfortably taking it 6/2.
In the second set Estcourt showed improved retrieving, forcing Toates to play an extra shot or two in most restes. However Toates’ knowledge of the court and the game of tennis proved too much. 6/3 to Toates.
The third set was the closest of the match. The maestro was tiring (not surprising since it is 40-odd years since his first Australian Open!) and Estcourt had his chances to generate some scoreboard pressure. With the set level at 3-3 a closely fought game with long restes saw Toates (now suffering from a leg cramp) take a 4-3 lead which quick as flash became 5-3. The parochial Hobart crowd were screaming the house down as their man appeared to close in on a famous victory. Estcourt won a fairly easy game to 15, but was stuck at the hazard end and Toates was able to take the game and the match much to the delight of a now delirious Toates family and crowd.
Toates defeated Estcourt 6/2 6/3 6/4
The first game of the women’s tournament was between Jo Bartholomew from the UK and Kate Brown. Kate has been training hard for the Open and it showed with a clinical victory. Bartholomew was always under pressure on Kate’s home court. Whilst enjoying her match, it was noted that Bartholomew was keen for the match to finish in time for her to settle in to watch the lawners match of Nadal vs Murray!
The final match gave the crowd their first glimpse of one of the tournament favorites, Ruaraidh Gunn. Gunn has been in heavy training for his upcoming world championship eliminator match. Against a supremely fit and focused Gunn his opponent Hilton Booth was not expected to threaten. However, playing some career best tennis Booth engaged Gunn in many amazing restes displaying incredible court coverage, brilliant retrieving and deceptive forcing. The match result showed a comfortable victory for Gunn, but did little to illustrate the exhilarating tennis on display.
Gunn defeated H Booth 6/1 6/0 6/1
Looking forward to tomorrow’s play!
Wednesday January 27th
Day 2 of the Australian Open saw the completion of the remaining matches in the first round of men’s singles and an exciting match in the women’s singles.
The first match of the day pitted boisterous veteran Graeme Bradfield against up and coming Chris Chapman. Bradfield displayed moments of unorthodox brilliance but was generally outclassed in all areas. Chapman’s hazard end play was particularly damaging.
Chapman defeated Bradfield 6/2 6/1 6/3
In the second match of the day Graeme Blundstone took on Hobart favourite son, Kieran Booth. This was Blundstone’s first match ‘in the big time’ and Booth displayed no mercy in dispatching of Blundstone. No doubt Blundstone is destined for a successful tennis career and the knowledge gained will hold him in good stead. Booth showed he will take some beating in this tournament, his railroad serve and retrieving were particular highlights.
K Booth defeated Blundstone 6/0 6/0 6/0
In the third match of the day Tim Poolman faced off against the UK’s Mark Mathias. Mathias was dominant in the first set. Poolman’s most memorable shot being a smashed cross court volley return of serve, hit with such power as to dislodge a significant amount of plaster and stone from the main wall. A short delay in play ensued as the tournament director was pressed into action for a quick clean up. Mathias effortlessly led the match 6/0 6/0 before Poolman rallied and a slightly lazy Mathias gave Poolman some opportunities. Mathias still managed to close out the match.
Mathias defeated Poolman 6/0 6/0 6/3
The fourth match of the day promised to be drama packed as Amy Hayball took on Susan Castley. The first set produced some fantastically long rallies as both players probed for a weakness in their opponent’s game. Hayball’s variety of serves kept Castley under pressure and prevented Castley getting a rhythm on her return of serve. Hayball comfortably took out the first set 6/2.
The second set was locked at 3-3 with Castley finding her range on return of serve. Hayball took a 40-15 lead to the receivers end and rifled a seemingly unretrievable cross court volley return of serve, however Castley was up to the task and played a beautiful ball under the grille, followed up with a second to win the point. Some fine points from Castley resulted in her taking the game and a 4-3 lead. The crowd sensed that Castley had gained some momentum. Hayball certainly seemed worried as her previous confidence in retrieving deserted her and she began to over-hit the ball, searching for winners. 6-3 to Castley and this match was living up to it’s billing as the match of the day.
With the third set upon us the question was, would Hayball be able to rise to the challenge laid out by Castley? Quick as a flash Hayball jumped to a 3-0 lead having regained her composure and consistency. Unfortunately for Castley from this point she was only able to claim one more game. The match ended rather anticlimactically for such a marvellously entertaining spectacle for the 50 spectators glued to their seats.
Hayball defeated Castley 6/2 3/6 6/1
After such a spectacle you’d have to pity the players in the next match. How could you live up to that? Enter Al Ramsay and his dynamite railroad and intimidating power game.
Scary power, brilliant length and tight serving Ramsay was on Fire. First set 6/0 to Fahey.
At 1-0 in the second set to Ramsay it looked as if his stellar form had reached another level.
Second set 6-1 to Fahey.
Devotees of the game will have noted that Ramsay has been focussed on his fitness in recent times, so any thoughts of him failing to finish the match full of running were fanciful. But could he outlast his opponent?
Fahey defeated Ramsay 6/0 6/1 6/2
Thursdays quarterfinalists having been decided we can look forward to some terrific entertainment with the following matches sure to the leave the spectators exhausted by the end of the day.
Happell v Toates 10 am
K Booth v Boyles 12 noon
Mathias v Gunn 2 pm
Fahey v Chapman 6 pm
Thursday also sees the remaining quarterfinals of the womens singles when Claire (4pm) and Sarah Vigrass (5pm) take on local stars Eryl Raymond and Ros Pitt.
Tonight the players are off to decide the 8 ball champion of champions – stay tuned!
What do you get when you put a group of super athletes in a room playing a game they know nothing about? A big fat choke, that’s what you get.
Clearly ability with a tennis racquet does not an 8 ball champion make. Unless your name is ‘Steady hands Dunne’.
With pretournament favorites Ramsay, Gunn, Escourt and Vigrass falling by the wayside the final of the Australian Open 2010 real tennis 8 championship was fought out by Steady hands (Patrick) Dunne and Cool Hand ‘KB’ Booth.
With the vanquished well lubricated, the finalists lined up determined to stay focused on the job at hand despite the interjections of a well intentioned, if inappropriate, gallery.
Paddy Dunne showing no nerves calmly slotted a few balls, putting the pressure on KB. KB undaunted rallied with some accurate power play into the pockets.
Both players taking the enthusiastic advice to heart continued to play safe and keep as many balls on the table as possible for what seemed an eternity before out of nowhere Paddy lined up with one of the simplest shots you’re likely to see. His only job being to then tidy up the nicely placed black ball.
Living up to his name Steady Hands, Paddy managed to knock one of KB’s balls during his practice swing, thus incurring the wrath of tournament referee Scollardo.
With two shots to wrap the game up the crowd were confident that KB would finish off his wounded opponent.
Choke, followed by choke, followed by choke left the crowd wondering if they should order some pizzas to carry them through the drama filled evening of knock a black ball round a small green enclosure.
Then out of nowhere Paddy sunk the winning ball and promptly shouted the bar with his winnings!
A grand night had by all, but in the end comradeship and quality 8 ball were definitely the winners.
Thursday January 28th
Australian Open day 3
First up on court were Barry Toates and Mike Happell. Toates must still have been sore after Tuesday’s triumph. First ball: majestic cut shot from Toates to lay chase better than a yard! Although never seriously challenging the focussed Happell, Toates still managed to entertain his adoring home town crowd. Happell looks in fine form and Saturday’s semi final should be a cracker.
Happell defeated Toates 6/1 6/1 6/1
The second match was between great mates and long time rivals Kieran Booth and Pete Boyles. The match started out with some long tight rallies but Booth was able to control the majority of the points and rattled through the first set 6/0. At the start of the second set Boyles really dug in his heels. The set was in the balance at 3/3 with Boyles having a game point for 4/3, but Booth was able to close it out 6/3. In the third set Booth picked up where he left off in the second comfortably closing out the match. Those watching still managed to see some sparkling shots and lengthy, entertaining rallies from these two players, so well versed in each others games having learnt the game together as boys bouncing around the Hobart club.
K Booth defeated Boyles 6/0 6/3 6/0
The third match for the day was Ruaraidh Gunn vs Mark Mathias. Mathias has been in a ‘full emersion’ tennis programme at the Royal Melbourne Tennis club and has showed that he is a player to watch in the future. However playing against one of the world’s leading players was going to be a tough ask.
The match proved to be a relatively one-sided affair. Mathias was outgunned as his opponent fired shot after shot into the dedans. Gunn still managed to keep his powder dry for Saturday’s semi final. (Correspondent’s note: all gun references to be attributed to Chris Chapman’s match summary). Mathias will take a lot out of today’s match.
Gunn defeated Mathias 6/0 6/1 6/0
The fourth match of the day was Claire Vigrass vs Eryl Raymond. Vigrass has been noted to be taking the women’s game by storm recently and is the favourite for the tournament. Raymond is a recent convert to real tennis having had a successful squash career in another life. Raymond played above her nominal handicap throughout the match beating some very short chases with some fearsome shots at the dedans. Upon winning the fourth game of the second set, Raymond’s celebrations had more than a hint of Lleyton Hewitt and Rafael Nadal for sheer primeval joy. Vigrass’s reading of the Hobart court was immaculate and her length impeccable. Vigrass certainly sent a warning that she will be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament.
The fifth match of the day saw Sarah Vigrass take on Ros Pitt. Vigrass seemed to find nicks at will – nick serves and nick forces keeping Pitt constantly under pressure. It appeared Vigrass had a love affair with the nicks. Vigrass’ pink sock statement showed a flagrant disregard for the strict all white Hobart policy which was duly noted by the tournament director and a suitable fine and public humiliation has been arranged. Pitt tried all the serves in the book but couldn’t quite find one to trouble Vigrass. Vigrass also produced a wide variety of serves including a very tricky railroad. The crowd were treated to a memorable match and were left wondering as to what the tournament’s fashionista will bring out next.
S Vigrass defeated Pitt 6/0 6/0
Last match pitted the world champion Rob Fahey against the fast improving Chris Chapman. The match got under way with Fahey serving over 90% bobble serves and definitely favouring his injured leg. Chapman covered the court displaying jaw dropping agility but was forced into many errors through Fahey’s strong forcing and heavy cuts into the corners. First set to Fahey 6/0.
With the second set under way Chapman became aware that Fahey’s apparent leg injury was most restrictive in his backhand corner. With Chapman sliding some beautiful returns of serve under the galleries, winning points and laying short chases, he became more competitive, forcing Fahey down to the receivers end consistently having to beat short chases. But you don’t talk about the Fahey and losing too often and he was up to the task, consistently beating the chase on the floor or firing main wall dedans boasts past Chapman. Chapman had a chance to level the set at 5/5, but Fahey closed out the set 6/4.
In the third set Chapman managed a 2/0 lead when Fahey started serving a few railroads and neatly caressing the ball under the grille. A thrilling game, awesome power hitting from both players and fantastic defensive volleying resulted in Fahey taking a 4/3 lead. Fahey’s heavy volley return of serve went from strength to strength. Chapman must have won many admirers with his display and Fahey showed that even when injured he can still deliver.
Tomorrow sees the start of the doubles, so stay tuned.
Friday January 29th
Australian Open day 4
Today was men’s quarter finals day and the first match on court Mark Mathias and Peter Estcourt v Brad Dale and John Howard. Power hitting and crisp volleying from Dale and Howard should have been difficult for Mathias and Estcourt to deal with, but both players were too consistent in retrieving and were able to put the ‘easy’ ball away when the opportunity presented.
Mathias/Estcourt defeated Dale/Howard 6/1 6/0 6/2
The second match for day was the tournament’s first sitting of overwhelming favorites Ruaraidh Gunn and Rob Fahey. Taking on Hilton Booth and Tim Poolman, Gunn and Fahey were looking for a quick match to keep them fresh for tomorrow’s singles semi-finals. Hilton Booth and Poolman won the toss and chose to serve. Booth and Poolman were well aware of the task in front of them, but if they had any nerves, it didn’t show. Booth and Poolman won the first game, then in an act of sportsmanship not often viewed outside of this wonderful game, declined the offer from the dedans to quit while they were ahead. The game from then on was quite entertaining. Booth and Poolman, up against such a formidable pair, competed well, consistently forcing their opponents into uncomfortable areas on the court. Booth, playing back at the service end, displayed his renowned agility and retrieval skills whilst the vastly improved Poolman struck the ball very well under the pressure. Try as they might against Gunn and Fahey the ball just kept coming back. Gunn and Fahey certainly looked very relaxed during the match, taking a ‘whistle while you work’ approach and treating the spectators to an enjoyable display of tennis. Both Booth and Poolman fought hard throughout, but were no match for Gunn and Fahey.
Gunn/Fahey defeated H Booth/Poolman 6/2 6/1 6/1
The third match for the day pitted crowd favorites Barry Toates and Graeme Bradfield against Mike Happell and Jeremy Rackham (substituting for the injured Bret Richardson).
Toates and Bradfield started strongly with some solid all-round play, taking their opponents by surprise to take a 3/1 lead. Toates glided around the back court at the service end and Bradfield volleyed solidly at the net – proving a tough ask for Happell and Rackham, but they rallied to 5/5 before finally losing the set after a 3 deuce game.
In the second set Happell started to control the match with strong returns and Rackham warmed to his task in the coffin. Second set to Happell and Rackham 6/2.
The third set proved another thriller with Toates and Bradfield regrouping and then improving on their form from the first set. Were they to have taken their chances they would have won the set. But Happell and Rackham were able to win the important points taking the set 6/4.
The fourth set was once again closely fought with the winner anyone’s guess. Toates and Bradfield had set point and the chance to take it into a fifth set, but Happell and Rackham were able to finish the match in four.
Happell/Rackham defeated Toates/Bradfield 5/6 6/2 6/4 6/5
The final match of the day looked on paper like it should be an exhilarating affair and it certainly lived up to the pre-match hype. Al Ramsay and Pete Boyles were trying to be giant killers by knocking off tournament second seeds Chris Chapman and Kieran Booth.
Ramsay and Boyles started strongly with some steady play around the corners forcing some long rallies full of spectacular shot making and several near death experiences for whomever happened to be the player at the service side net. An entertaining set was taken out by Chapman and Booth 6/4.
In the second set the intensity was raised with the pace of shots increasing as all players gained confidence and both pairs used excellent judgment in leaving angled balls for their partner. Ramsay in particular was consistent in his ability to put the opposition under pressure and Booth threw himself around volleying with great pace, but struggled with his control. With the set locked at 4/4 Chapman hit a glorious floor shot into the winning gallery to take a 5/4 lead.
The third set saw the favorites race to a 4/0 lead, seemingly having a stranglehold on the match, with Chapman’s serving to Boyles particularly telling. But Ramsay and Boyles came back strongly saving a match point at 5/3 before finally succumbing.
Chapman/ K Booth defeated Ramsay/Boyles 6/4 6/5 6/4
Tomorrow will showcase all four of the singles semi-finals – with a capacity crowd the atmosphere should be electric.
10am Ruaraidh Gunn v Mike Happell
12 noon Sarah Vigrass v Kate Brown
2pm Kieran Booth v Rob Fahey
4pm Claire Vigrass v Amy Hayball
Saturday January 30th
First match of what promised to be an intriguing day of tennis in the men’s and women’s tournament started with Ruaraidh Gunn up against Mike Happell. Both players had moved effortlessly through the early rounds, the crowd were expecting some first class tennis.
Gunn, presumably out of respect for Happell’s biggest weapon, the volley return of serve started the match serving half-court giraffes denying Happell both his volley return of serve and his force. Happell is one of the world’s more accomplished players so was still able to put Gunn under pressure with exquisite length floor shots into the corners on his return of serve. From the receivers end Gunn was very disciplined finding the galleries at the earliest opportunity, however his return of serve lacked penetration and Happell was able to control the majority of points. With Happell leading 5/3 he had several set points but was unable to take his opportunities, Gunn then rallied to level the match at 5/5. An enthralling final game of the 1st set featuring 3 deuces ensued before Gunn managed to snag the set.
The second set was notable for Gunn seizing the momentum and Happell become increasingly frustrated with his inability to hit the smallest grille in world tennis. Second set to Gunn 6/0.
The third set was much the same as the second with Gunn playing with increased freedom and Happell seemingly finding new ways for the ball to miss the grille. With Gunn now serving a mixture of railroads and half-court giraffes he was never headed.
Gunn defeated Happell 6/5 6/0 6/1
Next up was the first women’s semi-final. Claire Vigrass took on Australia’s Amy Hayball. Hayball’s game has improved vastly during her time recently in the U.S so hopes were high for an entertaining match. Showing no ill effects from her recent ‘full immersion’ diet of Aussie fast food (chiko rolls, dim sims, potato cakes and crab sticks aka ‘seafood extender’), Vigrass was dominant from the start. Crisp volleying, immaculate retrieving and the ability to consistently find the tambour kept Hayball under immense pressure. Hayball’s retrieving was excellent, but she could not hurt Vigrass. Late in the first set the crowd were relieved when having served her first fault for the match, Vigrass retrieved a ball tucked into her left hip skirt and promptly served it!, thereby disproving the theory that she was suffering from some hitherto unheard of and potentially contagious and quite nasty looking ‘growth’. It seems the Vigrass sisters can be trusted to provide some wardrobe malfunction incident each time they step on court.
The third match of the day was between the World Champion Rob Fahey and Kieran Booth. The match started and it was instantly apparent that Fahey was still severely hampered by his leg injury. Unable to move freely he predictably sought quick points and was severe on anything hitting the back wall. Booth’s strategy appeared to be trying to engage Fahey in some long rallies, but his length was slightly off allowing Fahey to step in early in most points with a telling winner. Fahey hit an amazing 16 forces into the dedans. Booth known for being a terrific volleyer was still unable to stop the onslaught.
First set to Fahey 6/2.
The second set began with Booth unable to find a helmet for protection and therefore deciding to change from his preferred railroad serve to round serves in an attempt to reduce Fahey’s opportunity to force. A hard fought set followed with Fahey taking a 5/3 lead. Booth clawed his way back. Fahey’s mobility must have been a real concern for him as Booth was starting to find his range forcing Fahey to struggle to reach many balls. Inexplicably with the set in the balance at 5/5 Booth at the receivers end hit two returns into the net and a third out of court to hand Fahey a 40-0 lead.
Second set to Fahey 6/5.
As the third set began Fahey seemed anything but in control of the match. If Booth could manage to reduce his unforced error count and continue his play into the corners it appeared he had every chance to take the match right up to Fahey.
With Fahey leading 3/2 it was now or never for Booth. Fahey appeared to sense the moment, seeming to lift a gear. His movement around the court improving, Fahey was able to take a 5/3 lead. Match point to Fahey, Booth played a strong cross court volley return of serve followed up by a shot for the dedans forcing Fahey into racquet errors. Booth took the game, 5/4 to Fahey. Booth at servers end leading 40-15, enter two trademark Fahey main wall dedans shots to bring it back to deuce. Chase a half a yard worse than last and chase half a yard laid by Fahey. Booth, unable to beat the chases, surrendered the match, but few if any admirers. This was Booth’s first match in the singles semi-finals of a major and he acquitted himself marvellously.
Fahey defeated Booth 6/2 6/5 6/4
In final match of the day Sarah Vigrass, sporting a red headband and white socks took to the court against home-town hope Kate Brown. Serving a majority of underarm twists and bobbles,Vigrass was able to control the match taking a 4/1 lead. Brown mixed some excellent stroke play with a high number of unforced errors. Vigrass’ game appears effortless as she rarely seemd rushed and uses a controlled floor game rather than relying on pace into the corners.
First set to Vigrass 6/2.
The second set saw Vigrass take a 2/0 lead with her ability to recognise a defensive position and play accordingly as telling as her ‘winners’. Brown played a good match but was unable to find a weakness in the Vigrass game.
Sarah Vigrass defeated Kate Brown 6/2 6/0
Tomorrow promises to be a spectacle of power shot making and courageous volleying as the tournament enters the doubles semi-finals.
10.00am Chapman/K Booth v Happell/Rackham
12.00 Fahey/Gunn v Mathias/Estcourt
2.00pm Hayball/Raymond v Brown/Castley