Mattimore and Cliff take County titles!
Top seeds Michael Mattimore and Hannah Cliff captured the main titles at the Northumbria Senior County Closed 2023 which took place at Tynemouth Squash Club from 24th to 29th January. All the action and results can be found on this site here and on the dedicated County Closed site here.
There were over 70 entries in the Men’s graded (A to D) events, 8 entries in the Women’s event, 32 in total across three Masters age groups (O45, O55 and O65), 8 for Racketball and 12 Doubles pairings, with plate events for first match losers.
In the Men’s A event, top seed Michael Mattimore of Northern claimed his second title in succession in impressive style with a 3-0 (11-8, 11-4, 11-8) win over 3/4 seed Chris Wiggins (Northumberland Club), who had reached the final after knocking out 2nd seed Liam Gutcher at the semi-final stage. As last year, Mattimore did not drop a game throughout the tournament, which included the defeat of 13-times winner Dave Barnett (Northumberland Club). After a tight opening game, Mattimore took control in the second game and despite a late rally from Wiggins in the third, there was never any likelihood of a comeback and Mattimore closed it out in some style.
The Women’s Senior title also went to the top seed, Hannah Cliff of Tynemouth, who was always in control against first-time finalist Harriet Wight (Newcastle University) and completed a 3-0 (11-3, 11-4, 11-3) victory to take her second title after a 7-year gap. Cliff’s determination to recapture the title proved decisive, but Wight’s time will surely come.
The top seeds in the B event tumbled, leaving 5/8 seeds Tom Beresford (Chester-le-Street) and Cole Windscheffel (Benwell Hill) to battle it out in the final, Tom going 2-0 and match ball in the third game before Cole levelled at 2-2, then Tom finding a second wind in the fifth to close it out 3-2 in a tight encounter.
In the C event, top seed Andrew Black faced unseeded under-15 County player Aidan Mahoney, who had eliminated three seeded players impressively on his way to the final. In a rather bizarre match, Andrew won the first game 11-8 only to find himself 10-0 down in the second, with Aidan hitting a purple patch. Andrew then found his own form to win 8 points in succession before Aidan finally found a winner to close it out 11-8, but then Andrew took the first 5 points in the third and went on to take the game comfortably. Aidan, who looks a promising prospect for the future, pressed him all the way in the fourth before Andrew just scraped home 11-9 for a 3-1 win.
There was a similar scenario in the D event, with top seed Amanda King (Northumberland Club) facing unseeded Ari Karki of Tynemouth Social who had also knocked out three seeds in reaching the final, all in 5 sets. Ari’s lightning pace and impressive retrieving ability meant that he overcame Amanda, who had not dropped a game in reaching the final, winning a tight encounter 3-0 (11-7, 12-10, 11-9).
In the Masters events, two champions retained their titles – Peter McCleod (Sunderland) in the Over 45s for the fifth time, by 3-0 against a somewhat injury-hampered Simon Long (Concordia), and Andrew Wilkinson (Hexham) in the Over 65s for the second time, by 3-1 in a tight and mesmerising encounter with Colin McNestrie (Tynemouth). An impressive 17 entrants for the Over 55s were eventually whittled down to two Tynemouth 2nd team colleagues, top seed Jon Evans and 3/4 seed Richard Bradley. In the final, Jon rediscovered his top form at just the right time to glide almost imperceptibly to a 3-0 victory and regain his fifth Over 55 crown after a gap of five years.
Racketball, now in its sixth year, had its first repeat champion, Tom Cornell (Newcastle University) overcoming Matthew Setterfield (Westoe) 3-1 in the final to take his second title after winning the first one in 2018.
The results of the Plate finals were:
A: Harry Little beat Steve Calvert 3-1
Women’s: Emma Gregson beat Emily King 3-1
B: John Armstrong beat Joel Birch-Machin 3-0
C: Rikki Norton beat Steven Brash 3-0
D: Emily King beat Ed Henein 3-0
O45: Tim Shield beat Steven Brash 3-2
O55: Steve Lane beat Stuart Mitchell 3-0
O65: Steve Cubbins beat Mike Cherrymann 3-2
Racketball: George Jenkins beat Dave Armstrong 3-1
In an entertaining late-night Doubles final (which followed the A final as Chris Wiggins was in both), Northern teammates Alex Robertson and Cai Younger recovered from losing the first game against Chris Wiggins and Oscar Lloyd Laney to level the tie and take it into a short-set tiebreak which they won 5-2. By that stage most of the spectators had their pyjamas and nightgowns on, but there was still just time for the presentations before bedtime.
Thanks go to Steve Cubbins for organising the tournament, including the live streaming from court 5, the photography and keeping us all informed and entertained through the County Closed website and WhatsApp group, to Dave Armstrong for supporting Steve on the tournament desk, to Louise Robertson for further support, collecting the entry fees and presenting the medals, to Dave Barnett for procuring the medals, to all those who volunteered as referees, and to Tynemouth for hosting.