Masters Day Four : Finalists are decided

The British Open Masters continued at Solihull Arden and West Warwickshire as most of the events reached the semi-final stage.

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Day Four – Saturday 8th June

Semi finals day at the British Open Masters and the players competing for that coveted place in a British Open Final. All to play for and the chance of glory if one reaches the Final so lots of passion and commitment from the players throughout the age range.

Women’s Over 70: Top seed and former World Champion Pauline Douglas of Scotland is the outstanding player in this group and in the pool she beat fellow Scot Maureen Carroll in straight games. Catherine Woodhart, the No 2 seed, kept her run going beating Susan Wastie in straight games but the second was a mammoth 17-15 to Woodhart. The final of the group between Douglas and Woodhart is tomorrow.

Women’s Over 65: World Masters Champion Jill Campion of Wales had a close battle with England’s Lesley Sturgess winning the first two games 12-10 before running out a winner in the third. She will meet another World Masters Champion in Karen Hume who after a close 12-10 first game overpowered Lynne Davies of Wales with her strong hitting game. A much anticipated final between these two World Champions.

Women’s Over 60: Top seed Mandy Akin continued her fine run and had too much variety in the game for Sari Niemisto of Finland and in the best match seen in the group so far won through in four games with the two middle games going to nine each way. In another pool match England Captain Polly Woodward put in a great performance to overcome talented Bea Spitse of the Netherlands in four games after losing the first. Sari Niemisto was again in action against Tammy Bennett and took the first but was then 5-10 down in the second but staged a remarkable comeback to win it 12-10. She was then 10-6 up in the third but Bennett came back to 10-10 before the Finnish player steadied herself to clinch it 12-10.

Women’s Over 55: Wales champion and No 1 Helen Barnard played an excellent match against Brynn Jafry of the USA and never allowed her to settle. A straight games win for her and and a final against Izzy Bramhall who overcame Marja Vainio of Finland after a point for point first game ran away with the next two. A good final in prospect.

Women’s Over 50: Former Open Champion Rachel Calver was in great form for her semi final against Debbie Locke and wasted no time in imposing her elegant game on her opponent. 3-0 to Calver. Louisa Dalwood is the current National Champion and played a champion’s match to overcome Christine McMullen, the No 2 seed. From the start it was top squash with Dalwood winning the first 12-10 and McMullen the second 13-11. And then the third but Louisa struck back 11-9 before running out 3-2 winner.

Women’s Over 45: Top seed and defending champion Catherine Ruffle is obviously the favourite here but she was forced to play her top squash by talented Katy Temple of Scotland who won the second game eventually going down 3-1 with some lovely squash from both players. Johannah Yue-Hitch from Singapore is obviously a very fine player. She took the first game against Kate Bradshaw 11-0, a rare event indeed and then went two up. Bradshaw fought back and took the third well but could not maintain the momentum and Yue-Hitch went through in four games.

Women’s Over 40: Continuing the round robin group in this event Ria Gelderblom played a very solid match never leaving her opponent Elaine Radcliffe many chances. A 3-0 win to Ria although it may have changed things if Elaine could have pinched the very tight second game. No 2 seed Natalie Davenport-Husdan had a cracking match with Natalie Lawrence and after going two up lost the fourth 13-11 for Lawrence to level the match. Natalie D-H re-asserted herself and hung on to take the fifth 11-8. The final match with Selina Harper promises to be of top quality.

Women’s Over 35: The top seed Leonie Holt was in action twice today as she first of all proved too strong for Gemma Barber winning 3-0 and then again overpowered Michelle Knight. Knight returned to the court later and overcame Gemma Barber in straight games without any fuss. The final pool match will be a final between Leonie Holt and Kirsty West.

Men’s Over 80: The round robin continues with Ken Reid of Scotland recovering from losing the first to take the next three against Nigel Belle who almost had the fourth as well but a 3-1 for the Scot. National Champion Tony Clifford dropped the first game to Leo Kingston and squeezed through the second 11-9 before asserting his game and winning through in four. A final tomorrow against Reid.

Men’s Over 75: Ian Ross has won the British Open and the European Championship and is looking determined to add another Open. He gave Wales No 1 Steve Evans little opportunity and went through in straight games. The other side of the draw was potentially very close but twice Open Champion Barry Featherstone did not perform to his usual level giving far too many opportunities to National Champion Larry Grover who gobbled them up gratefully. 3-0 to him.

Men’s Over 70: Stuart Hardy is top seed but was pushed hard by John Hithersay who won three Regional Championships last season. Hardy managed to keep the pace up and had the variety of shot to keep ahead and won a close 3-0. In the other semi another former champion Ian Graham, the No 2 seed, had too much game for Geoff Redfern who was forced into errors by Graham’s steady play. 3-0 to him.

Men’s Over 65: National Champion Allen Barwise again showed his class as he overpowered a very good American player in Bruce Gordon. Barwise playing his high pace, high energy game was too much of a handful for Gordon. Straight games to the Cumbrian. In the other half Robert Warner had caused a series of upsets but had to contend with the outrageous lob and drop game of Nick Gollaglee. Gollaglee found his range and covering the court well and playing some lovely squash came through in four games.

Men’s Over 60: With a World Masters title, European title and eight British Opens Fredrik Johnson of Sweden was top seed and favourite here. Darren Withey, the Queens Club coach, had a win over Johnson in last year’s Europeans and thought he could do it again. He could. In a fantastic match that belied the age of the players Withey came through in five games of superb squash. In the final he will meet former champion Eamonn Price after he won the latest episode in the long standing series of battles with Alex Betts of Queens Club. Price forced the errors and won through in four, 13-11 in the fourth.

Men’s Over 55: American No 1 seed John Musto lost out in a ferocious five game match to Wales No 1 and 3/4 seed Steve Evans in a match full of great rallies and attacking shots. Musto was 2-1 up but was pegged back and was edged out 9-11 in the fifth. In the final Evans will meet Gavin Roger-Lund who had too much control for Steve Dodridge’s dynamic shot making. Dodridge took the first but Lund hit back with the next two before taking the fourth 11-9.

Men’s Over 50: Nick Staunton of Ireland continued his stunning shot making and court craft to nullify the athletic prowess of Matt Stephenson in this semi final. Stephenson was unable to get his hard hitting rallying game going as Staunton used every inch of the court to conjure a straight games win. In an all Irish semi final Nick’s twin Rob took on Dara O’Flynn and produced a cracking match. The scores speak for themselves – 12-10, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 6-11 – match to O’Flynn in five games of great squash in just under an hour.

Men’s Over 45: In the last couple of years we have not seen Matt Holland lose very often and he has won British Opens and National Championships. Here he was playing a very talented German in Armin Hameed who won the first two games with some astounding winners. Holland hanging on for his life squeezed through the third 11-9 and slowly established the ascendancy running out a winner in five very entertaining action packed games. England team mates Mick Biggs and Alistair Coker played a very competitive match which seemed to have Coker having edged the third and being 2-1 up in control but Biggs is a strong athlete and forged through the next two to book his place in the final.

Men’s Over 40: Phil Rushworth displayed all his skills and prowess subduing Jason Varrie’s attacking game and running out a 3-0 winner. Playing beautifully controlled squash the Wimbledon pro gave a masterclass and takes his place in the final. He will face former National Champion Tim Richards who overcame Ross Kneller in straight games although Kneller almost had the second going down 10-12 but Richards overall was in charge.

Men’s Over 35: Defending champion James Snell of Devon unfortunately did not have a match as his opponent Jamie Douglas had to pull out suffering from a trapped nerve in his back. So straight through to the final for him where he will meet Tim Vail who played with Chris Hall, one of the finest matches seen in the British Open Masters in recent years. It was cut and thrust with superb skills on show from both players with devastating power, incredible movement and sublime squash making. In the end Vail came through in five games. One can only hope it hasn’t taken too much from him before facing Snell tomorrow.

So the finalists are decided after days of incredible squash and we have reached the finals for the iconic and coveted British Open titles. Play will start on Sunday at 10.00am at Solihull Arden SC and as always spectators are welcome to watch some wonderful age group squash.

Stuart Hardy, Chairman