ALEX ENSURES NO HAPPY RETURNS FOR BIRTHDAY BOY
Since its inception in 1981 Cromer Squash Club’s annual handicap tournament has seen many close and exciting matches as well as some truly epic finals and this year’s final which took place at the Norwich Road courts on Friday evening was certainly no exception.
The week long tournament eventually ended in triumph for seventeen year old Alex Foster (-10) who overcame the challenge of club stalwart Kim Payne (-3) in a pulsating final as he edged home 8-15 12-15 16-14 15-11 15-11.
For Payne, who was celebrating his 52nd birthday on finals day, it was almost a birthday to remember but whilst he had a six point advantage in each game he was also giving away 35 years and by the end of the gruelling match this was probably the deciding factor.
At one stage it did look as though Payne, who won the tournament way back in 1986 and who was veterans champion in 2004 as well as being runner-up in the Over 35 tournament in 1997, was going to roll back the years and in fact he came within just two points of doing so. After dominating the first game which he won 15-8 and then taking a much closer second game 15-12 he served at 10-10, 12-11, 13-13 and 14-14 in the third game. Sadly for him, tiredness was starting to show and he was not able to get the all important winning points. When his last serve went out of court a grateful Foster didn’t need a second invitation and he took the game on his serve 16-14.
The younger player was then able to dominate the last two games and although Payne battled gamely to the end he was forced onto the defensive as both games followed a similar pattern with Foster taking them both 15-11 to come out on top 3-2 and ensuring that his name would be perpetually inscribed on the club’s honour board
Foster has only been playing squash seriously for less than two years but he has made rapid progress under the watchful eye of his coach, Hugh Bradbury and is a member of the Norfolk junior squad. He impressed the large crowd with his all round athleticism and general attitude as he became the twenty first different player to win the prestigious tournament since its inception. (in 1986 Payne was the sixth) . 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.
In the semi-finals Foster, who had a first round bye, defeated last year’s runner-up, Clive Slater (+5) after previously beating club second team stalwart Malcolm Crane (+4) and another young player, James Dunnett (+10). Payne won an epic semi-final against Henri Paul (-5) , after wins against Adam Smith (-2) and the 2005 champion, Chris Marshall (+8)
The final was preceded by the final of the plate tournament for those who lost their first match in the competition and coincidentally both finalists Michael Holdom and John Pelton (+4) had the same handicap and both had appeared in previous finals. As was expected the match was extremely close and Holdom who was champion in 2003 beat the 2004 runner-up 15-12,17-14, 15-13.