BY RJ Mitchell
SAM MACNEIL has described the adidas HOP Tour Bristol as a ‘level above’ in terms of a playing perspective.
The flying Scotsman and partner Rafa Vega Otaolaurruchi claimed their third tournament victory of the year after defeating surprise finalists Theo Garton and Jake Bewley 6-3, 6-3, in a high quality final which saw the winners having just too much tactical guile for their youthful opponents.
Yet with Bewley and Garton causing the surprise of the tournament by beating No.4 seeds Frankie Langan and Javi Serrats in the semi-final there were plenty of fireworks from the youngsters on Bonfire Night at Rocket Padel.
Reflecting on a victory that guarantees the winners passage to the end of season HOP Tour Finals on November 25th, Sam shared: “I would say that what HOP have put on in Bristol and always do is just a level up from a players’ experience in terms of the other tournaments and we appreciate it and the effort that goes in from John (Leach) and Javi (Serrats).
“Really it feels like a proper event and you are not just turning up for three matches at the NTC and no one is there – which is kind of dull!
“The effort HOP makes with nice things like goodie bags, the way the tournament is marketed and also bringing it to a venue like Rocket Padel is just a different feel. Really it was a brilliant weekend.
“We understand that for venues it is not the most economically smart thing to host a tournament and so there can be a tendency to do it as cheap as possible, so from the players’ perspective it is then not that great but as usual HOP got it spot on.”
Reflecting on the key to victory and a spirited performance from their youthful opposition the GB ranked No.3 said: “The boys had a great win in the semi-finals in beating Frankie and Javi which I don’t think many people would have tipped them to do.
“Really Theo has continued his improvement and Jake is also an up and comer and over the last few months his game has really stepped up and his attitude on court has also improved in terms of its positivity.
“From our perspective it is the first time we have won where we haven’t played our natural game as we have been working very hard on improving our defensive skills.
“When it gets close a lot of the time you revert to what you know and are comfortable with and for me being a tennis player, I attack the net big time when the heat is on.
“So I am happy with how disciplined we managed to stay in sticking with the defensive stuff even if it made us almost borderline passive at times. There was big progress on the defensive aspect for us.”
Meanwhile in the final of the adidas HOP Tour event there was an impressive 6-3, 6-2 victory for Sophia Haine and Luke Aggas over Catherine Rose and Max Lutostanski.
With the Bristol event also hosting the first ever adidas HOP Youth competition the under-18 boys final produced a superb final in which No.2 seeds Barney Brown and Oscar Warneryd confounded the rankings to beat top-rated Aston Deva-Nix and Oliver Hayday 6-4, 6-2.
When it came to the importance of being hailed the first ever adidas HOP Youth Under-18 Boys champions Barney was clear: “It is really hard to find under-18 events so it was brilliant that HOP put this one on and it means a lot to be the first HOP winners in this category.
“It was our first time playing together and to come through and beat the top seeds was great. We were the underdogs and we made that work for us.
“The first set was crucial as we were 2-3 down but we managed to find a way to turn it around and after we took that first set their heads went down so that was the key I’d say.
“To have the adidas sponsorship on top of winning is just tremendous.”
Oscar had no doubt what was the key to his partnerships success and he revealed: “We played three matches in the under-18s and two in the HOP main draw and that helped us build an understanding, really that was crucial.
“Now we just hope there will be more of these HOP Youth tournaments, given we have won this at the first time of playing together we can’t wait until the next one whenever that is.”
Meanwhile in the under-15 event there was an impressive victory for the unseeded Harley Dixon and Andrew Dunn over second seeds Charlie Aldred and Ethan Holt 6-4, 6-2.
In the under-12s Ethan Holt partnered up with Travis Barber to claim a fine 6-1, 6-2 victory over Josh Aggas and Jayden Toop.
In the Men’s Doubles (40+) Kingsley Harris and Suso Padillo – Ropero defeated top seeds Berislav Bobus and Andrew Warren 6-4, 6-4 with one break of serve proving decisive in both sets.
In the Men’s (50+) No.2 seeds Fredrik Warneryd and Andrew Warren decisively defeated top seeds Paul Coeulle and Adrian Ezra 6-1, 6-2.
In the Women’s Doubles (50+) Elvira Campione and Stephanie Trill uncorked the champagne with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Sally Pendry and Heather Sheridan.
Reflecting on what was a superb weekend of padel, HOP co-founder John Leach said: “For us to have so many different categories and age groups was just excellent and also having our sponsors here like Vitamin Well, all these things really make a difference.
“So, Rocket Padel Bristol has been really successful and we’ve been so happy with the response we have had from the players who have really enjoyed it.
“In terms of the adidas HOP PRO final Sam and Rafa played a really solid and professional final and they ultimately just had too much experience for their younger opponents.
“But it was a nice final and I was really happy for Jake and Theo in getting their big win in the semi and for Jake to make his first final and to pick up his first cheque.”
Yet for John the success of the adidas HOP Youth event could well prove to be a game-changer and he said: “It was great to see so many juniors playing and the comments we got from spectators was so positive and the feedback was that this was the first time they had seen all these juniors playing in a competition like the adidas HOP Youth.
“The under-18s were at a really high level and Oscar and Barney were very powerful. For me it was just great to see these young guys out competing and they will have learned a lot from this weekend. Now we need these guys to kick on into the grade ones and twos and build on this.”