While Australia swept the board with 17 medals – seven of them gold – on the final day of action in the WSF World Masters Squash Championships 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 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-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 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 the 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. 25 years on and the 66-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 15 minutes to win her fifth title in a fourth age category.
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.