Baker powers to a poignant squash victory at Cromer

John Baker, left, with Martin Sanville and Jeff Morris' daughter Debbie.

John Baker, left, with Martin Sanville and Jeff Morris' daughter Debbie. - Credit: Archant

Just over 30 years ago Cromer squash player Jeff Morris tragically died on court and the club honoured his memory by instigating a tournament for players aged 35 and over.

This year was the 30th anniversary of that first tournament and in the final John Baker, who first won the title in 2004 and was runner-up in 2008, completed a hat-trick of titles and won the prestigious event for the fourth time in all as he defeated the club captain Martin Sanville 10-8 9-4 9-4 in a repeat of last year's final.

The Cromer club were delighted that Jeff's daughter, Debbie, was among the large crowd on the Norwich Road balcony and that she was able to present the trophies.

Baker, who has also won the club championship four times and is the reigning club veterans' champion, went into the final as the clear favourite but when Sanville opened up a 5-2 lead it looked as though an upset was possible. Baker soon got into his stride however and a succession of winning rallies enabled him to lead 8-5. Sanville responded well to draw level but Baker eventually closed out the game on his fourth game ball to win the game 10-8.

Baker's natural game is to drive the ball hard into the back corners. However, in the second game he added a new dimension to his play with a series of well-flighted lobs into the forehand corner and these proved effective as he dominated the game to lead 8-2 and eventually take it 9-4.

The third game followed a similar pattern. Sanville, who had played a hard quarter- and semi-final as well as a demanding team game earlier in the week, started to make unforced errors and although he battled gamely Baker's greater consistency proved decisive as he won the third game 9-4 to retain his title.

Last year Baker had said that as a young man Jeff had given him every encouragement when he applied to join the fire service more than 30 years ago and to win the title on its 30th anniversary would be special, and so it proved. He said: 'Although the final score was 3-0 the match was much harder than that and if Martin had taken the first game the result could well have been different.'

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Sanville said: 'I just wanted to give a good account of myself and I think I did that – all credit to John, he thoroughly deserved to win.'

In the semi-finals Baker defeated oldest competitor John Chandler, 9-5 9-2 9-2 while Sanville had to work hard to beat the 2013 runner-up Gary Spruce 9-5 9-7 9-5.