Record numbers in Beds County Closed serve up thrilling weekend of Squash

11 January 2024

The Beds County Closed is the highlight of the year for squash in the County and the steady growth and general buzz about the sport was evident with a record 80 entrants taking part in this year’s event, once again hosted by Club Towers. This year saw the introduction of a new C grade along with the usual A grade, B grade, Ladies and O55 categories. 80 entrants is a fantastic number for a county event and would be the envy of many of the more traditional larger squash playing counties.

This year the Beds Squash Committee were very grateful to 4 generous sponsors; The Dental Centre, Brewpoint, Samo Squash and EpicTech Media who once again produced some stunning live coverage (including slo-mo replays) of the finals on Sunday. We really do recommend you click on the links below and take a look!

So, onto the squash……. Friday night had a packed schedule of matches and produced some fantastic squash in the first and second rounds of the A, B and C grade. It is hard to pick out all of the highlights, but the tournament got off to a great start with a brilliant first match between the experienced Steve Hossent of David Lloyd and our very own Club coach Sam Morris. Unfortunately for Sam he lost out 3-2 but it was a valiant effort in a match full of drama and excitement. Despite lots of close matches all evening it was the top 8 seeds that made it through in the A grade to the quarter finals and a similar story, with not too many upsets, in the B and C grades.

The A grade quarter finals took place on the Saturday morning and had an enticing looking line up, with probably the strongest quarter final draw for many years. As expected, there was nothing to choose between Ben Shakespeare and Steve Evans in what was the tie of the round. Steve ultimately winning 16-14 in the 5th after being 2-0 down. His reward for coming through this gruelling battle was a match against the 1 seed Gbenga Adeyi in 4 hours’ time! Tournament squash is not for the feint-hearted! Harshi Gupta was a new entrant this year and pushed Nathan Derrick hard in the second quarter final losing out 21-19 in the second game and 3-0 in the end. Steve Davies and Gbenga Adeyi completed the semi-final line up by beating Will Montogomery and Marcus Gray respectively in the other quarter finals.

In the first semi-final of the A grade competition later that afternoon Steve Evans put up a typically resilient and classy performance against Gbenga. It was always going to be a tough ask though, especially having played that 5 setter earlier in the day and Gbenga took his place in the final with a 3-0 win. The second semi-final was a much closer affair. Nathan Derrick had been looking sharp all tournament and came into the match against Steve Davies full of confidence. Steve had a match ball in the 4th that he couldn’t take and so it went into a 5th. The match was well over an hour, and it was only in the 5th that Steve managed to get control and took it 15-8 as Derrick finally showed signs of tiring.

In the B grade competition 3 of the top 4 seeds, Ryan Bezer, Max Lloyd and Sam Gelder, made it through to the semi-final but it was Mike Sutliff of Club Towers who upset the seeding with a fantastic win against number 2 seed Glenn Skelton in the quarter final. Glenn took the first game relatively comfortably, but Mike fought hard and found his length and with it a way into the match, eventually coming out the victor in 5 sets.

The O55 event got under way early on Saturday with the early matches all going to form. The first semi-final saw an all Club Towers affair with last year’s runner up Ian Thomas playing superbly to beat former champion Steve Barlow 3-0. The other semi-final saw number 1 seed Matt Towers pegged back to 2-2, after being 1-0 and 2-1 ahead against a spirited Paramjit Deol. The 5th remained close, but Matt edged it to avoid a shock result and take his place in the final against Ian.

The Ladies’ competition was played as a round robin event and two rounds were played on the Saturday. With past winner Rachel Kirkby sadly out injured it opened the door for a new name to find her way onto the trophy this year. The two top seeds, Sophie Cable from Club Towers and Chloe Bhola from Luton and Dunstable Squash Club looked in good shape, winning both their matches on day 1.

Sunday morning saw the completion of the third round of Ladies’ matches and the plate semi finals and once again there were some cracking games with the A plate taking centre stage. Sam Morris played very well to beat Mike Bowman 3-1 in the first semi-final. The second semi-final saw a wonderful comeback from Julian Mackay of Biggleswade who saved 4 match points against Sean Davies from Luton and Dunstable in the 4th and then went on to win 3-2 and take his place in the final against Sam.

The Finals

This year we had 9 finals taking place with all those on court 2 live streamed. A good crowd attended from the start at noon and were treated to some excellent squash. It was great to see six different clubs represented on finals day – well done to all finalists!

C Plate Final

Richard Fryer (Carlton) 2 vs 3 Toby Sutliff (Club Towers)

This was a classic match-up with the experienced Richard Fryer from Carlton starting very well and taking a 2-0 lead against junior Toby Sutliff, who looked nervous. Toby managed to take the crucial 3rd game 15-12 and then kept a calm head and took the 4th and 5th games, both 15-9. Well played both players for a wonderfully entertaining final!

B Plate Final

Phil Jonhson (David Lloyd) 0 vs 3 Johnny Richens (Club Towers)

Despite the 3-0 scoreline Johnny was made to work hard by Phil but he always had the edge, with his extra power proving decisive in the end, despite Phil’s mobility and court craft.  

A Plate Final

Sam Morris (Club Towers) 2 vs 3 Julian Mackay (Biggleswade)

The A plate final pitched two players against each other who were, by now, probably feeling the effects of a tough weekend of squash but who nevertheless managed to produce some high-quality rallies. It was a sign of how strong the A draw was this year that the Plate final was of such a high standard.  The match ebbed and flowed but it was Julian who ran out the winner with his second 3-2 win in a day! Well played Julian.

O55 Plate Final

Steve Turpin (Club Towers) 3 vs 2 Ian Wright (Club Towers)

The last of the plate finals was another 5 setter and a titanic battle. Ian took a tight first game 17-15 only for Steve to strike straight back and level things up at 1-1. Ian then went 2-1 up before Steve came back once again to take games 4 and 5 and the victory.

C Grade Final

Abhay Gupta (David Lloyd) 3 vs 1 James Jarema (Shenley)

Abhay Gupta from David Lloyd was playing in his first County Closed and looked to be justifying his number 1 seeding as he raced into a 2-0 lead.  James battled hard though and made it a real contest by taking the 3rd game 15-11. The hard-hitting Gupta held his nerve though and took the 4th to win the C grade title.

B Grade Final

Max Lloyd (Biggleswade) 1 vs 3 Sam Gelder (Shenley)

The B Final was an intriguing match up that pitted the racquet skills of Max against the athleticism and determination of Sam Gelder. Max took an early lead in the first and seemed to have control of it all the way through only for Sam to somehow win 7 unanswered points in a row to win 15-11. It was the same score in the second, but Max kept attacking and finally got his reward with a 15-13 win in the 3rd game. It seemed to take its toll though on Max as Sam took the 4th 15-7 and with it the match.

Ladies Final

Chloe Bhola (Luton and Dunstable) 3 vs 0 Sophie Cable (Club Towers)

The top two seeds won all of their previous matches in the round robin format and so were now playing off for the title. Sophie was in her first county final (on the squash courts that is!) and despite losing 3-0 put up an excellent fight. The first two games saw Chloe really put Sophie under pressure with her length and accuracy but in the 3rd Sophie upped the intensity and at one point was 12-10 up and looking like she may take it to a 4th. It wasn’t to be, but no doubt Sophie will be back next year for another shot at the title.

O55 Final

Matthew Towers (Club Towers) 3 vs 1 Ian Thomas (Club Towers)

This was a repeat of last year’s final and with the pair knowing each other’s games inside out a close encounter was always likely. It was Ian who came out the blocks fastest and took the first game 15-10 but it was probably the second game that was the crucial one of the match. At 9-9 it was really in the balance and a 2-0 lead for Ian would have been tough to come back from, but Matt took the second to level at 1-1. From that point Matt played some of his best squash and really kept Ian under pressure to take the 3rd game 15-10 and then close it out in the 4th to win his 3rd O55 title.

A Grade Final

Gbenga Adeyi (David Lloyd) 3 vs 1 Steve Davies (Club Towers)

Last on court was the A final between Steve Davies and Gbenga Adeyi, another pair that have met each other many times both in league squash and in the final of this competition. Gbenga once again brought his laid-back, charismatic style to the tournament, in fact so laid back that at one point the crowd wondered if he was even going to arrive on time for the final!

The match set off at a fast pace with a few long rallies early on and the scores fairly close until the back end of the game when Gbenga pulled away and took the first. Steve fought back in the second and took it 15-10 but looked like he was starting to tire after his tough 5-set win in the semis. Gbenga took advantage and won the 3rd comfortably. The 4th was again much closer but Gbenga looked the sharper of the two and so it proved as he closed it out 15-10 and with it a thoroughly deserved  4th county title.

The introduction of a new C grade, five junior entrants (including one finalist), a record number of participants, fantastic video coverage, plenty of spectators and support for the weekend and four sponsors for the tournament made for a great weekend!

Well done to all the winners and competitors!

Special thanks to all of the Committee and especially Simon Marshall for his tireless work in the weeks before and across the weekend.