The Isle of Man Squash Championships was played last week thanks to new sponsor Utmost Wealth Solutions. It also saw the re-introduction of the Squash 57 (formerly called Racketball) Island Championships running alongside and, with thirteen Squash 57 entries and forty squash players, it proved to be a busy week for the organisers.
Both championships were run using the Swiss system which means everyone plays in each of the rounds. Three squash players, Steve Baker, Alister Crossley and Stuart Highy decided that they were fit enough to play in both championships.
Squash 57 matches were played first on each of the nights and it was great to see some very competitive matches in all of the rounds. The match of the first round was between Gary Marsden and Neil Shimmin with Shimmin winning by only two points in the fifth game. New to squash 57, Stuart Highy won his match against Clive Chivers in four games and Tracy Nolan pushed James Van Dort all the way before losing 3-1.
In the second round number one seed Allister Crossley was made to work very hard to secure a 3-1 win over Stuart Highy and Dave Griffiths battled to beat James Van Dort by the same score. The closest match in the third round was between Gary Marsden and Derek Tootill with Marsden winning 3-1.
The Final saw number one seed Allister Crossley pitted against Steve Baker, both of these players are still very good squash players who have also managed to cross over into squash 57 bringing their skills with them. The final was very competitive but with the score at 2-2 Baker managed to find the better shots to secure the win and become Island Squash 57 Champion 2019.
The first round of the Squash Championships went according to seeding apart from the match between Alex Cave seeded 30 and Michael Fernandez at 35. Fernandez is returning to squash after a successful football career cut short by knee problems and this was a very competitive match with Fernandez just getting the better of Cave 3-2. Another match worthy of mention was young Ben Leith against Brian Cowley with Cowley having to use his years of experience against this up and coming junior to win in five.
The most notable match of the second round was between fifteenth seed Allister Crossley and eighteenth seed Oliver Wait. Oliver is still a junior but has been rising up the senior ranks this year playing some excellent squash. Crossley looked set for a comfortable win taking a 2-0 lead but Wait, after a talking to by his coach, came back on court re-energised and took the next three very close games for a 3-2 win. Rob Colquitt has had an injury free year so far and this is showing in his game. Ranked 11 in the tournament he played sixth seed Jason Crease, who had to use all his skills to overcome Colquitt in five very hard fought games.
In the fourth round as the seedings get closer the matches get harder and there were no fewer than six five- setters and six four- set matches. Steve Baker, having already played a squash 57 match and showing no sign of losing his ability and fitness as he ages, had to use both of these to overcome James Martin in a very close match. Oliver Wait came back again from 2-0 down, this time to beat Rob Boyles. Mark Stratford managed to beat Stuart Highy in five games, as did Andrew Brown in his match with Darren Smethhurst. Harvey Douglas, another young player from the Junior Academy, battled hard to win his match against Stephen Pitts, and Christian Webster beat Oliver Williams 3-2 with only four points separating the players at the end.
One fifth round match worthy of note was between Steve Baker and Douglas Jacobsson. Baker raced into a 2-0 lead but Jacobsson, who has had some good results this tournament, dug in and with some great retrieving managed to level the score and take the match to a fifth game which he won by one point. Another match that was won by one point in the fifth was between Darren Smethurst and junior Oliver Williams with Smethurst getting the win. Fraser Dorling also secured his win over Harvey Douglas 3-2. Jon Shepherd had a great match with Rob Boyles beat Jon Shepherd 3-2 in a very close match. However the match of this round was between two players who have only recently taken up playing squash, Michael Fernandez and Shaun Wylie. This was a very close and hard fought battle with Fernandez just winning 11-6 in the fifth.
Finals night was on Friday and only two matches went to five games. The first one was between Dean Sowerby and Les Callow with Callow coming out on top 11-7 in the fifth. The other was between junior Oliver Wait and Steve Baker, who not an hour beforehand had played a five set squash 57 final. In this match Wait started quickly winning the first before Baker levelled and eventually the match went to a fifth game which Baker won 11-4.
The Championship final was between Dave Norman and Thom Whiteway. The match started with Dave playing his usual accurate length game forcing Thom to defend and retrieve from the start. Norman won the first game and continued his fast length game in the next two to win comfortably and become Island Squash Champion for the 22nd time.
As in previous years Cannell Print sponsored a trophy for the player who,in the sponsors mind, put up the strongest overall performance in the competition. This year the recipient was Ben Peach who not only played well in the competition but is rapidly rising up the senior rankings this year.
Isle of Man Squash would like to thank all the players in both competitions for their competitive but sporting spirit and a big well played to all the juniors who took part.
We would also like to thank Utmost Wealth Solutions for sponsoring the tournament.
Head of Utmost Community, Shaun Lewis said ‘This is the first time that we have sponsored the squash tournament, which was thrilling to watch. It was a pleasure to be invited down to present the trophies to the winners and I hope that all participants had a great week at the tournament’.
Above is a group picture of the Event winners along with the Utmost Wealth Solutions representative. The picture shows back row left to right – Shaun Lewis (Utmost Wealth Solutions), Dave Norman (Winner), Thomas Whiteway (Runner Up), Mark Stratford (Plate Runner Up), Allister Crossley (Squash 57 Runner Up). Front row left to right – Ben Peach (Best Performance), Dave Freer (Plate Winner), Steve Baker (Squash 57 Winner) and Alex Cave (Bowl Winner).