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The Wales Men’s Over 60’s squad (from left to right): Chris James (5), Kingsley Rees (6), Mark Huxtable (3), Mike Logan (4), Simon Bourge (2), Gary Hales captain (1).

Wales v England (4pm Friday)

Wales opened the Home Internationals weekend against England. Simon Bourge would have played in this match but his plane was initially fog-bound on the Channel Islands and he did not get clearance for take-off until the afternoon. Therefore, it was felt prudent not to include him, as his time of arrival in Nottingham was now uncertain. Wales Squash Masters Chairman, Nick Guard, came along to support the team as this was his age-group and he was unfortunately unable to be considered for selection due to a serious shoulder injury sustained a few months back. Nick kindly delivered the team their engraved Welsh Slate Coasters, which were to be given as mementos to the opposing players.

String No.5: Kingsley “Kings” Rees v Teejay Sogunro. This was Kings 2nd Masters Home Internationals (he made his debut in Galway last year). His opponent was an England debutant and the first game was a little untidy as both players found it hard to settle down with mistakes coming from unforced errors by each. Kings was disconcerting Teejay with his unorthodox serving down the middle of the court. This tactic gave Kings a couple of points outright: on one occasion the serve hit Teejay directly on the head (!) and then a second time on his foot (!) as the England player failed to move in time. The first game was narrowly lost 9/11 and the England player grew in confidence from then on. Kings fought well in the next couple of games but lost them 6/11, 5/11 and so lost 0-3.

String No.3: Mike Logan v John Parkes. This was a match of long, hard rallies with both players running and retrieving extremely well. John took the first game 11/7 but Mike made him work for every single point. The second and third games followed a similar pattern with Mike running for everything, making John work extremely hard and the 11/2, 11/0 scores in the next two games were not a fair reflection of how Mike had played. Mike lost 0-3.

String No.1: Gary Hales v Bryan Beeson. Bryan was a previous World Top 10 professional player and the current British Over 60’s champion and so Gary knew he had a tough job ahead of him! However, Gary found his range immediately with his lobs (good height, depth and width), causing Bryan to volley almost everything. The first game went to 10-all! But Bryan took it 12/10. Gary continued to lob well and retrieve Bryan’s volley drops at the front to good effect, winning several points with counter drops or cross-court flicks. Bryan’s experience and control over-head eventually saw him through, winning the next two games 11/8, 11/6. Gary lost 0-3.

String No.4: Chris James v Steve Martin. Chris was making his Masters International debut, though he had previously represented Wales at junior level and so he was comfortable and relaxed going into his opening match. Unfortunately, his opponent was a “tricky” player with lost of flicks “here and there” from all parts of the court. When Chris got the ball deep then the rallies were more even but whenever he was loose or short this allowed Steve to take control and “flick” the ball anywhere (straight or cross-court) which kept Chris scrambling to get the ball back. Chris lost out 0-3 (4/11, 5/11, 4/11)

String No.2: Mark Huxtable v Mark Woodliffe. Mark W is a multiple British Open and British Closed Masters Champion and so Mark H had a very tough game ahead of him! Mark H made a great start, taking a 3-0 lead with some beautifully constructed rallies, great straight drives to a perfect length which forced the boast from his opponent, which Mark H finished off with the tightest of straight drops! It was difficult for Mark H to maintain this very high level and if his drives were just a little loose Mark W had the “touch” to put Mark H into difficulty. Mark H played as well as I have seen him play but Mark W was moving “smoothly & effortlessly” around the court. His long stride helping him pick up Mark H’s best drop shots and play winning lobs! A great effort from Mark H but Mark W won 3-0 (11/6, 11/5, 11/5)

Result: Wales lost to England 0-5 (0/20)

Wales v Scotland (9.30am Saturday)

String No.5: Chris James v Keith Gristwood. Chris was disappointed with his match yesterday against England and so he was doubly determined to make a good start against Scotland and he did! He was hitting the ball cleanly, very hard and very low, which caused his opponent lots of problems. As a result, Chris took the opening games 11/7, 13/11. In the third game Chris did not get the ball past his opponent, to the extent that he was doing previously and Keith had more time to play his shots and that game was lost 9/11. However, as Chris picked up the pace in the fourth game, hitting harder and deeper, it rushed his opponent into more and more mistakes. Chris took that game 11/8 and the match 3-1.

String No.3: Mark Huxtable v Ronnie Carter. This was always going to be a close match as Mark & Ronnie are both experienced Masters players. Mark had shown he was playing well with his good showing against England yesterday and he started well against Ronnie. The first game was tight all the way, but Mark reached 10/8 and had a couple of game balls. Regretfully he missed his chances and the game was lost 10/12. The 2nd game followed a similar pattern and Mark found himself with a game-ball at 10/9 but once again unfortunately lost it 10/12. Ronnie was now more relaxed from being 2-0 up (as it could easily have been 2-0 to Mark) and Ronnie made the better start in the third game, which Mark could not recover from and the game was lost 6/11. Mark lost 0-3.   

String No.1: Gary Hales v Chris Holt. These two have met several times in the past and they had always been close hard-fought encounters. Gary made a confident start, slowing the game down, keeping Chris at the back of the court and raced into a 4/1 lead. However, Gary then started hitting the ball harder and started to lose his accuracy. This let Chris into the match, as Chris had more time to play his shots and move Gary around the court. As a result the game was quickly won by Chris 11/7. Gary had to return to his slower paced game of giving the ball more air and get Chris to the back of the court and then throw in the volley drops. Fortunately, Gary found his rhythm and control to take the next three games 11/9, 11/3, 11/8, to win 3-1.

String No.4: Mike Logan v Neil Stone-Wigg. Both players wereof similar build, tall and with a long reach and not afraid to run every shot down! They both liked to hit the ball pretty hard and so we had some high paced, long, lung-busting rallies right from the start. Mike lost the 1st game 7/11 as his length was too short and Neil was hitting winners with boasts from mid-court. Once Mike found his length, he was then able to use the mid-court boasts himself to equally good effect. The next two games were incredibly hard, physically, on both players but Mike was the stronger and took them 15/13, 11/9. That appeared to break his opponent and Mike won the 4th game 11/3 and so the match 3-1.

String No.2: Simon Bourge v Robin Ridley. This was Simon’s first match of the weekend and he was fresh and eager right from the start. Immediately, Simon was hitting the ball crisply, very low and very hard, whenever his opponent’s shot was slightly loose. There were a fair few lets initially as the two players collided. Simon was sometimes just a little slow to clear and Robin was scampering to retrieve the ferociously hit straight drives! Just a few too many errors from Simon led to him losing the opening game 15/17. Simon stayed positive with his attacking play in the 2nd game, mixing up the hard drives with “deceptive” straight drops, to take the game 11/6. Robin did not give up and took the next game 11/5. Wales had already secured the 5 bonus points, as they had an unassailable 3-1 lead over Scotland but every game matters in the Home International Event and Simon was not going to ease up and save energy for his final match in the afternoon. Instead, Simon redoubled his efforts and continued to attack when he had the opportunity but also play defensively when necessary. Simon was rewarded by taking the 4th game 11/4 and finally the 5th game 11/9, to take the match 3-2. 

Result: Wales beat Scotland 4-1 (17/8)

Wales v Ireland (2pm Saturday)

The last match was against Ireland. Scotland had beaten Ireland 17-9 and we had beaten Scotland (17-8) so we had to beat Ireland to ensure 2nd place (assuming Scotland lost to England – which they did!). A defeat to Ireland could see us finish in 4th place, as we would all have won one tie each (except England who won all their matches) but we could end up with less points than Scotland and Ireland!

String No.5: Kingsley Rees v James Lawler. Kings was very loose in the first game and a very scrappy game was lost 6/11. Kings knew where to improve and started to hit better length and width with the result that he narrowly won the next game 13/11. Kings did not maintain this in the 3rd game and anything short was once again punished by his Irish opponent, who had a useful winning straight drop shot/volley drop, when given the opportunity to play it. Kings lost the game 8/11 and was now trailing 2 games to 1! All was not lost and as soon as Kings started to find the back corners consistently the momentum of the match changed and Kings won the next two games 11/7, 11/7 for a 3-2 win and to give Wales a 1-0 lead in the tie.

String No.3: Mark Huxtable v Karam Singh. This was a case of déjà vu for Mark! Just as in his game against Scotland, Mark was playing well against a good Irish player and had game balls in both the first two games but failed to capitalise and lost them 12/14 and 11/13, respectively. Karam was too good a player to give a 2-0 lead to and Mark tried valiantly in the 3rd game but lost it 7/11 and so the match 0-3.

String No.1: Gary Hales v Vincent Bradley. These players had played each other twice before and each had won once. Gary started well but didn’t quite get the height on the lobs against Vincent, which had proved effective against Chris (the Scottish No.1). Vincent was taking the high volley well, varying his response with volleys deep (straight or cross-court) or deftly hit slow winning volley drops to the front of the court. Gary did his best to retrieve from the four corners but couldn’t consistently keep the ball away from Vincent’s accurate volleys and the match was lost 0-3 (7/11, 8/11, 4/11). This gave Ireland a 2-1 lead in the tie and so Mike and Simon would need to win to give Wales victory!

String No.4: Mike Logan v David Lalor. This was not going to be an easy match for Mike as David had won the vital match last year, when he defeated his England opponent to give Ireland a 3-2 victory over England and so Ireland won the Men’s Over 60’s HI Masters Tournament in Galway! Mike did not start well, as any loose cross-courts were dispatched clinically into the front two corners by his Irish opponent. The first game was lost 4/11. As soon as Mike started to hit the ball harder and deeper he had success, making David rush his shots and start to make errors. Mike won the 2nd game 11/9 but narrowly lost the 3rd game 10/12. Though 1-2 down in games Mike was feeling strong and had worked David hard in those opening games. Mike kept up a high pace and David started to tire and make more mistakes as a result. The result was that Mike won the final two games 11/7, 11/7 and so take the match 3-2. The tie was now 2-all and would be decided by the No.2 players!

String No.2: Simon Bourge v John Dineen. Simon was fired up from his 3-2 win against Scotland earlier that day and started exactly the same way against his Irish opponent: attacking the loose ball with hard low drives and throwing in the occasional straight drop. Simon blew his opponent away in the 1st game, taking it 11/5. Simon remained in control for the next two games, defending well from the back of the court when he needed to and using his attacking drives and drops (and the occasional mid-court boast) to finish off the rally. Simon won the next two games 11/7, 11/7 and so the match 3-0. This gave Wales a great 3-2 win against Ireland and gave Wales 2nd place overall in the competition.

Result: Wales beat Ireland 3-2 (14/10).

Final positions: England (60 points: 1st), Wales (31 points: 2nd), Scotland (27 points: 3rd), Ireland (19 points: 4th).

Gary Hales

Wales Over 60’s Men’s Team Captain 2023

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