There was plenty for the excited spectators to shout about on finals day in the Ladies and the Men’s A competitions of the First Citizens Barbados Squash Open, which reached its climax Saturday evening at the Barbados Squash Club (BSC), Marine Gardens.
It’s Meakins again
In the Ladies final the top seed and defending champion, Karen Meakins, overcame a nervous start against her main local rival over the past four years, the #2 seed, Cheri-Ann Parris, a former two-time Caribbean U-19 champion (in 2007 and 2009) and duly claimed her 13th Barbados Open title in her 14th final.
Parris, who will begin the fourth year of her studies overseas at Bates College this fall, can hit the ball as hard as most of the men and tried to use her superior pace and athleticism to unsettle the experienced Meakins from the start and for much of the first three games this tactic seemed to be working.
Meakins never looked completely comfortable in the first three games but unforced errors were a big problem for Parris who, after recovering from 4-8 down in the first game to get to 8-all then hit three successive unforced errors into the tin to allow Meakins to take that game 11-8. In the second game Meakins again led 8-5 only for the tall and powerfully built Parris to power her way back into the match and win six of the next seven points to win that game 11-9 and get back to parity, to the delight of the majority of spectators who were vociferously hailing for the 21 year old college student.
Now the momentum seemed to have switched. Parris rushed to an 8-5 advantage in the critical third game. Meakins tried to slow things down but seemed reluctant to take the ball in short, and did not try to play many drop-shots, even on her favoured backhand side and kept placing the ball deep into both back corners. She pulled back to 8-all, then 9-all, then 10-all.
Parris took the next point with a brilliant straight forehand volley winner to go 11-10 game ball up. One point away from a 2-1 lead to Parris! The crowd had never seen a local player get this close to winning two games from Meakins in 12 years of trying. But it was not to be. Parris was forced into playing a defensive back wall boast that flew out, and then made two inexplicable unforced errors on her return of serve, the first into the tin and the second out on the side wall and gifted Meakins a two games to one lead.
Meakins never trailed again and opened up a three point lead in the fourth game that her younger opponent was never able to close. At 9-6 to the good, Meakins closed out the match with successive drives into the back corners that Parris could not reach: first a backhand crosscourt deep into the back right corner to get to match ball and then a straight backhand drive into the back left corner to win the match 11-8, 9-11, 13-11, 11-6 in 35 minutes.
Gavin topples Chin
The Men’s A final was even more entertaining as the top seed and defending champion, Richard Chin from Guyana was dethroned by the #3/4 seed, Gavin Cumberbatch, the local national champion. In the first game there was no indication that Chin, a former Caribbean men’s champion (2010), and winner of this event in 2008, 2009 and 2011, would be troubled. Cumberbatch started at a slow tempo, which suited Chin just fine, and he looked completely untroubled and from 2-all reeled off six successive points to go 8-2 up and eventually win this game 11-4.
In the second game Cumberbatch changed tactics and began to hit the ball harder and lower, giving Chin less time on the ball. This plan had better results and at 8-all the crowd sensed that the momentum was with the Barbadian champion. A perfect winning backhand straight drop by the dreadlocked 28 year-old Yale University graduate was followed by some good fortune on the subsequent serve that found the back wall “nick”. Gavin saw his chance and immediately pounced.
He powered a trademark backhand straight kill shot to loud cheers from the partisan crowd and won the second game 11-8. The third game followed the same pattern. More attacking by Cumberbatch, with a few errors creeping in from Chin especially on the cross court lob which he hit out on a few occasions.
Then with Cumberbatch serving at 9-6 up, more good fortune for the former 2007 Caribbean men’s champion. Cumberbatch served into Chin’s backhand corner and again hit the “nick”. Ten-six, game ball! Once again Cumberbatch made the most of his good fortune and followed up a powerful straight backhand drive with a perfect winning back hand straight drop to win the third game 11-6.
Now the partisan home crowd was buzzing with excitement. Could their hero really pull this off? Cumberbatch did not disappoint them. A clearly tiring Chin pushed his younger opponent into every corner but Cumberbatch was not to be denied. From 5-6 down Cumberbatch upped the tempo one more time as if sprinting for the finish line and reeled off six straight points without reply, finishing with a devastating cross court backhand kill that Chin could not reach to win 4-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 in 36 minutes.
And the rest …
In the Men’s A third place match the #3/4 seeded Trinidadian, Colin Ramasra, was too steady for six-time former national champion and the #2 seed, Shawn Simpson, who had his chances to win the first game and led 10-7 and then 11-10 but could not convert any of these four game balls. Ramasra steadily pulled away to win comfortably in the end 13-11, 11-8, 11-5 in six minutes short of half an hour.
In the Ladies third place match Nadia McCarthydefeated national team mate Alex Jordan 10-12, 11-5, 11-3, 12-10 in a close and tense match. The impressive Kevin Bailey from St. Vincent won the Men’s A Classic Plate in the day’s longest match coming from two games down to defeat Rhett Cumberbatch in five games: 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-4. A former junior player Ryan Foster defeated 16-year old Stewart St. John, the local U-17 champion in four games to win the Men’s A Plate.
The Men’s B competition was won by former national hockey player, Peter Harris who defeated Christian Duncan in a close four game encounter 11-13, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8. Copeland Straker defeated Jonathan Foster in straight games for third position.
Full results from finals night July 7th are given below and attached is a photo of the four finalists, together with First Citizens Investment Services Country Manager, Ms. Elizabeth Morgan, who presented the trophies to the successful competitors, (L to R – Karen Meakins, Elizabeth Morgan, Gavin Cumberbatch, Richard Chin, Cheri-Ann Parris) as well as a group photo with all the trophy winners:
MEN’S ‘A ‘ Final
#3/4 Gavin Cumberbatch def. #1 Richard Chin (GUY) 4-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (36 mins.)
MEN’S ‘A ‘ Third Place
#3/4 Colin Ramasra (TRI) def. #2 Shawn Simpson 13-11, 11-8, 11-5 (24 mins.)
MEN’S ‘A ‘ Classic Plate Final
Kevin Bailey (VIN) def. Rhett Cumberbatch 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-4 (43 mins.)
MEN’S ‘A ‘ 7th / 8th Place
Mark Sealy def. Don Benn 11-9, 11-5, 11-2 (25 mins.)
MEN’S ‘A ‘ Plate Final
Ryan Foster def. Stewart St. John 7-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-4 (29 mins.)
MEN’S ‘B ‘ Final
Peter Harris def. Christian Duncan 11-13, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8
MEN’S ‘B ‘ Third Place
Copeland Straker def. Jonathan Foster 13-11, 11-9, 11-9
MEN’S ‘B ‘ Classic Plate Final
Michael Best def. Martin Bryan 11-9, 11-2, 12-14, 11-8, 14-12
MEN’S ‘B ‘ Plate Final
Norman Rice def. Daniel Jordan 11-6, 11-5, 11-3