Baker claims hard-fought win to complete Cromer squash double

John Baker (left) and Phil Godfrey pictured after their match. Picture: Club

John Baker (left) and Phil Godfrey pictured after their match. Picture: Club - Credit: Archant

John Baker completed another over 35/45 double when he won Cromer Squash Club's Veterans' tournament for the third time in the last four years.

He beat Philip Godfrey 9-5 9-6 6-7 (retired) in an entertaining and highly skilful final.

Last month the same two players met in the final of the club's Over-35 tournament — a match which Baker won 3-1, although this time he had to battle much harder for his victory.

After a cagy opening in which the serve moved to and fro it was Godfrey, who was giving 16 years to his opponent, who moved ahead as he led 5-3 before Baker won six successive rallies to hold game ball'at 8-5, an advantage which he converted into the first game at the second attempt.

In the second game Baker opened up a 6-1 lead only for the older man to respond with some brilliant squash to draw level at 6-6. The effort he expended, however, started to take its toll and once Baker regained the serve he won the next three points to take the game 9-6 and open up a 2-0 lead.

Baker led 3-0 and then 5-2 in the third game before the match hit a bit of an impasse as neither player was able to hold their serve and after one long and demanding rally Godfrey eventually suffered a heavy fall at the front of the court. The crowd on the balcony thought that he might have to retire but after a brief stoppage he recovered and then played another series of brilliant shots to regain the serve and then lead 7-5.

It did look as though Godfrey could take the match into a fourth game but by this stage however he was noticeably struggling for breath and when he took another heavier fall to leave Baker three points from victory he sensibly decided to call it a day and conceded the third game at 7-6.

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It is now 33 years ago since Baker won his first title at the club when he won the club handicap tournament and after three more handicap victories, four club championships, five over 35 titles and now three veterans' titles he has a record which other members can only dream of. Only two other former members, Paul Roebuck in 2008 and Henri Paul in 2010, have completed the 35/45 double in the same year.

Technical director Barry Starling said: 'Johnny still hits the ball as cleanly as anybody in the club but as he has got older he seems to have a new dimension to his game now and this made for a brilliant match.'