Top seeds retain titles. Karen wins 13th while Gavin wins 4th
As expected, Karen Meakins, the island’s best ever female squash player, duly claimed her unprecedented 13thstraight Ladies national squash title at the Barbados Squash Club as the curtain fell on the 39th National Squash Championships, which were sponsored once again by the Barbados Olympic Association.
Meakins, who is one of Barbados’ best ever athletes in any discipline, and who has won medals for Barbados at the Caribbean level, at the CAC Games and at the World Masters Championships, faced her youngest ever opponent in a final, the exciting and talented Gylla Mackenzie, who will celebrate her 16th birthday later this month.
Mackenzie, who has already won multiple junior titles including the last four Girls under-19 national titles, tried hard and impressed the spectators on several occasions with her determination in each rally and kept fighting right to the end, but there was only ever going to be one winner as the top seeded Meakins prevailed 11-3, 11-1, 11-3 in just under 20 minutes. Lilianna White comfortably defeated Ayoni Bradshaw in straight games 11-7, 11-5, 11-5 to clinch third place while two more of Barbados’ outstanding junior players contested fifth place with 13 year old Amanda Haywood defeating 11 year old Meagan Best (the youngest player in this year’s competition) 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 in an extremely entertaining match between two of Barbados’ brightest prospects for the future. The experienced Cilla Seale defeated tournament debutant Tammy Vamvakas, for seventh place in another very competitive match 11-8, 11-2, 11-7.
The Men’s final was contested for the sixth time in the last eight years by close friends and rivals, Gavin Cumberbatch and Shawn Simpson who were the top two seeds. After a slightly nervous start both players settled down and played at a high tempo and extended the rallies by playing the ball at extreme pace into the back corners. Both the tall left-handed Simpson and the shorter right handed Cumberbatch tended to play crosscourt shots to each other’s backhand side and continually amazed the spectators with their court coverage and retrieving ability.
The first game was close and there was never more than two points in it up to 7-all when unforced errors on the drive and drop by Simpson allowed Cumberbatch to take the final four points to win the first game 11-7. Simpson settled down in the second game and seemed to be trying to extend the rallies further to allow his superior fitness to give him the advantage. He moved to a 6-2 lead but Cumberbatch pulled back to 6-all and then 7-all. Three straight points gave Simpson a distinct advantage and three chances to draw level in the contest but Gavin pulled back to 10-all and was then fortunately allowed to replay a rally after accidentally breaking his racket while playing a shot. Simpson then lost the next two points and at 0-2 down had a mountain to climb.
The former 6-time national champion Simpson re-grouped and seemed to have the edge in a tense third game that saw both players fully committed and some wonderfully entertaining rallies of the highest quality that delighted the enthralled audience. Cumberbatch chipped away at Simpson’s lead to pull back to 7-all, and then Simpson pulled back to 9-all. With a two game lead Cumberbatch then decided to go for broke and played two unreachable straight kills, first on his forehand and then on his backhand side to win his third title in five years 11-7, 12-10, 11-9 in 41 minutes.
Earlier two of Gavin’s brothers, Bryant and Rhett Cumberbatch, played a highly competitive match of great quality with the younger Cumberbatch brother (Bryant) seemingly determined not to lose to his older brother. Long rallies at great pace with accurate volleys and dropshots by both players were the norm and both players covered every inch of the court for the first two games which were very similar in nature. Bryant established leads of 10-6 in the first game and 9-4 in the second before Rhett clawed his way back to 10-all in the former and 9-10 in the latter. Bryant was able to close out both games and after that Rhett seemed to tire in the third and made several mistakes as Bryant pulled away to win 13-11, 11-9, 11-4 in just under half an hour.
In other matches played, as expected, the evergreen Mark Sealy finished fifth by defeating another talented under-19 junior Zaki Williams in straight games as did Andy Gill over Ryan Foster to claim seventh place. The Men’s Consolation Plate was won by the ever improving Tony Mackenzie who outlasted a tired looking Jonathan O’Dowd 11-2, 12-10, 11-5 while in clash of two left handed players 15-year old Benjamin Griffith put in a very impressive display of steady, accurate and patient squash to defeat the experienced Sylvester Nurse with aplomb 11-6, 11-8, 11-3.
Trophies were presented by the BOA’s Operations Manager, Glyne Clarke, who praised the players for their performances and the Barbados Squash Association for continuing to manage its affairs well and for its excellent results at the annual Caribbean Championships and at the last two Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games.
Ladies Final #1 Karen Meakins def. #3/4 Gylla Mackenzie (3-0) 11-3, 11-1, 11-3
Third place #2 Lilianna White def. #3/4 Ayoni Bradshaw (3-0) 11-7, 11-5, 11-5
Fifth place Amanda Haywood def. Meagan Best (3-0) 11-5, 11-6, 11-7
Seventh place Cilla Seale def. Tammy Vamvakas
Men’s Final #1 Gavin Cumberbatch def. #2 Shawn Simpson (3-0) 11-7, 12-10, 11-9
Third place #3/4 Bryant Cumberbatch def. #3/4 Rhett Cumberbatch (3-0) 13-11, 11-9, 11-4
Fifth place Mark Sealy def. Zaki Williams
Seventh place Andy Gill def. Ryan Foster
Men’s Consolation Plate Final (9th place)
Tony Mackenzie def. Jonathan O’Dowd
Men’s Plate Final (17th place)
Benjamin Griffith def. Sylvester Nurse