09-13 Feb, Nottingham Squash Club, England
Finals Day :
So, it has all lead to this. All the great matches, the skills, the effort and the highs and lows of playing competitive sport and now Finals Day. For some players, the honour of becoming a National Champion. This was how it turned out.
Women’s O75. Two ladies who have won just about everything in Squash. Both World Champions and they have played each other many times. Ann Manley (AVN) has four World titles and in recent years has had the better of three time World Champion Bett Dryhurst (WOC). And so it proved once again,in spite of a 12/10 second it was three straight to Manl;ey.
Women’s O65. The Scotland No. 1 Eunice Bond and the Wales No. 1 Lynne Davies met in this final bringing a host of International experience with them. It was always going to be tight. It was almost inevitable that it would go to five games as both played an intelligent game. Lynne had her chance with two match points, but Eunice saved them and took the fifth 12/10 for her first National title.
Women’s O60. This group is particularly gifted with Champions. Former World Champion Jill Campion is now representing Wales and today in the first all Wales final played double National Champion Sian Johnson. These ladies always have close, hard fought matches and sure enough, an incredibly close fifth game. This time it was Campion who reached the winning post.
Women’s O55. Fiona McLean (SCO) is a three time British Open Champion but has not won a National title before. Her opponent in this final was Fran Wallis (LCN) who has a host of Regional titles to her name. McLean always had the edge and was a worthy winner in straight games.
Women’s O50. Neither of these women had won a National title before. Sarah Parr (BRK) has had successes on the Regional circuit but this is Jillian Lilico’s (HFD) first season with the Masters. Parr’s experience showed as she stormed through the first but Lilico fought back to take the second. Parr re-established herself and playing her best squash took charge of the next two to take her first National title.
Women’s O45. Vix Smith (SRY) won the British Open two months ago beating double National Champion Rachel Calver (LEC) in a thrilling final. It was always going to be a tough match. The first two were shared as were the next two. ‘A very classy, tactical game’ said one observer. The fifth was a real tussle but again it was Smith who found the shots to edge ahead to take the fifth.
Women’s O40. Hannah Wright-Davies is a former Wales International and top seed here. She played Kate Bradshaw (CBE) who is a regular top performer on the Regional circuit. The Wales player was just a bit better and it made all the difference. With some fine rallies and shot making, Wright-Davies collected the National title in straight games.
Women’s O35. Top seed Sarah Campion (CHS) won the British Open recently and was a top World circuit professional. Her final opponent was Leonie Holt (WKS)from the British Fire Service, a very strong player herself but without the rare pedigree of Campion. She pushed Campion hard, however and took the third with some lovely shots but it was inevitably a title for Campion.
To the Men…
Men’s O85. Not a large group, but it is inspirational to see. In the event, former England senior International Pat Kirton (SRY) has won Masters National titles from 45 to 80. He has 18 of them and now has 19. A truly remarkable run. Unfortunately his opponent, former World over 80 Champion Lance Kinder (HPH) was injured and had to concede.
Men’s O80. With two regular champions playing down a group, it was left to Geoff Coe (CHS) and John Blurton (SFD) to battle it out. With some squash that belied their age they had a very good match with both players showing good shot-making and running. Blurton was just the stronger, however and took his chances to win in four games for his first National title.
Men’s O75. Mike Clemson (YKS) has a host of Open and National titles but is at the end of this age group. James Dubois (SRY) is at the other end and has been playing well this season. Dubois struck first and took the first, but Clemson has been here many times before and he steadied himself and took the next two. Dubois was not finished, however and he rallied his resources to take the next two and a first National title.
Men’s O70. This was a final that was eagerly awaited with former World Champion Keith Jones (BRK) taking on current British Open Champion Ian Ross (SCO). Jones took the first with some great movement and edged ahead but then disaster struck as he injured an ankle and had to concede. So a first National title for Ross to go with his Open and European wins.
Men’s O65. Scottish Champion Robin Ridley was proving a point after a disappointment in the Open. But he had removed top seed John Guyatt (WOC) and was playing very well. His final opponent was the talented Gordon McManus (KNT) always a clever player. McManus took the first with some great drops but Ridley powered back and took the second 11/0. The third was closer but Ridley had the look of a man who was going to win and he closed out a tight fourth for the title.
Men’s O60. John Parkes (WOC) was looking for the Double and already had the Open. Dermot Hurford (SRY) a previous British Open winner was out to stop him. Probably the two best hitters of a squash ball in the group. There were some brutal rallies as both men played some great squash, but it was Parkes that took the first and then the second 13/11. The force was with him and he kept his nose ahead and ran out a winner in straight games.
Men’s O55. Yawar Abbas (DCL) has five National titles to his name already and was favourite for another. Nigel Stiles (SRY) had played beautifully to reach the final gaining some excellent scalps along the way. Abbas is the big match player, however, and e nullified Stile’s silky skills to get through 3/0. A sixth National for ABBAS.
Men’s O45. Possibly the Masters Player of the Season – the Colets player Matt Holland (HPH) has won everything – Regional Opens, British Open and now the National title. And what a Final! Devon’s Mike Gregory has superb racket skills and pushed Holland harder than anyone has done this season. After sharing the first two the next two were edged by Holland by the smallest of margins. A great match played in great spirit.
Men’s O40. Defending Champion Darren Lewis (LEC) was top seed here but was up against the very fit and mobile Jamie Goodrich (NOR). Lewis is always entertaining with some outrageous shots amongst the steel of a great basic game. The first two games were shared but it was Lewis who was then in the ascendancy. He put Goodrich all over the court and ran out a winner in four hard games.
Men’s O35. Top seed and former Champion Andy Whipp (CHS) has been a top player for a long time and is always the man to beat. His final opponent Phil Rushworth of Surrey lost a close final here in 2020 and was looking to go one better. Whipp had other ideas, however, and in a top match of fierce hitting and fantastic movement was always just ahead. A wonderful squash match played by two very classy players, but the Champion was Andy Whipp.
At the presentation there were thanks for Andy Murray and his company Iprosports, the sponsors, Nottingham SC for their hospitality – Nick Hargreaves and Kevin Emery, all the Referees and the England Squash Masters Committee who organised and ran the event, especially Brian Brock our Events Manager.
REMINDER – The Karakal British Open Masters is on the website. Entries are open. Enter NOW!
Stuart Hardy, Chairman
Day FOUR, Sat 12th Feb, Chairman’s report
The business end of tournament now. With some weary bodies battling in National Semi Finals for a place in the National Final.
Men’s O75’s. Mike Clemson (YKS) is a lively player with 6 British Opens. He proved to have too much mobility for Ken Reid (SCO) in spite of some fine rallies and shots from REID, won through in four games all of which went to 7. James Dubois (SRY) continued his fine form of this season and showing good all round court skills beat John Smith (NLD) in four games, holding his nerve to take the fourth 11/9. His first National Final.
Men’s O70’s. Keith Jones (BRK) has won world and British open titles and returning this season is still the player to beat. In this semi final he faced Scotland’s Emilio Fazzi a talented shot maker. The first was very tight but Jones prevailed 12-10 but then took control to take the next two more comfortably. In the final he will face the British Open Champion Ian Ross, also of Scotland, who again proved too adept for Terry Belshaw (CBA) and controlling the game ran out a straight game winner.
Men’s O65’s. Robin Ridley the Scotland No. 1 had removed top seed John Guyatt yesterday and today was looking for revenge against Wales number 1 Adrian Alderton who had surprisingly removed him from the British Open 3 months ago. The first game was a tight affair but went to Ridley who gained confidence and powered through the next 2 for a satisfying win. He will meet brand new 065 player Gordon McManus (KNT) the No. 2 seed who had too much control for Simon Evenden (NHM) and ran out a 4 game winner. A great final in store.
Men’s O060’s . John Parkes(WOC) won the British Open in style recently and is the top player in the group at the moment. He had a tricky task with the mercurial Nick Gollaglee (SOM) who plays a devastating lob and drop combination game. Parkes has the speed around the court and the hitting ability to overcome this game however and duly recorded a straight games win. In the final he will meet a former British Open champion in Dermot Hurford (SRY) who came though against current European Champion Allen Barwise (CBA) after the Cumbrian who has recently returned from injury pulled up in the 3rd game having shared the first two. The final will be a repeat of the British Open semi final and promises to be an action packed match.
Men’s O55’s. Kevin Harris (HPH) has had a great tournament rarely appearing on the masters’ circuit but he has beaten a 5-8 and 3-4 seed to reach the semi final. Here he ran into the outstanding Yawar Abbas (DCL) the defending champion and acquitted himself very well losing 13-11 in the 3rd. Abbas will meet another unexpected opponent as Nigel Stiles (SRY) proved too mobile for Peter Gunter (MDX) who may have been feeling the effects of his great 5 game win yesterday. Stiles got through in 4 games of top quality squash.
Men’s O50’s. The top 2 seeds in this group both emerged to their places in the final with solid powerful 3-0 wins against very good opponents. Nick Wall (YKS) beat county colleague Stuart Hargreaves in straight games always having the edge on power and touch. He will meet another Yorkshireman in John Simpson who worked out the enigma that is David Youngs playing squash in a powerful display he nullified the talented Youngs with a 3-0 win. An all Yorkshire final and some hard hitting squash in store.
Men’s O45’s. The 45’s player of the season has been Matt holland (HPH) who has won regional titles and the British Open already. Here he was up against Paul Boyle (BUX) a former National champion himself and was soon 2 games down. Holland battled back and managed to get in front winning the 5th 11-9. Holland now meets Mike Gregory of Devon the number 2 seed who has not appeared on the masters circuit this season but is renowned as a tremendous player. He convincingly overcame another talented player in Rob Staunton (IRL) with some devastating power and touch. It should be a great final.
Men’s O40’s. Darren Lewis (LEC) is a former Open and Closed champion and top seed here. He had to play Mick Biggs (MDX) in his semi final and these two have already played each other more than once this season. Lewis can turn on a blistering display and also lose a game heavily. He lost one game 11/1 but recovered his game to take three others. In the final he will meet Jamie Goodrich (NOR) who got through without playing as number 2 seed James Bowden (LEC) had to withdraw. A great shame as it would have been a fantastic match to watch.
Men’s O35’s. Top seed Andy Whipp (CHS) has won this title before and although he does not play the Masters events regularly he tends to win when he does. He took on a very in form Jason Pike (WKS)the Leamington Pro who has produced some excellent squash this season. Two close games to Whipp was followed by one by Pike, then a point for point fourth that went to the Cheshire man 11/9 in the fourth. He will meet Wimbledon professional Phil Rushworth (SRY) -a runner up here in 2020, who was 2/1 up against East of England Open champion Nick Surcliffe (MDX) before the latter feeling unwell had to retire. A top class Final in prospect.
Women’s O75’s. A small round robin group is being played for this event and Bett Dryhurst (WOC) beat Patricia Gray (CBE) in the first match. Bett is a former world champion and won virtually everything in squash and no doubt her tie with Ann Manley (AVN) will be another classic as she is also a woman who has won everything. She in turn beat Patricia in the second match of the group.
Women’s O65’s. Another round robin group with England, Scotland and Wales represented. Lynne Davies (WAL) started with a solid performance against Rebecca Czuczman (KNT) winning in three good games. Scotland no. 1 Eunice Bond also a top performer for many years recorded a similar result and now meets Lynne in the final.
Women’s O60’s. Jill Campion is now representing Wales and the former World Champion had too much for Susan Pynegar (NOT) in spite of the home court advantage and after a 15/13 first game, won 3/0. She will now face Wales stalwart Sian Johnson a former National Champion herself who came from a game down to beat second seed Lesley Sturgess (DYS) in what will be the first All Wales Final.
Women’s O55’s. Fiona McLean of Scotland is a former British Open and National Champion and renowned for her athleticism. She was on form today as after a 12/10 first game she powered through Lisa Tolhurst (ESX) in the next two. She will play the hard hitting former National and 26 time Regional Champion Fran Wallis (LCN) who proved too good for the former Zimbabwean Karen Webb (BRK) after sharing the first two close games.
Women’s O50’s. Another round robin event for this age group started with Jillian Lillico (HFD) playing a solid match against Alison Goy (NOT) and with great control took the tie in straight games. Top seeded Sarah Parr (BRK) has already been a winner this season and was expected to record a similar result against Alison to set up a final date with Jillian. Alison was a different player to the earlier match however and a tight contest ended 3/2 to the No. 1 seed.
Women’s O45’s. Newly crowned British Open Champion Vix Smith (SRY) had to come from a game down to beat Louisa Dalwood (HFD) which she did with growing confidence as the match progressed. Meanwhile, Rachel Calver (LEC) a former National Champion got the better of another previous winner, Keeley Johnson (KNT) taking the fourth 11/9. This sets up a repeat of the British Open final and should be a great contest.
Women’s O40’s. This event was played in two groups and the top two seeds emerged from them to meet in tomorrow’s final. Hannah Wright-Davies (KNT) had a solid win over Karen Heron (NLD) 3/0 then a ferocious battle with Natalie Lawrence (SOM) to earn her place in the final. Here she will play Kate Bradshaw (CBE) who beat Natalie Townsend in straight games then, in a real battle, a five game win over Mandy Akin (KNT) playing down a group or two.
Women’s O35’s. Former World top 20 player Sarah Campion (CHS) recently won the British Open and is firm favourite here. Heather Joy (BUX) had removed No. 3 seed Polly Roylance-Smith in the previous round but could not find any way through Campion who looked supremely poised and accurate. 3/0. She will play Leonie Holt (WKS) the No. 2 seed who came through 3/1 against Emmeline Gale (SRY) after losing a tight 15/13 third game.
So, on to the Finals starting at 10.30am on Sunday. Some marvellous Squash in store and some new National Champions to be crowned. Spectators are very welcome at Nottingham Squash Club.
Stuart Hardy, Chairman