BEN HERRIES TO HANDICAP VICTORY
Cromer Squash Club’s annual week long Handicap Tournament ended in triumph on Friday evening for twenty year old Ben Herrieven (+8) as he overcame the challenge of the vastly experienced former North Walsham player, Clive Slater (+7) , 15-9 14-15, 15-12,15-8 in a pulsating final which lasted for 27 minutes.
Herrieven only took up the sport seven months ago but he has made rapid progress under the watchful eye of his coach, Hugh Bradbury, and he impressed the large crowd with his all round athleticism and general attitude as he became the twentieth different player to win the prestigious tournament since its inception in 1981. One or two seasoned observers went as far as to suggest that his win could prove to be as significant for the Cromer club as when former club champion John Baker won the first of his three titles way back in 1984.
With a two point advantage under the handicap system Herrieven was a comfortable winner in the first game taking it 15-9 in just four minutes but in the second game Slater’s steady play came into its own and after opening up a 7-4 , a 10-6 and finally a 14-11 lead he took the game 15-14 after choosing “no set” when Herrieven drew level at 14-14.
The key game was the third which seemed to be going Slater’s way as he led 5-2, 7-3 and then, after Herrieven had put a good run of points together, 11-10. The youngster, however won the next four points to lead 14-11 before closing out the game 15-12 to lead 2-1. In the fourth game Slater was never able to recover the handicap and in a game which followed a very similar pattern to the first Herrieven won it 15-8 to ensure that his name would be perpetually inscribed upon the club’s honours board.
In the semi-finals Slater, who had a first round bye, defeated last year’s runner-up, Simon Barclay (+10) after previously beating club second team stalwarts Malcolm Crane (+4) and Alan Shannon (+4). Herrieven won an epic semi-final against the reigning champion Steve Mutton (-15), who was attempting to win the title for an unprecedented fourth time, 15-6, 14-15, 15-11, 13-18, 15-minus3, after wins against Hugh Bradbury (0), Nick Dunnett (+10) and Alex Foster (+8)
The final was preceded by the final of the plate tournament for those who lost their first match in the competition and coincidentally the two finalists, Hugh Bradbury (0) and Malcolm Crane (+4) lost their first matches to Herrieven and Slater respectively. This final looked to be a fore-gone conclusion when Bradbury opened up a 2-0 lead and won the first five points of the third game but, showing tremendous determination and stamina which belied his years, Crane responded magnificently to come out on top 7-15 10-15 15-8 18-13 15-7.
Trophies were presented to the winners and runners up by the Treasurer of Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association and President of the Norfolk SRA, Martin Braybrook who said that the crowd were fortunate to have seen two excellent and well contested finals.