Eldon Challenge Open 2020

Eldon Challenge Open 2020

Barn-Storming Double for Dave

Tynemouth’s Dave Barnett retained his Eldon Leisure Classic title on Sunday Feb 16, with a gripping 3-2 win over Northern’s Cai Younger. Barnett – with 13 County titles under his belt – is a seasoned campaigner and used all his experience to see off a determined challenge from a player 15 years younger than him. Younger powered his way to a 1-0 lead, but Barnett found his range – especially in the front backhand corner – to take command of the second and level the match. The third was a see-saw affair, and felt as if it it would be crucial; Barnett took a commanding 10-5 lead, then lost four points in a row before the 38-year-old held on to close it out 11-9. Cue another momentum shift – with Younger’s all-action game and impressive ability to soak up pressure helping to put him in command of the fourth and level at 2-2. But a few sublime front-of-court winners gave Barnett an early lead in the clincher which he never relinquished. Younger – who had come through arguably the match of the tournament the night before, a brutal 75-minute 5-set semi-final against former US Open finalist Paul Lord – finally seemed to tire in the fifth as Barnett kept moving his opponent and finding his range. This was Barnett’s second Eldon Leisure title in a row, having seen off Lord in the showpiece game last year, while it was a second runner-up trophy for Northern’s Younger, who lost the inaugural tournament to Max Forster of Northumberland club in 2018.

Although it was decided 3-1, the A Plate final was another very close affair – with three games decided by just two points, and only three points between them in the first. Eldon’s John Perry took that one 11-8 but was edged out 15-13 by Michael Bridgwater in a superb second game. Benwell Hill’s Bridgwater kept his standards high in the next two but Perry just managed to find a couple of priceless winners when it mattered taking the final two games 12-10 and 11-9 for a well-deserved trophy win on home turf.

This competition – backed by main sponsors Cussin Ltd and Prestwick Care, and supported by Waitrose, Squash-Up and AC Graphics – is only three years old but is fast becoming a firm favourite on the regional squash scene, thanks to sterling efforts from organisers Guy Eniona and Adam Coates. Both also found time between admin and organisational duties to pick up silverware themselves. Eniona gave a series of typically whole-hearted and athletic displays in the B Event, where he won through to the final before losing out 3-1 to Charlie Ponente of Northern. This match was a real clash of styles, with Ponente’s accuracy and measure shots putting him in control of many rallies, only for Eniona’s speed, hard-hitting and determination to keep him in the match for long periods.

In the B Plate, another epic unfolded on Court Two, where Primrose’s Steve Rutherford edged out Steve Brown of Tynemouth. Brown seemed down and out when 2-0 down (11-8 and 14-12), but he changed the pace of the game and forced errors from his opponent as he clinched the next two to force a decider. The effort of those two impressive games became a little clearer in the fifth though as Brown, while stringing out the rallies with some gutsy retrieval, just could not wrest the initiative away from an opponent who – in terms of accuracy and winners – seemed ‘in the zone’, taking it by four points.

In the C Event, Eldon’s own Adam Coates produced a string of tricky winners on his home court in a 3-1 final win over Northern junior Sam Ponente. Coates kept his composure to close out two hard-fought games – taking the second 11-9 and the fourth 12-10 as Ponente gave everything he had.

While in the C Plate, Robert Chesney kept his nerve in a seesaw affair to lift the trophy. The Hexham hitter came through a nail-biter in the fifth to take the game and the match by just two points 12-10 against a determined performer in Walker’s Chris Wilde.

Thanks go out to organisers Guy Eniona, Adam and Alan Coates, and to all the sponsors who have helped build some impressive momentum for a fantastic and well-attended tournament which is now a firm favourite on the North East squash calendar.


A FINAL: Dave Barnett 3/2 Cai Younger (7-11, 11-2, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5)
A PLATE: John Perry 3/1 Michael Bridgwater (11-8, 13-15, 12-10, 11-9)
B FINAL: Charlie Ponente 3/1 Guy Eniona (11-5, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6)
B PLATE: Steve Rutherford 3/2 Steve Brown (11-8, 14-12, 9-11, 10-12, 11-7)
C FINAL: Adam Coates 3/1 Sam Ponente (11-3, 9-11, 11-2, 12-10)
C PLATE: Robert Chesney 3/2 Chris Wilde (11-4, 8-11, 11-7, 5-11, 12-10)

Dylan Younger

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