First up was the women’s final between Sarah and Claire Vigrass. A capacity crowd of well over 100 settled in to watch two of the sport’s most exciting talents. Uncharacteristically, the contestants appeared without displaying any obvious fashion faux pas – much to the disappointment of the crowd. Perhaps regretting her pre-game meal of yet another Chiko roll, Claire appeared nervous in the first few games, struggling to find her rhythm. Sarah playing a nice length and serving a mixture of underarm twists and the occasional railroad capitalised to take a 3/0 lead before Claire’s nerves (or stomach) seemed to settle and her error count dropped. As with her earlier matches Claire’s play was notable for her clean hitting, and the consistency for which she was able to find the tambour. With the score at 4/4 the set appeared headed for a thrilling climax. Several long rallies followed with Claire managing to win the majority to take the set 6/4.
The second set was notable for some strong volley exchanges and Sarah using her mobility and reading of the ball to seemingly arrive just in the nick of time for many well placed balls from Claire. Tellingly it was the extra ‘work’ on the ball that Claire was able to engineer which kept Sarah under pressure.
The huge crowd were privileged to see the ‘future’ of the game on display in an entertaining match likely to be repeated several times in major tournaments.
Claire Vigrass defeated Sarah Vigrass 6/4 6/3
The men’s final featuring Hobart’s favourite son and World Champion Robert Fahey, and World Championship Challenger Ruaraidh Gunn, should have been the match of the tournament, but as most would know by now, Fahey had been struggling with injury during the tournament. What we didn’t know was how serious the injury was, and had Fahey merely being conserving himself for the final? One thing was for sure, playing one of the world’s best players in Gunn, Fahey would need to improve significantly on his previous tournament outings to be competitive. A capacity crowd waited, hoping that Fahey would be able to rise to the challenge.
First game to Fahey. Moving much more freely and looking nothing like the corpse of Sunday, Fahey surprised Gunn early in the match. Still obviously limited in his movement, but perhaps more willing to risk further injury in pursuit of victory, Fahey found himself playing balls from positions he would normally avoid, but still managed to put pressure on Gunn. Gunn is in incredible shape and his agility and retrieval skills are a huge weapon, denying Fahey the quick points he was surely pressing for. Serving a majority of giraffes and bobbles with the very occasional railroad, Gunn was able to prevent Fahey’s ball from ending the rally, whereupon Gunn seemed intent on constructing long backhand exchanges. Clearly struggling more on the backhand, Fahey used many inventive and unorthodox shots to try to restrict the pace with which Gunn could attack his backhand. At 3/3 in the first set, with Gunn playing well, it was stunning that Fahey was appearing to be right in the match. Gunn however, appeared to step up the pace of his floor game and the number of balls Fahey could not attempt to retrieve increased. First set to Gunn 6/3.
In the second set, the normally raucous, fanatical and inebriated Hobart crowd were strangely quiet. Perhaps they were in the unfamiliar territory of struggling to believe that Fahey would be able to win?
Gunn, still serving giraffes and bobbles, appeared to decide his first serve was an unnecessary refinement, promptly faulting on a staggering 60% of his first serves.
At 3/0 down Fahey was certainly struggling, but through some improved returning and by chancing his arm trying for winners from absurd positions, Fahey was able to level the set at 3/3. As with the first set, Gunn managed to increase the pace of the game and punish Fahey’s lack of mobility. Second set to Gunn 6/3.
The third set began with Fahey seeming to find another gear. His movement was still more of a glide than demonstrative of the power he is known for, but his determination was breathtaking. I thought long and hard about the way to describe Fahey in the match and specifically this set. This may sound over the top, so please forgive me. Fahey was courageous, magnificent, ingenious, a champion. Gunn is a fantastic player and in his present condition Fahey had no right to make this match as competitive as it was. Seeming to will himself to 4/4, Fahey gave every intention of making Gunn earn his victory. But today was Gunn’s and he continued his excellent play, forcing accurately at the dedans and patiently constructing points.
Gunn defeated Fahey 6/3 6/3 6/4