Adeyi Wins County Closed in Front of Packed House at Club Towers

13 January 2023

Club Towers once again hosted the Beds County Closed Squash championships last weekend and record numbers of players and spectators alike were treated to a real festival of squash.

The tournament has been running since the early 1970’s in the county and in recent years has seen a real resurgence with numbers of entrants increasing, aided by the advent of the B grade and O55 categories. This year there were 55 competitors across the A & B grade, O55 and ladies’ sections, which is the highest number of entrants in recent history and helped to create a wonderful atmosphere all weekend.

Day 1 – Friday 6th January

The tournament started early on Friday evening and kicked off with a thrilling 3-2 win for Jonathan Towers over Manjit Ubhi in the A Grade. This was a sign of things to come as many other close and hard-fought matches played out on the Friday. The size of the draw in the A grade meant that some had to play two matches on the Friday night alone. A tough ask for anyone and there were some tired bodies in the squash corridor at the end of the night! Ultimately, there were no major shocks on Day 1 with the top 8 seeds all safely making it through to the quarter finals in the A, B and O55 categories.

Day 2 – Saturday 7th January

Saturday morning saw the plate competitions begin for the A and B grade and O55 categories along with the quarter finals of the main competitions in the morning.

The top 4 seeds all made it safely through to the semi-finals in the A grade competition with

the Club Towers pair of Will Montgomery and Steve Davies playing Gbenga Adeyi from David Lloyd and Nathan Derrick from Biggleswade respectively. Some great squash was on show in both matches with Davies winning a tough encounter against the talented Derrick 3-1 and Montgomery, despite playing some of his best squash, not having quite enough to find a way past number 1 seed Adeyi, losing out 3-1.

In the O55 competition Matt Towers won his semi-final 3-0 against Paramjit Deol, not giving his opponent the chance to settle or get into the match. The second semi-final was a real cliff hanger between Steve Barlow and Ian Thomas. The pair know each other’s games inside out and so perhaps it was no surprise it went to 5. Barlow has 8 senior county titles to his name and one O55 title but despite going 2-0 up it was not going to be his year. Thomas showed all his usual grit, determination and skill to fight back from 2-0 down, saving a number of match balls along the way to win a brilliant match 3-2.

The B grade draw had several new faces in it this year and threw up the first upset at the quarter final stage with Alex Buckhurst knocking out second seed Alexis White to set up a semi-final with Chris Moss from Biggleswade. Buckhurst had been involved in some gruelling squash over the weekend, but he wasn’t finished yet and managed to knock out the experienced Moss to reach the B Grade final. Ian Rounce was another Club Towers member having an excellent tournament and had made his way through to the semi-finals to face the No 1 seed Toby Aylett from David Lloyd. Rounce had his chances in the semi-final, but Aylett was too strong and made it through to the final winning 3-0.

The Ladies’ competition was played as a round robin this year and looked set up to be a very competitive couple of days squash. It did not disappoint with several players still in with a chance of winning at the end of day 1. Rachel Hamp looked strong early on with a good 3-1 victory against Juliet Johnson. Sophie Cable then upset the odds later in the day beating Hamp 3-0 and giving herself a chance to take the title on Sunday. However, last year’s champion Rachel Kirkby from Biggleswade won both of her matches on Saturday, against Johnson and Cable, and so went into the Sunday with it all in her own hands.

The plate competitions were providing some fantastic entertainment too and were nicely set up with some intriguing finals scheduled for Sunday. In the O55 event Simon Joyce from Club Towers would face Thomas Garlich from Luton in the final after a good win over David Bayley in the semi-final. The B plate final was going to be a re-run of last year’s event with Phil Johnson out for revenge over Slavko Stojsavljevic.

Finally, in the A grade plate competition Tim Clinch played very well in the semi-final to beat Jake Joyce and would face the favourite Steve Hossent (another David Lloyd player) in the final on Sunday.

Finals Day – Sunday 8th January

A brilliant tournament was rounded off with some superb squash on finals day with the matches on Court 2 all live streamed (with Slo-Mos) by the technologically accomplished EpicTech media.

It was great to see Club Towers so well represented in the finals but equally good to see how well supported the event was by other Clubs around the county and from the Bedfordshire League.

The day started with the plate competition finals. In the O55 Plate final Simon Joyce beat Thomas Garlich from Luton and Dunstable Squash Club 3-1. Thomas certainly got value for money this year having entered both the B grade and the O55 events. He seemed to be on court permanently and involved in a number of really tight battles but the final proved one step too far. Well played Simon.

In the B Grade Plate final Phil Johnson managed to gain revenge on Slavko Stojsavljevic after losing to him in last year’s final. He took the title with a 3-1 win, with Stojsavljevic narrowly failing to take the match to a deciding fifth game.

In the A Grade Plate final Tim Clinch played at his usual high tempo and put up a really good fight, but Steve Hossent’s class and control won out in the end as he took the match 3-0.

In the Ladies’ competition Juliet Johnson suffered an injury blow at the start of the day and had to withdraw. Sophie Cable then beat Elana Favaro which meant the number 1 seed Rachel Kirkby needed 1 game against Rachel Hamp in the final match to secure the title. It was a cracking battle to round off the Ladies’ event with Kirkby not only getting the game she needed but wining the match 3-0 to take the title. Sophie Cable took the runners up spot – a great achievement in her first county event.

Alex Buckhurst, entering his first county closed event, had been in tremendous form all weekend and massively exceeded his own expectations. But despite a battling performance in the B Grade Final, the number 1 seed Toby Aylett from David Lloyd was too strong for him and took the title 3-0.

The O55 final was a tough one to call with 2019 winner Matt Towers up against Ian Thomas. Thomas showed no signs of tiredness after his five-set marathon the day before as he went 2-0 up with some high quality squash. Towers fought back though and took the third. The match was all set up to be another classic until unfortunately Thomas pulled a muscle early in the 4th and had to sadly withdraw with the match poised at 2-2. A second O55 title for Matt Towers.

The whole event was rounded off in brilliant fashion with an eagerly anticipated A Grade Final between Gbenga Adeyi and Steven Davies in front of a record crowd of 60 people plus many more watching the live stream at home. The pair have met many times before and the contrasting styles always seem to serve up a good match. Gbenga was out for revenge with the last county final between the two going Davies’ way 3-2 in 2019.

The match started at a fast pace with some long, brutal rallies early on but Adeyi finished the stronger to take the first and go 1-0 up. The second followed suit with the pace remaining high but Davies managed to level matters at 1-1. The 3rd was a key game and at one point it looked like Adeyi was tiring as Davies took an early lead. In typical fashion though a few brilliant attacking winners and attempts to gee the crowd up in his own charismatic way seemed to lift Gbenga and he fought back to take a close game 15-13. Both players were feeling it in the 4th but Adeyi took control and a mixture of his usual deception and superb racquet control was enough to close out the match and take a well-deserved third county title.

Well done to all the competitors and winners and thank you to those that entered and those that either came and supported live or watched the action on the live stream. If you missed it, you can still see the finals on the Towers Health & Racquets Club Facebook page or simply click on the links below.

The County Closed is the pinnacle and showcase event for Bedfordshire squash and the Club and the Beds SRA committee are committed to continue to grow the event and encourage as many entries as possible. Next year it will once again be held at Club Towers from 5th – 7th January so put the date in your diary now!