Australia and England produced six and five World Masters champions, respectively, on finals day of the first World Masters ever held on U.S. soil at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Team USA earned the first title of the day courtesy of Joyce Davenport in the women’s 75+ round robin, following a decisive victory over top seed Jean Grainger on Friday. Grainger applied some pressure to Davenport with a quick 3-0 win while Davenport stood level with Slovenian Mariza Ohlsson at 1-all on the adjacent court. Davenport then pulled away to seal her 5-0 record and a second career World Masters title, adding to her 50+ title in 1992.
Of the nineteen champions, just five weren’t top seeds. All five of England’s champions were seeded to win their respective titles, including Nick Taylor retaining the Men’s 45+ title and Ann Manley retaining the Women’s 70+ title. After losing in the 35+ final in Johannesburg two years ago, Lauren Briggs coasted to her first World Masters title against teammate Selina Sinclair. The eldest age group, men’s 80+, saw England’s top seed Lance Kinder come back from a game down against Team USA’s Ed Burlingame to win his first World Masters title. Jill Campion, who won the 2017 55+ National Singles title, rounded out the English champions in an all-English 60+ final to win her first World Masters title.
The five champions and other finishing positions from the sixty-five English players earned England the second Nations Cup honors, edging Australia in second place. Despite falling short in the Nations Cup, Australia boasted the most champions out of the fifty-nine-nation field.
Australian squash legend and former five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald earned her fourth career World Masters title without dropping a game all tournament. Fitz-Gerald serves as the World Squash Federation Vice President.
“I love this sport, I’ve been playing since I was a kid, and just because I’m old and retired doesn’t mean I can’t keep playing,” Fitz-Gerald said. “I still have the fire burning inside, and I think all of the old pros here still have that fire burning inside and want to see what they can do. As we all know we may get a little bit older and slower, but the game is still there. When you see the former pros reach the finals in this tournament it’s a combination of knowledge and practicing our skills to keep ourselves up there.”
Fitz-Gerald is joined by two former professionals winning their first World Masters titles in their first tournament appearances—the Netherlands’ Laurens Jan Anjema and Ireland’s Liam Kenny in the men’s 35+ and 40+ divisions, respectively.
“I’ve met so many extraordinary people spending a lifetime in this sport, and it’s so nice to be able to give back to it,” Fitz-Gerald said. “All the former pros that are here are here because they love it, and hopefully everyone else has enjoyed watching them play.”
Fellow Australian Brett Martin returned to the World Masters for the first time since exiting the 2014 semifinals due to injury in Hong Kong. Martin entertained the capacity crowds throughout the week with his deft skill that saw him reach world No. 2 during his professional career.
“World champion always sounds good if your name is next to it, even if you’re older, slower, grayer and fatter—world champion is world champion,” Martin said. “It’s been great to travel here and catch up with so many people I haven’t seen in years. It’s fun playing in front of a crowd again, I haven’t played on a glass court in a long time—it was a bit of a strange experience. I’ve been out of squash for a long time, but I still enjoy getting in front of people and trying to perform for them. Hopefully you’ve learned a few things and maybe it’s opened your eyes to what’s possible on court, even at our age. You can always learn something, it’s just a matter of getting out there and trying. Anyone can do it, it’s just a matter of determination.”
Australian Geoffrey Davenport made history by equaling South African Craig Van Der Wath’s record of six World Masters titles in the men’s 60+ division. The Cayman Islands’ John Macrury earned Caribbean representation on the podium with his third World Masters title in the men’s 60+ division. Team USA’s Natalie Grainger ended the day on a high note for the home crowd, maintaining her unbeaten World Masters record with a second consecutive title—her first in the 40+ division.
Northern neighbors Canada matched Team USA’s total of two World Masters champions. Men’s 75+ five seed Howard Armitage thwarted two seed Gerry Poulton’s title hopes in a five-game final. Lauren Wagner became the lowest-seeded champion by completing her surprise women’s 50+ title run with an upset over Australian top seed Sarah Nelson.
More than 400 of the 755 players convened one last time for the closing ceremony Saturday night at Boar’s Head Resort. During the ceremony, WSF Chief Executive Andrew Shelly passed on the WSF banner to Poland Squash President Tomasz Banasiak as Poland prepares to host the biennial event for the first time in 2020.
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