Saturday, February 24, 2024

Charlottesville paints a Masters masterpiece

Virginia’s local hero Patrick Chifunda reaches the over-40 final

Big wins for local hero Patrick Chifunda and  Mexico’s Juan Mendez
By ALEXIA CLONDA – Squash Mad Reporter in Charlottesville

You run out of superlatives talking about what a marvellous facility the McArthur Squash Centre is in Charlottesville, venue for the 2018 World Masters.

With 12 glassbacks, a three-sided glass court and a full glass showcourt taking centre stage at the brilliant Boars Head sports centre and resort, it is one of the most magnificent squash clubs in the world.

Squash has been spoilt not only with the facility, but also by a host of social events in a wonderful camaraderie and friendly atmosphere where many have rekindled friendships of old and forged new ones.

Day six and 1,600 or so matches on, semi-finals day arrived here in Charlottesville, with many familiar faces, and some new ones in the over-35 age group, powering through to the finals.

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In the Women’s draws, England leads the way with seven of the finalists, Australia next with six, the USA with three, and Canada and South Africa one each.

Dope testing was conducted today for the first time this week, something Masters players are not accustomed to and will have to get used to in the years to come.

Taking medications requires a TUE form, which needs to be sent to the governing body and/or WSF, in the case of a World event such as the world masters, of the event.

It has caught a few by surprise, I am certain, by ignorance rather than efforts to enhance performance.

Players from the US, I have been hearing, have really embraced the spirit of this event and many are talking of playing the next in 2020, in Poland.

Australia, England and Canada lead the charge into World Masters Finals


A dramatic slate of 35 semi-finals saw Australia emerge in front of the pack with a tournament-leading nine finalists and England close behind with eight, while Canadians won four out of six semifinals Friday at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Friday opened with mixed results for the host nation during the 9am slot of matches. Gerry Poulton, Canada’s 75+ two seed, augmented his recent winning record against U.S. national title record-holder Jay Nelson, dispatching Nelson in three games to reach his second career World Masters final. Canada is guaranteed the Men’s 75+ title after five seed Howard Armitage defeated Team USA’s Michael Gough in three games.

Team USA’s first breakthrough came in the form of 75+ five seed Joyce Davenport upsetting South Africa’s top seed Jean Grainger in four games. Both players entered the match with a 3-0 record in the six-player round robin, and now Davenport just needs to defeat Slovenia’s six seed Mariza Ohlsson to clinch what would be her second World Masters title, which she is quietly confident of.

“Jean was the key person to beat in the tournament,” Davenport said after the win. “She’s a good player, and adjusted pretty well during the match. If she hadn’t adjusted so well I could have gotten through in three, but she got better as the match went on, improving her length and serves. I had some opportunities in the third and fourth, but I couldn’t take them—including a match point. I can have one drink tonight, but probably just one.”

Davenport won the 50+ World Masters title in the 1992 tournament hosted by Vancouver. Grainger and Davenport share a long history together in not just squash, but also tennis.

Joyce Davenport celebrates after beating long-term friend Jean Grainger

“I was actually hosted by her family in England for a few weeks when I was eighteen years old,” Davenport said. “Her mother was the nicest hostess I’ve ever had in all my years playing squash and tennis, she was the loveliest woman. I told her that before the match. We also have both played Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis, so we have some history and parallels.”

As the day progressed, Australia, England and Canada laid down their marks. Australia emerged with a tournament-leading nine finalists, including women’s 45+ defending champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald, women’s 50+ top seed Sarah Nelson, women’s 55+ top seed Susan Hillier, men’s 55+ top seed Geoffrey Davenport and Men’s 70+ top seed Brian Cook.

The Aussies produced four results that upset the seedings to reach finals, including women’s 65+ three seed Gaye Mitchell upsetting the two seed Faith Sinclair, four seed Brett Martin upsetting top seed Willie Hosey and men’s 55+ three seed Peter Gilbee upsetting two seed Fredrik Johnson.

England are guaranteed at least two World Masters titles on finals day, with all-English finals slated for the Women’s 35+, featuring Lauren Briggs and Selina Sinclair, and 60+, featuring Jill Campion and Karen Hume. England will also field two other top seeds including defending Men’s 45+ champion Nick Taylor and defending women’s 70+ champion Ann Manley.

The most dramatic match of the day came in the Men’s 55+ division between England’s two seed Jeremy Goulding and unseeded Mexican Juan Mendez, a former hardball singles professional. Mendez fought off two match balls in the fifth game to win the match 12-10 in front of a roaring audience. Mendez is the only unseeded player in the tournament to reach a final, where he will face Australia’s Geoff Davenport.

Mexico’s Juan Mendez reaches the over-55 final

Other lone nation representatives in the finals include Botswana’s Alister Walker and the Netherlands’ Laurens Jan Anjema, who meet in the men’s over-35 final, Ireland’s Liam Kenny (M40+), Germany’s Hansi Wiens (M50+), Cayman Island’s John Macrury (M60+) and Scotland’s Ian Ross (M70+).

Team USA ended the day as it started—with mixed fortunes. Women’s 50+ three seed Hope Prockop lost out against Canada’s fifteen seed Lauren Wagner, who continued her unexpected run to the finals with a three-game upset over the American. Natalie Grainger followed on court by maintaining her unbeaten World Masters record in a decisive three-game victory to reach a second consecutive final.

The last match of the day featured Team USA’s Patrick Chifunda, who heads the squash program at the Country Club of Virginia in nearby Richmond. Chifunda advanced to the men’s 40+ final after a three-game win against Hong Kong’s surprise semifinalist Wai Chung Wong.

“It feels very good to reach the final, I’ve worked really hard training for this event,” Chifunda said. “When I played in South Africa two years ago I fell short in the semi-finals, so I was very disappointed. I’m thrilled to reach the finals here near Richmond and on American soil. Words can’t even describe this facility, it’s amazing. Playing on this glass court is a treat—a true joy—and to play in front of my home crowd makes it even better.”

Chifunda and Kenny will contest the last World Masters final on the glass court Saturday in front of a full-capacity gallery.

“I’m just looking forward to having a very good, strong match against Liam tomorrow,” Chifunda said. “We played each other once before on the PSA, so I’m looking forward to playing him now that we’re old. I want to thank the guys at my club, Jose and Steven O’Dwyer, and most importantly my wife who has allowed me to train while taking care of our baby. I’m really excited for tomorrow.”

Follow live streaming from six courts and live scores on from 9am ET.

SEMI-FINAL RESULTS: 2018 World Masters, McArthur Squash Center, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

[1] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt [5] Alejandro Garbi Caro (ESP) 11-6, 11-0, 11-4 (34m)
[2] Alister Walker (BOT) bt [3] Wael El Hindi (USA) 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (36m)

[1] Lauren Briggs (ENG) bt [5] Margaret Gerety (USA) 11-5, 11-1, 11-1 (18m)
[2] Selina Sinclair (ENG) bt [6] Reka Burmeister (ENG) 11-8, 11-5, 11-3 (20m)

[1] Liam Kenny (IRL) bt [5] Craig Ruane (RSA) 11-4, 11-8, 11-3 (27m)
[3] Patrick Chifunda (USA) bt [15] Wai Chung Wong (HKG) 11-3, 13-11, 11-5 (25m)

[1] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [4] Samantha Herbert (RSA) 11-4, 11-3, 11-0 (18m)
[2] Melissa Martin (AUS) bt [3] Jacqueline Ryder (RSA) 11-6, 11-2, 11-9 (18m)

[1] Nick Taylor (ENG) bt [12] Galen le Cheminant (USA) 11-4, 11-4, 11-9 (27m)
[2] Zuko Kubukeli (RSA) bt [3] Adrian Hansen (RSA) 11-7, 5-11, 12-10, 11-7 (46m)

[1] Sarah Fitz-Gerald (AUS) bt [4] Karen Meakins (BAR) 11-9, 11-3, 11-2 (15m)
[3] Susan Davis (AUS) bt [2] Rachel Calver (ENG) 11-7, 7-11, 11-2, 12-10 (26m)

[1] Michael Tootill (RSA) bt [13] Sean Ryan (AUS) 11-5, 11-8, 11-7 (22m)
[2] Hansi Wiens (GER) bt [3] David Sly (CAN) 11-8, 11-5, 11-3 (17m)

[1] Sarah Nelson (AUS) bt [5] Wendy Ansdell (ENG) 11-5, 11-9, 11-2 (17m)
[15] Lauren Wagner (CAN) bt [3] Hope Prockop (USA) 11-5, 11-9, 15-13 (25m)

[4] Brett Martin (AUS) bt [1] Willie Hosey (IRL) 11-9, 11-2, 11-9 (20m)
[3] Peter Gilbee (AUS) bt [2] Fredrik Johnson (SWE) 13-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-8 (31m)

[1] Susan Hillier (AUS) bt [4] Sue Williams (AUS) 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (19m)
[3] Mandy Akin (ENG) bt [2] Fiona McLean (SCO) 11-6, 10-12, 11-2, 11-9 (26m)

[1] Geoffrey Davenport (AUS) bt [4] Pierr Roodt (RSA) 16-14, 11-7, 13-11
Juan Mendez (MEX) bt [2] Jeremy Goulding (ENG) 11-4, 11-8, 4-11, 4-11, 12-10

[1] Jill Campion (ENG) bt Maureen Duke (IRL) 9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 (24m)
[2] Karen Hume (ENG) bt Shirley Whitmore (RSA) 14-12, 11-6, 11-2 (18m)

[1] John Macrury (CAY) bt [4] Wayne Weatherhead (CAN) 11-5, 13-11, 11-5 (22m)
[6] Mario Raponi (CAN) bt [10] John Carroll (AUS) 11-9, 11-6, 12-10 (19m)

[1] Laura Ramsay (CAN) bt Yvonne Trotter (AUS) 11-5, 2-11, 11-1, 11-8 (28m)
[3] Gaye Mitchell (AUS) bt [2] Faith Sinclair (SCO) 11-2, 11-3, 11-4 (13m)

[1] Brian Cook (AUS) bt [5] Aubrey Waddy (ENG) 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (18m)
[3] Ian Ross (SCO) bt [7] Frikkie Bester (RSA) 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6 (31m)

[1] Ann Manley (ENG) bt [4] Marilyn Kennedy (AUS) 11-5, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5 (29m)
[6] Margaret Hunt-Kemp (RSA) bt [2] Robyn Prentice (AUS) 11-4, 13-11, 11-7 (16m)

[5] Howard Armitage (CAN) bt [8] Michael Gough (USA) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5
[2] Gerald Poulton (CAN) bt [3] John Nelson (USA) 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 (17m)

WO75 (’round robin’ match)
[5] Joyce Davenport (USA) bt [1] Jean Grainger (RSA) 11-8, 11-3, 11-13, 13-11 (25m)

[1] Lance Kinder (ENG) bt [4] Stanley Fanaroff (RSA) 11-7, 10-12, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4
[3] Edward Burlingame (USA) bt [2] Barry Gardiner (NZL) 10-12, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9

Pictures by CHRIS McCLINTICK courtesy of 2018 World Masters 


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