England and Australia Shine in World Masters Finals; Davenport and Grainger Deliver for Team USA

Championship Director Mark Allen presents Sarah Fitz-Gerald with the Women’s 45+ trophy.

Australia and England produced six and five World Masters champions, respectively, on finals day of the first World Masters ever held on U.S. soil at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Team USA earned the first title of the day courtesy of Joyce Davenport in the women’s 75+ round robin, following a decisive victory over top seed Jean Grainger on Friday. Grainger applied some pressure to Davenport with a quick 3-0 win while Davenport stood level with Slovenian Mariza Ohlsson at 1-all on the adjacent court. Davenport then pulled away to seal her 5-0 record and a second career World Masters title, adding to her 50+ title in 1992.

Of the nineteen champions, just five weren’t top seeds. All five of England’s champions were seeded to win their respective titles, including Nick Taylor retaining the Men’s 45+ title and Ann Manley retaining the Women’s 70+ title. After losing in the 35+ final in Johannesburg two years ago, Lauren Briggs coasted to her first World Masters title against teammate Selina Sinclair. The eldest age group, men’s 80+, saw England’s top seed Lance Kinder come back from a game down against Team USA’s Ed Burlingame to win his first World Masters title. Jill Campion, who won the 2017 55+ National Singles title, rounded out the English champions in an all-English 60+ final to win her first World Masters title.

The five champions and other finishing positions from the sixty-five English players earned England the second Nations Cup honors, edging Australia in second place. Despite falling short in the Nations Cup, Australia boasted the most champions out of the fifty-nine-nation field.

Australian squash legend and former five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald earned her fourth career World Masters title without dropping a game all tournament. Fitz-Gerald serves as the World Squash Federation Vice President.

“I love this sport, I’ve been playing since I was a kid, and just because I’m old and retired doesn’t mean I can’t keep playing,” Fitz-Gerald said. “I still have the fire burning inside, and I think all of the old pros here still have that fire burning inside and want to see what they can do. As we all know we may get a little bit older and slower, but the game is still there. When you see the former pros reach the finals in this tournament it’s a combination of knowledge and practicing our skills to keep ourselves up there.”

Fitz-Gerald is joined by two former professionals winning their first World Masters titles in their first tournament appearances—the Netherlands’ Laurens Jan Anjema and Ireland’s Liam Kenny in the men’s 35+ and 40+ divisions, respectively.

Brett Martin (f) in the World Masters finals.

“I’ve met so many extraordinary people spending a lifetime in this sport, and it’s so nice to be able to give back to it,” Fitz-Gerald said. “All the former pros that are here are here because they love it, and hopefully everyone else has enjoyed watching them play.”

Fellow Australian Brett Martin returned to the World Masters for the first time since exiting the 2014 semifinals due to injury in Hong Kong. Martin entertained the capacity crowds throughout the week with his deft skill that saw him reach world No. 2 during his professional career.

“World champion always sounds good if your name is next to it, even if you’re older, slower, grayer and fatter—world champion is world champion,” Martin said. “It’s been great to travel here and catch up with so many people I haven’t seen in years. It’s fun playing in front of a crowd again, I haven’t played on a glass court in a long time—it was a bit of a strange experience. I’ve been out of squash for a long time, but I still enjoy getting in front of people and trying to perform for them. Hopefully you’ve learned a few things and maybe it’s opened your eyes to what’s possible on court, even at our age. You can always learn something, it’s just a matter of getting out there and trying. Anyone can do it, it’s just a matter of determination.”

Australian Geoffrey Davenport made history by equaling South African Craig Van Der Wath’s record of six World Masters titles in the men’s 60+ division. The Cayman Islands’ John Macrury earned Caribbean representation on the podium with his third World Masters title in the men’s 60+ division. Team USA’s Natalie Grainger ended the day on a high note for the home crowd, maintaining her unbeaten World Masters record with a second consecutive title—her first in the 40+ division.

Northern neighbors Canada matched Team USA’s total of two World Masters champions. Men’s 75+ five seed Howard Armitage thwarted two seed Gerry Poulton’s title hopes in a five-game final. Lauren Wagner became the lowest-seeded champion by completing her surprise women’s 50+ title run with an upset over Australian top seed Sarah Nelson.

More than 400 of the 755 players convened one last time for the closing ceremony Saturday night at Boar’s Head Resort. During the ceremony, WSF Chief Executive Andrew Shelly passed on the WSF banner to Poland Squash President Tomasz Banasiak as Poland prepares to host the biennial event for the first time in 2020.

View images from finals day here.

Australia, England and Canada Lead the Charge into World Masters Finals

Joyce Davenport celebrates her unbeaten round robin record going into finals day.

A dramatic slate of thirty-five semifinals saw Australia emerge in front of the pack with a tournament-leading nine finalists and England close behind with eight, while Canadians won four out of six semifinals Friday at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Friday opened with mixed results for the host nation during the 9am slot of matches. Gerry Poulton, Canada’s 75+ two seed, augmented his recent winning record against U.S. national title record-holder Jay Nelson, dispatching Nelson in three games to reach his second career World Masters final. Canada is guaranteed the Men’s 75+ title after five seed Howard Armitage defeated Team USA’s Michael Gough in three games.

Team USA’s first break-through came in the form of 75+ five seed Joyce Davenport upsetting South Africa’s top seed Jean Grainger in four games. Both players entered the match with a 3-0 record in the six-player round robin, and now Davenport just needs to defeat Slovenia’s six seed Mariza Ohlsson to clinch what would be her second World Masters title–something she is cautiously confident of.

“Jean was the key person to beat in the tournament,” Davenport said after the win. “She’s a good player, and adjusted pretty well during the match. If she hadn’t of adjusted so well I could have gotten through in three, but she got better as the match went on, improving her length and serves. I had some opportunities in the third and fourth, but I couldn’t take them—including a match point. I can have one drink tonight, but probably just one.”

Davenport won the 50+ World Masters title in the 1992 tournament hosted by Vancouver. Grainger and Davenport share a long history together in not just squash, but also tennis.

“I was actually hosted by her family in England for a few weeks when I was eighteen years old,” Davenport said. “Her mother was the nicest hostess I’ve ever had in all my years playing squash and tennis, she was the loveliest woman. I told her that before the match. We also have both played Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis, so we have some history and parallels.”

As the day progressed, Australia, England and Canada laid down their marks. Australia emerged with a tournament-leading nine finalists, including women’s 45+ defending champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald, women’s 50+ top seed Sarah Nelson, women’s 55+ top seed Susan Hillier, men’s 55+ top seed Geoffrey Davenport and Men’s 70+ top seed Brian Cook. The Aussies produced four results that upset the seedings to reach finals, including women’s 65+ three seed Gaye Mitchell upsetting the two seed Faith Sinclair, four seed Brett Martin upsetting top seed Willie Hosey and men’s 55+ three seed Peter Gilbee upsetting two seed Fredrik Johnson.

England are guaranteed at least two World Masters titles on finals day, with all-English finals slated for the Women’s 35+, featuring Lauren Briggs and Selina Sinclair, and 60+, featuring Jill Campion and Karen Hume. England will also field two other top seeds including defending Men’s 45+ champion Nick Taylor and defending women’s 70+ champion Ann Manley.

Juan Mendez saved two match balls in the fifth game to come back and win 12-10.

The most dramatic match of the day came in the Men’s 55+ division between England’s two seed Jeremy Goulding and unseeded Mexican Juan Mendez, a former hardball singles professional. Mendez fought off two match balls in the fifth game to win the match 12-10 in front of a roaring audience. Mendez is the only unseeded player in the tournament to reach a final, where he will face Australia’s Davenport.

Other lone nation representatives in the finals include Botswana’s Alister Walker (M35+), the Netherland’s Laurens Jan Anjema (M35+), Ireland’s Liam Kenny (M40+), Germany’s Hansi Wiens (M50+), Cayman Island’s John Macrury (M60+) and Scotland’s Ian Ross (M70+).

Team USA ended the day as it started—with mixed fortunes. Women’s 50+ three seed Hope Prockop lost out against Canada’s fifteen seed Lauren Wagner, who continued her unexpected run to the finals with a three-game upset over the American. Natalie Grainger followed on court by maintaining her unbeaten World Masters record in a decisive three-game victory to reach a second consecutive final.

The last match of the day featured Team USA’s Patrick Chifunda, who heads the squash program at the Country Club of Virginia in nearby Richmond. Chifunda advanced to the men’s 40+ final after a three-game win against Hong Kong’s surprise semifinalist Wai Chung Wong.

“It feels very good to reach the final, I’ve worked really hard training for this event,” Chifunda said. “When I played in South Africa two years ago I fell short in the semifinals, so I was very disappointed. I’m thrilled to reach the finals here near Richmond and on American soil. Words can’t even describe this facility, it’s amazing. Playing on this glass court is a treat—a true joy—and to play in front of my home crowd makes it even better.”

Patrick Chifunda

Chifunda and Kenny will contest the last World Masters final on the glass court Saturday in front of a full-capacity gallery.

“I’m just looking forward to having a very good, strong match against Liam tomorrow,” Chifunda said. “We played each other once before on the PSA, so I’m looking forward to playing him now that we’re old. I want to thank the guys at my club, Jose and Steven O’Dwyer, and most importantly my wife who has allowed me to train while taking care of our baby. I’m really excited for tomorrow.”

Follow live streaming from six courts and live scores on wmsquash.com/live from 9am ET.

World Masters Set for Pivotal Slate of Semifinals

Seventeen World Masters main draws are down to the last four ahead of a pivotal slate of semifinals Friday at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

With Nations Cup permutations on the line, Australia leads the field with sixteen semifinalists, followed by England and South Africa with eleven, Team USA at ten and Canada at six.

Most divisions have played out according to seeding with three or four of the top seeds progressing to the semis. The biggest upset of the quarterfinal round came in the men’s 75+ division, where American Michael Gough dispatched England’s one seed Adrian Wright 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 5-11, 11-4. Gough won the 2014 75+ title in Hong Kong and is seeking his second World Masters title in his fourth appearance.

The women’s 75+ title may be decided Friday morning when South Africa’s Jean Grainger and Team USA’s Joyce Davenport face each other at 9am ET. Both players have a 3-0 record in the six-player round robin with one match remaining on Saturday.

The men’s 75+ semifinals will stage a perennial U.S. nationals rivalry between Jay Nelson, who holds the U.S. record of twenty-nine masters titles, and Canadian Gerry Poulton. Nelson and Poulton have faced off eight times over the past decade, the last six of which were in U.S. National Singles finals. Poulton has won four of the past six match ups, including the 2018 U.S. 75+ final this spring. Nelson will be hoping to reach his first World Masters final in his tournament debut.

The women’s 35+ semifinals fields another first-time American participant in the form of Margaret Gerety. Gerety heads the squash program at Squash on Fire in nearby Washington, DC. The former Harvard player upset Canada’s Leah Boody in a five-game quarterfinal, and faces England’s top seed Lauren Briggs in Friday’s semis.

“It’s exciting to be here,” Gerety said. “There’s so much depth and the level of play is really impressive—all the way up to the 80’s,” Gerety said. “There’s been a great energy and spirit from everyone this week. It’s so nice to connect with both American and international players that I haven’t seen in years and make new friends. It’s such a great community.”

Watch the semifinals live and follow live scores on wmsquash.com/live from 9am ET.

South Africa Out to Defend Nations Cup

The Nations Cup Division I and II trophies.

A sixty-four-player strong South African delegation is aiming to retain the World Masters Nations Cup this week at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Nation’s Cup was inaugurated two years ago in Johannesburg as an informal team competition between nations, with individual finishing positions contributing points towards each nation’s standing.

The Nations Cup has two divisions with teams having more than ten players entered in division I, and teams with nine or fewer entered in division II.

Two years ago, South Africa’s 650 players edged England to claim the inaugural title on home soil. One of those winning team members, Trevor Wilkinson, has made the trip to Charlottesville to compete in the men’s 55+ division.

“To be the first-time winners of the cup at home was unbelievable,” Wilkinson said. “We are looking to defend the title, which will be tough, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We have about seventy players—a strong turnout. We have a talented group and a great chance to win it, but all the nations are tough. Win or lose, it’s great camaraderie.”

Wilkinson has competed in a dozen World Masters and already recorded two 3-0 victories to reach the round of sixteen.

“Charlottesville is a beautiful city, and the people and facility are absolutely incredible,” Wilkinson said. “Thank you to Boar’s Head and US Squash for entertaining such an amazing event. This is my thirteenth World Masters, and it’s already been one of the best, and we’re only on the third day. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week, it’s been a wonderful experience.”

South Africa’s Trevor Wilkinson

A first-time member of the South African delegation is former PSA professional Clinton Leeuw, who was ranked as high as world No. 79 in 2013. Leeuw, who is based in New York City, opened his World Masters campaign with a routine 3-0 victory on Tuesday.

“A lot of the South African team members have known me my whole life,” Leeuw said. “Some used to coach me throughout different points of my life. I know 99% of the team. Everybody’s always told me about the World Masters, especially the older guys who were helping me as I was growing up. They would always say, ‘one of these days you’re going to be there’, and I would always say never. But here I am.”

Leeuw is a 3/4 seed and predicted to face former world No. 9 and top seed, Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands, in the semifinals.

“I played a PSA event here when this facility was first built, and I knew I had to come down when the World Masters was announced,” Leeuw said. “I represented South Africa in the world teams, and this is a different kind of dynamic as the squad is much bigger. It’s a different feel, but because there’s so much history between everyone we all feel really connected, which is special. I know they’ll be supporting me, and I’ll be supporting them.”

South Africa boasts two top seeds in the form of Jean Grainger (75+) and Michael Tootill (55+), as well as a two seed in the form of Zuko Kubukeli (45+).

The Nations Cup standings will update on https://www.wmsquash.com/live-team-leaderboard/  as finishing positions are registered through Saturday.

Wednesday sees the round of sixteen play out with matches starting from 9am EDT.

Watch live streaming from six courts and follow live scores on wmsquash.com/live.

2018 World Masters Declared Open in Charlottesville

(l-r): Dent Wilkens (US Squash), Tim Rose (University of Virginia Foundation) and Sarah Fitz-Gerald (World Squash Federation)

Representatives from the World Squash Federation, US Squash and the University of Virginia Foundation officially declared the 2018 World Masters open during a special event Monday night at the Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, Virginia.

More than 400 of the 755 competitors witnessed the ceremonial commencement of the twenty-fifth World Masters Squash Championships, the first World Masters ever held on U.S. soil.

World Squash Federation Vice President and former world No. 1 Sarah Fitz-Gerald welcomed the players from fifty-nine countries.

“I really want to thank everyone for playing in this event, including the former professionals who have entered,” Fitz-Gerald said. “Having the ex-pros in the draw adds so much to the event. As an ex professional, it’s great to catch up with people I used to be on the tour with, and I know many of them are here for all the right reasons, which are fun, social and catching up with friends. Squash can be secondary at times. Thanks to Mark Allen and his entire team, US Squash and the University of Virginia, they’ve done a magnificent job organizing this event. What an amazing venue this is.”

Fitz-Gerald, who won five world titles as a professional and three World Masters titles, will represent Australia as the women’s 45+ top seed this week.

“On behalf of the World Squash Federation, I hope you all have such a wonderful week making new friends and catching up with old friends,” Fitz-Gerald said. “Have fun, good luck and may your bodies hold out until the end of the Championships.”

Dent Wilkens, US Squash Vice President and 35+ participant, and Tim Rose, Chief Executive Officer of the University of Virginia Foundation followed Fitz-Gerald’s remarks.

“Welcome everyone to the United States, we are so excited to host this event for the first time and all of you from around the world,” Wilkens said. “At US Squash we strive to foster community and build lifelong, positive engagement in the sport. There is no event that comes as close to epitomizing those ideals as the World Masters.”

The McArthur Squash Center was built five years ago and has already hosted three U.S. Championships from 2014-2016. The Boar’s Head Resort is owned and operated by the University of Virginia Foundation.

“I want to welcome you to Charlottesville, Boar’s Head and the University of Virginia,” Rose said. “I’ve been talking with the staff about what the vibe is with this group, because you guys are on fire, it’s really fun seeing you all interact—the conversations and the relationships. It’s obvious that this is a sport of relationships and having fun. We are so happy to be your host.”

While Monday marked the ceremonial commencement, it also saw the second day of match play on the McArthur Center’s fourteen courts. Four men’s divisions with 128-player draws played out the first round on Sunday, with all men’s divisions joining the fold on Monday. All nineteen divisions are involved on Tuesday as match play starts from 9am EDT at both the McArthur Squash Center and satellite venue, St. Anne’s-Belfield School.

View images from the opening reception here and the second day of match play here.

World Masters Brewing at Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d

Three Notch’d founder George Kastendike presents Stephane Lussier with a six pack of the “Three Wall Boast Pale Ale”

Hundreds of squash players rang in the eve of the twenty-fifth WSF World Masters at the Three Notch’d Brewery Saturday evening in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

Three Notch’d Brewery launched the debut of the “Three Wall Boast Pale Ale”, the official tournament beer of the World Masters.

Three Notch’d founder, George Kastendike, presented Stephane Lussier with a ceremonial six pack for conceptualizing the “Three Wall Boast Pale Ale” name in a contest earlier this spring.

Kastendike, a Charlottesville native, picked up squash five years ago after the construction of the McArthur Squash Center, and looks forward to competing in his first World Masters this week in the 40+ division.

“It’s incredible to see an event like this come to Charlottesville,” Kastendike said. “Mark Allen and the entire team have been building the momentum for something like this since the facility opened. It was a canvas when it was first built, and the pieces have started to come together for what it could become. This is a culmination of a lot of hard work, planning and practice by the entire team at the McArthur Squash Center and Boar’s Head Resort.”

The 2018 World Masters  will see the debut of five new courts at the McArthur Squash Center, which were completed in the lead up to the World Masters to make a total of fourteen courts. Kastendike encourages all players to take advantage of the area during the tournament.

“Embrace Charlottesville, and get to know our squash community the best that you can,” Kastendike said. “This city has a lot of history, and if you explore the culture you can’t go wrong.  I’m so glad everyone is making the trip here from across the U.S. and abroad. They will always be welcome here at Three Notch’d and the McArthur Center in Charlottesville.”

Lussier, an Ottowa native, is exited for a fun week of squash in his first World Masters.

“The McArthur facility is fantastic, top notch,” Lussier said. “The beer is great, they did a great job. I looked at the name of the brewery and thought about how to relate it to squash and came up with the name. Good luck to everybody, have fun, and drink some beer.”

Nearly 800 players representing fifty-nine nations will take part in first World Masters on U.S. soild this week across nineteen age divisions ranging from 35+ to 80+.

The Men’s 45+, 55+ and 60+ divisions commence match play on Sunday, July 29, from 12pm noon local time. Follow live streaming from six courts and live scores on wmsquash.com/live.

View images from the meet and greet here.

World Masters Arrives in Charlottesville

The first World Masters held on U.S. soil arrives this weekend as 800 players from around the world descend on the McArthur Squash Center at the Boar’s Head Resort, July 29-August 4, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Representatives from fifty-nine different nations—including a 216-player Team USA delegation—will compete across nineteen different divisions ranging from ages 35+ to 80+.

Watch live streaming from six courts and follow Club Locker live scores on wmsquash.com/live throughout the tournament. View all draws here.

The World Masters was begun in 1976 in London for men and 1982 in Perth for women; they have been combined since 1993 in Edinburgh. 2018 marks the twenty-fifth staging of the World Masters.

Select men’s draws commence match play July 29-30, with the rest of the field joining on Tuesday, July 31. The tournament will ceremonially commence during the Opening Ceremony Monday evening.

On-site registration opens this Friday at the Boar’s Head pavilion, and all players are invited to register for the welcome reception at Three Notch’d Brewery Saturday evening.

Read the digital tournament program for more information here. Keep up to date with all World Masters news by signing up for the tournament newsletter here, and following @WMSquash18 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more important information on registration and additional services visit wmsquash.com.