2017 Ascot Cup
John-Paul Moberly finished the season with a confident victory over a much-improved Tim King in the Ascot Cup final at Nottingham.
The format was four blocks of four playing best-of-three 13-point games with the top two from each block advancing to the Championship knock-out stage. J-P and Tim qualified from Block A with Tim taking the middle game off J-P in their match. Stephen Mulliner and Ian Burridge did not drop games in qualifying from Blocks B and C with Don Beck and Richard Bilton in the second places. Block D was the most competitive in that Tobi Savage was taken to three games twice in winning his matches and Lionel Tibble, Graham Good and Roger Goldring tied with one win each, Lionel qualifying with the best net games score.
The knock-out was full of interest. Moberly took the first game against Beck by 7-3 but had to work hard to take the second 7-6. Savage had not been looking to be his best form and ran into Bilton playing very well who won 7-6, 3-7, 7-3. Burridge was taken to the 13th in both games against Tibble and King produced vintage form to beat Mulliner 7-6, 7-5.
Moberly proved too consistent and accurate for Bilton and reached the final 7-4, 7-5. Burridge has produced plenty of excellent croquet this season in the top events, including reaching the Open semi-final and winning the Musk's Cup, but could not stop the in-form King winning 7-5, 7-4.
The first game of the final provided a fascinating long-hitting duel in which J-P and Tim were evenly matched in game 1 until J-P broke the deadlock at 11 by running a long hoop and taking good position at 12, soon taking the game 7-5. Tim continued to fight his corner tenaciously in game 2 but his hitting went slightly off the boil while J-P's did not and the result was a more comfortable margin of 7-3.
Tim had every reason to be pleased with his return to form aided by an improved mental approach. He reached the Open final in 2010 and has no reason not to set his sights at that level next season. J-P gave another highly impressive demonstration of his ability to hit centrally at short and medium range. He has now taken the mantle of the top active English player and he and Reg Bamford will again be the men to beat next season.