By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and MARK FULLER (UK Racketball)
Nick Matthew and Millie Tomlinson gained their first British Open Racketball titles after a tough weekend at Hallamshire, Matthew’s home club,
The Men’s Open event featured a high quality line-up, with Tim Vail and Matthew, last year’s finalists, having to face competition from the likes of UK Racketball Nationals runner-up Luke Bishop and Warwickshire duo Guy Pearson and Chris Hall.
Hall caused an early upset in the quarter-finals as he took out Series regular Bishop 3-1 in four tight games.
There were then contrasting semi-finals on the Sunday, with Vail showing his class taking down Hall 3-0 in quick time, while Matthew and Pearson had a titanic battle on the next court.
Pearson’s racketball ball skill and courtcraft came up again Matthew’s… well, we all know what Nick can do by now!
The match went back and forth, with Pearson even having a match ball in the fourth game. Matthew, however, showed the battling qualities and mental strength we have seen from him time and again from his squash career, and he managed to get through 11-8 in the fifth game.
So this led to a repeat of last year’s final, and with Matthew out for revenge a brilliant spectacle was assured. Indeed, he came out of the blocks at the start, running up a tight two-game lead before Vail managed to reel him back in by winning the third and fourth, the latter being an especially clinical 11-2 scoreline.
So it came down to one final game to decide this year’s British Open men’s champion, and on his home court Matthew managed to overturn his loss last year, taking the fifth game 11-6 in front of a packed crowd. It was a brilliant effort considering his marathon semi-final and even better to do it against such a class opponent as Vail.
Afterwards Nick said: “It challenges your mental and physical endurance in a completely different way to squash. There are simply no easy rallies available at the highest level but that doesn’t make it just a battle of attrition and there’s an incredible amount of skill involved.
“I learned so much from playing Guy and Tim – their shot selection, weight of shot and tactics. The best players display many of the same characteristics as squash, hitting consistently better length than their opponent and stretching them to all four corners of the court with incredible touch.”
The British Open women’s event had a great draw, featuring the likes of PSA players Millie Tomlinson and Katie Wells lining up to do battle against top seed and current National Champion Amber Marshall.
Katie and Amber had a great battle in the semis, with Amber using all of her Racketball experience to take a brilliant 3-2 victory, finishing strongly to win the fifth 11-1. In the other half of the draw Millie took down 3/4 seed Charlotte Jagger 3-0 with a clinical performance.
The final was touch and go all the way through, Amber starting well to take the first game 11-7, using her attacking ability with the racketball to good effect.
However, from the second game onwards Millie’s relentlessly tight straight line hitting started to take hold of the match, and she managed to close out the next three games to take her first racketball title, starting at the top with the British Open!
Bluebell Wood 2022 British Open Racketball, Hallamshire Tennis and Squash Club, October 15-16.
The second Bluebell Wood British Racketball Open at Hallamshire Squash Club in Sheffield came to an end with the Men’s and Women’s Open events having two new champions.
Following up from a successful inaugural event last year, the entry didn’t disappoint this time round, with more than 140 competitors ranging from the open categories through to men’s over-75s.
Full results from all the draws and the Plate events can be found on the SportyHQ event webpage
Once again the tournament was run in support of the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice charity, a worthy cause which offers palliative care to children and families with complex needs.
Over £3,000 was raised for the charity over the course of the event which is fantastic to see. Thank you to all who played the event and also got involved in the raffle and prize draws at the Saturday night BBQ, all of you have contributed toward this great total.
Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice website
Saturday December 3rd: UK Racketball Series Finals and National Doubles at Nottingham Squash Club.
It’s a milestone tournament, being UK Racketball’s 100th event, with a big Saturday night party after the play finishes to celebrate.
Pictures courtesy of UK Racketball