Croquet makes it to the Big Screen in Mauritius

Croquet makes it to the Big Screen in Mauritius

Croquet has landed in Mauritius and in a big way. At the end of January, 16 players from around the world headed out to Mauritius for the inaugural Sugar Beach International Croquet Cup. The destination was a spectacle in its own right but the players certainly put on a show to top it with some incredible croquet across 2 days of competition. All live streamed on Youtube.

You’ve heard of destination weddings, well now we have destination croquet. The competition was held at the beautiful 5* Sugar Beach Resort, set on the white sands of the Mauritian western coast. Boasting 2 croquet lawns located in front of a grand plantation style building and directly beside the beach, surrounded by palm trees. These lawns are certainly in the running for the most beautiful croquet lawns in the world. And if the backdrop to the lawns wasn't enough, the resort’s countless amenities certainly topped it all off.

The competition welcomed players from Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, UK, Latvia and Mauritius. Featuring some of the world’s top players. Despite the Mauritian players not having any official ranking, their play was excellent and gave a few of the top players a run for their money.

With players flying in through the start of the week, it all officially kicked off with the Wednesday night welcome dinner for players and their partners. It was a great dinner allowing everyone to get to know each other over some top quality food and several bottles of wine at the Patio restaurant. With the competition not starting until Friday, the group took the opportunity to continue the evening at the Buddha Bar located between the main pool and the beach for a cocktail along with live music and excellent company.

Thursday saw a couple of sore heads take on friendly singles and doubles games before lunch. The Mauritian players made a late arrival, taking the term fashionably late quite literally, as they wowed the group in their matching blue Dodo patterned kit. Mauritius being the island where the Dodo originated. Quick to show us excellent Mauritian hospitality, they ordered a big round of beers for everyone before we even sat down for lunch. Post lunch, excitement rapidly started building as the backdrop started to more closely resemble the PGA Tour than croquet, with crews erecting a big screen, grandstand seating, tv cameras and production tent for the live streaming. Following the afternoon session, with the sun still shining (although the sun does seem to shine most of the time in Mauritius) and practice complete, everyone disappeared for some relaxation and a quick dip in the pool before rejoining at the Buddha Bar for some cocktail menu research before the doubles competition on Friday.

Mauritian players in their Dodo themed croquet kit.

Friday’s doubles competition was played as a round robin with players allocated a partner based on highest and lowest rankings being paired which made for a very evenly matched field and a lot of close games. All covered by the live stream and projected onto the big screen for players and spectators to see while a live band provided some great music throughout the day. If you didn't catch the live stream, do not worry because it is still on youtube, link at the end of the article. By the end of the day, the scores were so close it left 3 teams on the same number of wins and 2 on the same net hoops but it was Roberts Stafeckis & Ana García Zamarreño who managed to take the win on who beat who. The blazing sun had made for a beautiful but tiring day on the lawns, so after the final games, the tournament manager ran off to collect a crate of ice cold beers, delivered to players on the lawns as they finished their final matches.

Roberts celebrating his final win in the doubles

After a refresh in the pool, Friday evening brought a change of attire and attitude to croquet, as the players were invited to a private reception with the hotel CEO and executive group. All excited to meet the players and treated them like sports stars with an open bar, delicious canapes and a lovely evening meal as the sun set over the ocean.

Players and partners at the Lounge bar enjoying some cocktails.

Live streaming and the band's great tunes resumed early on Saturday morning for the start of the singles 16 player knockout competition with the quarter finals closing the morning session. Jenny Clarke made quick work of her quarter final match while Pedro and Roberts battled in their game, Pedro coming out on top and sending himself through to the semis. Guy Scurfield edged past an impressive Paul Gunn. The battle for the fourth spot saw Martin Gill’s big hitting style make consistently impressive cross court clearances and a couple of exciting jumps against Neil McHardy’s more tactical short game. In the end Neil just scraped through to take the win.

Post lunch, the semi finals for the plate and competition started off with beautiful sunshine casting palm tree shadows across the lawns as the spectators looked out over the beach and across the ocean on another amazing day of play. The big screen, cameras, live band and grandstand seating provided an awesome atmosphere, giving the fans (yes, we had Mauritian croquet fans) a real show with all the replays and close ups of impressive hoop running and great jump shots too. The first semi final saw Guy Scurfield battle with Neil McHardy, each winning hoops in turn to take them to 6-6 with Guy getting first approach to the tie break hoop. After a nail biting miss from Guy, he managed to stay in control sending Neil off to the far boundary to tee himself up for a short tap in to take him through to the final. Jenny Clarke and Pedro Lozano had an equally close game, also going to 6-6 but not before the heavens opened, significantly slowing the speed of play. The sudden downpour started to leave puddles on the lawn as the players made their approach to hoop 13. Pedro was very unlucky here as both his balls hit puddles leaving Jenny with the only ball on the right side of the hoop, leaving her to run a good hoop to take the win 7-6.

More rain caused a temporary suspension of play and it was at this moment that Mauritian National News chose to turn up, expecting to film a final, instead they got to see a small lake forming in the corner of lawn 2. Luckily, Guy and Duncan (Tournament Manager) gave them a great interview which should get Mauritians making croquet their national sport by the time we return next year.

Luckily with the lawns being beside the beach, the drainage was speedy and with the helping of some Mauritian sunshine, the lawns were playable only 30 minutes after the rain stopped. Now everyone was eager to watch the final between Guy and Jenny. The spectators re-assembled, the big screen flashed back into life, the commentator treated himself to a cocktail and the players entered the lawn to a round of applause, all cameras trained on them. Guy took the first hoop, Jenny taking the second as they both won alternating hoops. Jenny forcing guy into several tricky positions but Guy showing his confidence, running long hoops and hitting some big clearances. But at hoop 9, Jenny’s experience paid off as her continued consistency allowed her to break sequence, taking her 5-4 up and putting her ahead for the first time in the game. Guy responded with an excellent approach up to hoop 10, Jenny looking to clear but couldn't quite do it, the pressure must have got to Guy as he missed a 3 foot hoop leaving his ball off at an angle. Feeling that he needed to take back control, Guy used his angled ball to attempt a jaws position, it looked good until his ball suddenly wobbled and was left sitting on the right hand upright. Jenny, having been cleared over to the centre peg, saw an opportunity and adopted some of Guy's confidence, going for a long distance in off. She hit it perfectly and slipped through the hoop with such power and grace that half the crowd didn't even realise what had happened. Probably the best shot of the whole tournament and a cracking move to take herself up to 6-4 at a really critical moment. Guy put in a lovely approach to 11 but Jenny cleared and cleared again, leaving Guy struggling to get back into the game. Jenny with 2 balls in front of the hoop and Guy on the boundary, Guy decided that a last ditch mega shot from the boundary (we love to see it) was his best option. Sadly it didn't quite pay off, edging the side of the hoop and leaving Jenny to run through to win 7-4. It really was a top quality final and the crowd loved it. The plate final saw Peter Haydon and Carmen Pérez Nogueras battle it out over 13 hoops with Peter from Dulwich Croquet Club taking the win.

For the prize giving, the crew put up a stage and all the players came up to receive their medals to great fanfare and applause in an impressive spectacle that all croquet competitions should aim for in the future. Congratulations to all the players for their amazing play and for providing a lovely, exciting atmosphere for everyone. As a final send off, the hotel treated everyone to a delightful 3 course beachfront dinner at their Citronella restaurant followed by a generous selection of drinks at the Buddha Bar for a final toast to round off the week. At the bar, hotel guests who had been watching came over and congratulated the players and the winners, making them feel like true sports stars. Many of them now keen to give croquet a go, even the hotel staff were asking for tips. I think we can be sure that croquet is definitely not going to suffer the same fate as the Dodo here in Mauritius and looks to be a growing sport. Mauritius is soon to join the WFC, so look out for some players at the next world championships. Hopefully they can bring the great atmosphere that they provided over the week, with the big screen and band too.

Jenny Clarke receives her trophy on the stage

The players from left to right: Duncan Catterall (Tournament Manager), Roberts Stafeckis, Ana García Zamarreño, Pedro Lozano, Jenny Clarke, Carmen Pérez Nogueras, Fernando Soto, Paul Gunn, Peter Haydon, Martin Gill, Neil McHardy, Samuel Brousse de Gersigny, Remi Brousse de Gersigny, Henry Piat, Guy Scurfield and Jérémie Brousse de Gersigny.

Live stream from the competition can be found via the link below, as well as further information and sign up form for anyone interested in participating next year:
Alternatively, drop Duncan an email:

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