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LEE HORTON reports on the World Masters

Essex squash player Averil Murphy became a record five-times world champion yesterday when she was crowned WSF World Masters Champ in Hong Kong.

While Australia swept the board with 17 medals – seven of them gold –  it was Averil, who plays Essex League squash at Woodford Wells, South African Craig van der Wath,  and Australian Geoffrey Davenport who stole the headlines after winning record fifth titles.

It was back in 1989 that Averil started stocking her trophy cabinet with World Masters gold medals after winning the Women’s Over-40 title. 25 years on and the 66-year-old from Essex still has what it takes.

She justified her top billing by dismissing France’s 3/4 seed Claire Bryars 11-8, 11-9, 11-1 in just 15 minutes to win her fifth title in a fourth age category.

Afterwards, Averil, who attended the recent Essex Junior Squash exhibition match when Laura Massaro played Jenny Duncalf,  said :”I’ have been playing squash for an awful long time but I still absolutely love the sport. I’m thrilled to win my fifth World Masters title, although it does make me sound a little seasoned, shall we say. But when I’m on court, it’s not about age it’s all about the competition and I simply love it.”

A second Essex ladies player, Joan Witton who plays at Redbridge, was also in action in Hong Kong. She too finished on the winners’ rostrum after winning the over-70’s plate. And Maldon’s Pete Alexander reached the semi-finals of the men’s Over 60’s before bowing to South Africa’s Johnny Orsmond.

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 48-year-old former world No31 who won his first World Masters title in 2001, successfully defended his Over-45 crown by beating fellow countryman Michael Tootill, the No2 seed, 13-11, 11-4, 11-5 in the 32-minutes 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 56-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.

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 71-year-old South African, picked up her fourth World title with victory in the Women’s Over-70 championship.

But while 37-year-old ‘youngster’ Natalie, representing the USA, 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.

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 17 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.

Official event website: www.worldmasterssquash.com.hk

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RESULTS: WSF World Masters Squash Championships, Hong Kong China

Men’s Finals:
Over-35: [1] Omar Elborolossy (EGY) bt [2] Morten W Sorensen (DEN) 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
Bronze medal play-off: [5/8] Armin Hameed (GER) bt [3/4] Mick Biggs (ENG) 13-11, 7-11, 2-11, 11-9, 13-11 (60m)

Over-40: [1] Craig Rowland (AUS) bt [5/8] Zuko Kubukeli (RSA) 11-4, 11-13, 11-2, 11-4 (55m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Stephen Cooke (NED) bt [2] Craig Wapnick (RSA) 11-9, 11-5, 11-9 (33m)

Over-45: [1] Craig van der Wath (RSA) bt [2] Michael Tootill (RSA) 13-11, 11-4, 11-5 (32m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Jean-Jacques Pineau (FRA) bt [5/8] Predi Fritsche (GER) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 (28m)

Over-50: [2] Willie Hosey (IRL) bt [1] Brett Martin (AUS) 11-9, 11-6, 13-11 (24m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Peter Hill (HKG) bt [5/8] Jonathan Clark (ENG) w/o

Over-55: [1] Geoffrey Davenport (AUS) bt [5/8] Kelvin Smith (AUS) 11-1, 11-5, 11-9 (21m)
Bronze medal play-off: [2] Zainal Abidin (SIN) bt Dave Fuller (AUS) 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 (18m)

Over-60: [1] John Macrury (CAY) bt [3/4] Johnny Orsmond (RSA) 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-7 (38m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Stuart Hardy (ENG) bt [2] Peter Alexander (ENG) w/o

Over-65: [1] Brian Cook (AUS) bt [3/4] Frikkie Bester (RSA) 10-12, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 14-12 (45m)
Bronze medal play-off: Scotch Gibb (RSA) bt [3/4] Chris Grainger (RSA) 11-7, 8-11, 14-12, 11-5 (25m)

Over-70: [1] Adrian Wright (ENG) bt [2] Gerry Poulton (CAN) 11-8, 11-13, 11-5, 6-11, 12-10 (34m)
Bronze medal play-off: Voon L Chan (CAN) bt [3/4] Ted Vale (AUS) 6-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-5 (25m)

Over-75: [3/4] Michael Gough (USA) bt [5/8] Malcolm Gilham (ENG) 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 (31m)
Bronze medal play-off: [1] Brian Phillips (WAL) bt [2] Barry Gardiner (NZL) 9-11, 11-6, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7 (31m)

Over-80: [2] Trevor Coulter (NZL) bt [1] John Cox (ENG) 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 (20m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Eddie Delahunty (NZL) bt [3/4] Erkki Juslen (FIN) 11-2, 11-1, 12-10 (14m)

Women’s Finals:
Over-35: [1] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [2] Melissa Martin (AUS) 11-4 ret.
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Farrah Fenner (RSA) bt [3/4] Sam Herbert (RSA) 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (23m)

Over-40: [1] Amanda Hopps (AUS) bt [3/4] Becky Clarke (NZL) 11-4, 13-11, 11-7 (18m)
Bronze medal play-off: [5/8] Lisa Cowlard (NZL) bt [2] Karen Meakins (BAR) 8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 (28m)

Over-45: [1] Sarah Fitz-Gerald (AUS) bt [2] Sarah Nelson (AUS) 11-9, 11-2, 11-1 (17m)
Bronze medal play-off: Susan Davis (AUS) bt [3/4] Diana Parums (ENG) 11-6, 11-4, 11-5 (16m)

Over-50: [5/8] Sue Hillier (AUS) bt [1] Leora Greenwood (RSA) 11-2, 11-4, 11-3 (13m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Susan Williams (AUS) bt [3/4] Kathryn McKay (NZL) 11-5, 11-5, 12-10 (21m)

Over-55: [3/4] Mary Sceney (AUS) bt [1] Anne Richards (AUS) 5-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-3 (25m)
Bronze medal play-off: [2] Lisa O’Grady (RSA) bt [3/4] Karen Hume (ENG) 9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (27m)

Over-60: [2] Pauline Douglas (SCO) bt [1] Sue Volkze (AUS) 11-9, 11-3, 11-2 (23m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Gaye Mitchell (AUS) bt [3/4] Freda Walker (NZL) 11-2, 11-5, 11-8 (10m)

Over-65: [1] Averil Murphy (ENG) bt [3/4] Claire Bryars (FRA) 11-8, 11-9, 11-1 (15m)
Bronze medal play-off: [3/4] Marilyn Kennedy (AUS) bt [2] Bett Dryhurst (ENG) w/o

Over-70: [1] Jean Grainger (RSA) bt [3/4] Sheena Worwood (RSA) 13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5 (38m)
Bronze medal play-off: Norma Fulling (ENG) bt Dawn Kaiser (RSA) 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (19m)