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Some personal reflections from SNM

[<<] [>>] by Stephen Mulliner
9th July 2001 (World Championship)

Thanks to Chris Clarke for his summary of the final. I offer a couple of comments and some other reflections on the event as a whole.

Reg hit 2/9 shots of 9 yards or more, Rob 4/11. Given Reg's practice performances (up to 16/16 at the peg from 13 yards after a session with the swing trainer) and Rob's hitting in the doubles final (4/4), this was below expectations but finals are finals.

I expected at least as much peeling given the way these two had performed at Cheltenham in the Men's Final in less easy conditions when a sextuple was attempted in 4 games out of 5. The standard of stroke execution was almost uniformly excellent by both players, with shot of the day being possibly Reg's pass roll in game 3, turn 9 played from 8y N 1 sending K to reasonable peeling position N of 1b and B to within 3y of Y in C3. Great touch which allowed the sextuple to start on time. The other candidate was his attempt in game 3, turn 11 at a firm dribble to hit Rob's wired balls in C2 from 7y N C4 (39y) which used the hill at hoop 2 to bring his K round to miss R and Y by a fraction on the inside! Reg needs to hit the ball harder!

These two players have been substantially better than the opposition all year

Ahem, ahem. Only up to a point, Lord Copper. Certainly for the last four weeks but not necessarily earlier. What is not in doubt that Reg has raised his own game over the last two seasons in terms of reliability and peeling ambitions and, very recently, in terms of taking his shooting from good to great. Although that factor did not dominate the final, it certainly played a part in his earlier matches and is the greatest general boost to confidence one can have. It was also very appropriate that, in Reg's speech of thanks, he should publicly acknowledge Rob's standard-setting over the last decade. This has had a profound effect on other player's expectations and, in my opinion, has been the largest single contribution to GB's recent Mac dominance. My own view of Rob's performance is that he has been very good rather than at his best for a couple of years now and the same was true during the championship but, in typical style, he raised his intensity for the finals and came very close to a successful defence.

and played an excellent match which kept everyone thoroughly entertained. Congratulations to Reg on an outstanding performance.

This final has raised the standard by a further notch since the Clarke/Fulford semi-final of a few years ago. It is the first time that a sextuple has been completed in a WCC final, the first time that two have been completed in any Opens final and (I think) the first time that one has been completed since Wylie's 1971 achievement. It establishes the sextuple with Barlow balls on an easy lawn as a plausible tactic and may have a Bannister effect on a few other players (within a few months of Bannister breaking the 4 minute barrier for the mile, several athletes succeeded who had previously found it impossible).

The demise of so many seeds in the early rounds of the championship caused much comment. The format of the event was a contributing factor. Reducing 80 players to 32 involved each player playing 9 games in the blocks and so being thoroughly warmed up and in form. The gap between most of the top 32 in terms of potential is never going to be that huge and anyone with a grade in excess of 2400 is perfectly capable of winning a game in two turns and not breaking down. Equally, the lawns were a factor with the cricket pitch lawns being difficult for some players and Lawns 3 and 4 being much faster than normal until Thursday when a deluge in the evening undid all Peter Craig's good work (the head groundsman at Hurlingham who had made a big effort to produce fast lawns). Martin Clarke (A), Jeff Dawson (E), Dennis Bulloch (NZ) and Robin Brown (E) all produced good wins over Mulliner, Garrison, Cunningham and Chris Clarke. Dennis deserves special mention for defeating Dawson and Clarke on his way to a semi-final battle with Fulford which he took to the last game where he hit the lift and looked like equalling Rob's opening break. Disaster at hoop 2 gave Rob a TP and the match but it was a very gallant effort. Dennis's shooting was magnificent throughout and perhaps 14 inch mallets will become more popular, though probably not in metallic pink!

The format offers food for thought for our own Open Championship although time constraints must be considered carefully. It was a pity that the quarter-finals could not be best-of-5 and the need to play even one game of the Doubles Final on Sunday led to a late finish for the Singles. It could be attractive to offer more games to competitors before they get knocked out and the CA should be encouraged to market test this idea by consulting the top 100 players.

Having said all that, David Openshaw and his team deserve hearty applause for organising an excellent championship with special mention to Richard Hilditch (manager for life), Phil Cordingley (accommodation), Mark Avery (entertainment), Ian Vincent (laws and other things) plus Nigel Graves and Janet White in the office.


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