World champion Charlotte Cornwallis powered to the British Open Real Tennis championship after a thrilling final against rising star Karen Hird, 20, at Seacourt Club, Hayling Island, Hants. She then teamed up with the youngster to take the doubles title and her first double Grand Slam of major singles and doubles crowns. In the singles, the tenacious Hird, a junior badminton international. who had upset the second seed Claire Vigrass, 17, the world’s top junior, in the semi-final, tested the favourite with a canny variety of shots and superb retrieving, but held a string of game points which she failed to convert. Cornwallis, 36, playing her best under pressure, showed her outstanding athleticism as she ran down even her opponent’s seeming winners and returned her explosive forces with interest.
Cambridge undergraduate Hird, playing in her first British Open final, perhaps showing a slight reaction from her attritional semi-final victory, looked slightly jaded towards the end of the second set. She allowed signs of frustration to creep in as Cornwallis, a former hockey international, raised her game to finish the match with clinical efficiency, hitting a series of spectacular winners. Afterwards, the youngster, who took a set from Cornwallis in the French Open, paid tribute to the favourite’s aggression and competitiveness while the world champion, one of a handful of female professionals, who also works as an executive for leadership firm Catalyst, celebrated a famous victory which underlines her position as the greatest woman player of all time.
“I took my chances pretty well,” she admitted afterwards. “Karen had played so astutely in her semi-final against Claire, it was always going to be tough for her to produce as high a level in the final. She’s really gritty and determined though, and I knew I had to keep going for my shots and couldn’t let up for a second as she’s so strong at hustling her way through and playing the big points well in close matches. I was very pleased with how well I was moving as I’d had a back strain at the start of the week but managed to focus on staying positive and really imposing my game on Karen. It means a tremendous lot time to win the Grand Slam with several good young players coming through and I’m now concentrating on my build-up to the world championships next month.”
Cornwallis who is seeded to meet Hird in the final of the worlds at Newport, Rhode Island in 3 weeks time, combined superbly with her as they survived a see-saw battle with Claire Vigrass, the world’s top junior, and US number 1 Freddy Adam. The second seeds produced a purple patch to take the second set 6-3 but then failed to sustain this near faultless display, while Hird, volleying authoritatively, dominated from the galleries. The win provided Cornwallis with a doubles Grand Slam to accompany her singles triumph. For Hird and Vigrass, her continuing dominance of the women’s game should act as a challenge to raise their own standards and both know they have the talent and dedication to close the gap, having already won places on merit in otherwise all-male representative sides in the Pol Roger National Club championship and the Maurice Lacroix National League. Hird is training at Cambridge and Hampton Court, mostly playing against high quality male opposition while Vigrass has just been awarded a prestigious 8-month scholarship to play and train full-time at Lord’s, Queen’s and Hampton Court, from September. In the meantime, the world champion has made it abundantly clear, she is taking no prisoners.
Results: Seacourt , Hayling Island. British Open Women’s Real Tennis Championships (names British unless stated)
C. Cornwallis beat C. Watson 6-1 6-1
F. Adam (US) beat A. Garside 1-6 6-3 6-0
K. Hird beat A. Greenwood 6.1 6-4
C. Vigrass beat J. Lambert 6-1 6-2
C. Cornwallis bt F. Adam (US) 6-2 6-0
K. Hird bt C. Vigrass 3-6 6-2 6-2
Final: C. Cornwallis bt K. Hird 6-3 6-2
Doubles Quarter-finals: (Names British unless stated.)
C.Cornwallis/ K.Hird bt G.Goddard/ S Bicheno 6-0 6-0
S.Castley (Australia) /C.Gilmore bt J.Lambert/ J.Crerar 4-6 6-3 6-4
A.Garside/ A.Greenwood bt J.Miller/E.Campione 6-0 6-0
F.Adam (US)/ C.Vigrass bt: H.Dunn/ L.Hutchinson 6-0 6-0
C.Cornwallis/ K.Hird bt S.Castley (Australia) /C.Gilmore 6-0 6-2
F.Adam (US)/ C.Vigrass bt A.Garside/ A.Greenwood 6-2 6-1
Final: Cornwallis/ Hird bt Adam / Vigrass 6-0 3-6 6-0
Plate final: Singles: C.Gilmore bt J.Miller 6-3 6-1
Doubles: J.Lambert/ J.Crera bt D.Siedentopf/ M. Wareing 6-5, 6-4
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt