Cromer squash Baker creates club history by winning Over-35s title for fifth time

Debbie Banner, the late Jeff Morris’' daughter, with John Baker after the trophy presentation. Pictu

Debbie Banner, the late Jeff Morris’' daughter, with John Baker after the trophy presentation. Picture: Martin Braybrook - Credit: Archant

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

This year was the 32nd anniversary of the first tournament and in the final John Baker, who first won the title in 2004, won the event for an unprecedented fifth time as he defeated one of the club's new members, Phil Godfrey 9-3 7-9 9-5 9-4 in a pulsating final.

Although Roger Tuck won the title four times between 1987 and 1992 no player had ever won it for a fifth time until now.

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

Baker, who has also won the club championship four times and the club veterans' title twice, went into the final as the underdog against 68-year-old Godfrey, who plays regularly on the England Masters circuit and who has won five successive matches for the club's team. However, Baker raced into a 6-3 lead in the opening game before taking it 9-3 as he allowed his older and more experienced opponent just seven serves.

The second game followed a different pattern. Baker led 3-0 but Godfrey drew level and then led 5-3 only for Baker to regain the serve and lead 7-5 before Godfrey won five successive hands to level the match as he won the game 9-7.

Baker's natural game is to drive the ball hard into the back corners. However, in this match he was adding a new dimension to his play with a series of effective drop shots and deceptive 'boasts' which dragged Godfrey around the court. Baker went from 2-2 to 7-2 in one hand and although Godfrey rallied briefly he served out at 5-8 and Baker took the game on his third game ball to lead 2-1.

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By now Godfrey was struggling with a hamstring problem and after surrendering a 3-0 lead in the fourth game he only won one more point as Baker closed out the game 9-4 and the match 3-1.

Three years ago 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 he has always considered it something special to win this title.

In the semi-finals Baker defeated the tournament's oldest competitor Malcolm Crane in straight games while Godfrey also had a 3-0 victory over Sean Moore.