TWENTY FIVE YEARS ON – BAKER COMPLETES RECORD FOUR TIMER
Thirty two years after winning Cromer Squash Club’s annual handicap tournament for the first time and a full quarter of a century after taking his third title John Baker has become the first ever player to win the tournament four times. In a tremendous final at the Norwich Road courts on Friday evening he just did enough to overturn a five point handicap to beat fellow veteran, John Chandler 11-15 15-7 14-15 15-12 17-15 after twice saving “match ball” in the decisive fifth game.
The first game started off much as expected with Baker playing a “percentage” game and driving the ball deep while Chandler was content to feed off the pace of the ball and attempt numerous winning drop shots to the front of the court. Baker gradually pulled the handicap back before drawing level at 7-7 and then leading 10-8 but Chandler then played some audacious winning shots to win five consecutive points before closing out the game 15-11.
Baker was in complete control of the second game, taking it 15-7 but in the third game the players were evenly matched and the scores were 12-12 before Baker drew level. At 13-13 Chandler chose “no set” and although Baker had “game ball” at 14-13 Chandler took the next two points to take the game 15-14 and open up an important 2-1 lead.
In the fourth game a run of six consecutive points opened up a 6-4 lead for Baker and then later in the game another run of six gave him “game ball” at 14-10 and although Chandler pulled two points back Baker took the game 15-12 to draw level. In the final game Chandler played brilliantly and was always ahead, leading 10-8,12-10 and then 14-12 before Baker levelled at 14-14. Chandler, somewhat surprisingly, opted to play out the game to 17 points and although he won the next point in what was one of the best rallies of the match Baker then went on to take the next three rallies to win the game 17-15 and the match 3-2.
In the semi-finals Baker (-8)had had to battle hard to overturn a fifteen point handicap against the 2015 champion, Richard More(+7) before winning 15-10 15-13 8-15 15-11 while Chandler (-2)had an even tougher match against the hard hitting new club member Chris Hele(+5), eventually overcoming a seven point handicap and more than one scare along the way to win 15-12 7-15 17-16 15-14.
Technical Director, Barry Starling, who only narrowly lost 15-12 in the fifth to Baker in the quarter-finals was one of the large crowd who enjoyed the final and said afterwards: “I genuinely think this was one of the best and most exciting finals we have ever had. The result was in doubt right up until the final rally and although Johnny B played brilliantly John C can be very, very proud of his performance”
The win rounded off a fine season’s squash for Baker. Not only did he win this tournament but he also won the club’s Over 35 tournament for the fourth time in the autumn before going on to be crowned club veterans champion for the second time. On top of this he was also runner-up in the club championship last October and has now set his sights on regaining that title in seven months time in a bid to become the first player to hold all four titles simultaneously.