Report courtesy of the World Squash Federation.
Americans Michael Gough (75+) and Natalie Grainger (35+) won their WSF World Masters Squash Championships finals Friday to earn two gold medals for the United States at the Hong Kong Squash Center.
After reaching the Over-75 finals without dropping a game—including a semifinal upset against top-seeded Brian Phillips—Atlanta-based Gough clinched the title in four games against English 5/8 seed Malcolm Gilham 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3.
Mother and daughter Grainger pulled off their anticipated family double when World Masters’ debutante Natalie Grainger clinched the Women’s Over-35 title and true event veteran Jean Grainger, the distinguished seventy-one-year-old South African, picked up her fourth World title with victory in the Women’s Over-70 championship.
But while thirty-seven-year-old ‘youngster’ Natalie grabbed her title after just a single game when second-seeded Australian Melissa Martin was forced to retire through injury, Jean was taken the full distance in her final before prevailing 13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5 over compatriot Sheena Worwood.
While Australia swept the board with seventeen medals – seven of them gold – on the final day in Hong Kong, it was South African Craig van der Wath, England’s Averil Murphy and Australian Geoffrey Davenport who stole the headlines after winning record fifth titles.
More than 750 players from all corners of the globe have been competing in 18 World Masters events – from Men’s and Women’s Over-35 through to Men’s Over-80 categories – with action split between the Hong Kong Squash Centre and Hong Kong Football Club.
Van der Wath, a forty-eight-year-old former world No. 31 who won his first World Masters title in 2001, successfully defended his Over-45 crown by beating fellow countryman Michael Tootill, the No. 2 seed, 13-11, 11-4, 11-5 in the thirty-two-minute final.
Davenport began his successful Masters run in 2003, winning the first of two Over-45 titles. Over seven round of the Over-55 championship, the fifty-six-year-old from Sydney dropped just a single game before brushing aside compatriot Kelvin Smith 11-1, 11-5, 11-9 in 21 minutes in today’s final.
But it was back in 1989 that Averil Murphy started stocking her trophy cabinet with World Masters gold medals after winning the Women’s Over-40 title. twenty-five years on and the sixty-six-year-old from Essex still has what it takes.
Murphy justified her top billing by dismissing France’s 3/4 seed Claire Bryars 11-8, 11-9, 11-1 in just fifteen minutes to win her fifth title in a fourth age category.
Five-time World Open champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald came out on top in the Women’s Over-45 event, beating fellow Australian Sarah Nelson 11-9, 11-2, 11-1 in seventeen minutes. The Bronze medal went to unseeded Susan Davis in the only event in which one country claimed a clean sweep of the medals.
After Melissa’s misery in the Women’s Over-35 final, there was further disappointment for the Martin family when husband Brett Martin, top seed in the Men’s Over-50 event, went down to second seed Willie Hosey, the defending champion from Ireland, 11-9, 11-6, 13-11.
The biggest surprise of the day came in the Women’s Over-50 final when Australia’s 5/8 seed Sue Hillier became the lowest seed to claim gold when she upset South African top seed Leora Greenwood 11-2, 11-4, 11-3.
Australia also benefited from a significant upset in the Women’s Over-55 final where 3/4 seed Mary Sceney defeated top-seeded compatriot Anne Richards 5-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-3 to win her first World Masters title since Over-40 success in 2001.