Chichester stalwarts make a racket at national championships

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THE national racketball championships in Birmingham featured five Chichester Racquets and Fitness Club members vying for honours.

They were Mike Phillips, the club’s professional squash and racketball coach, Ian Graham, Steve Wall (Over-50), Chris Nicholls (Over-55) (pictured) and three-time winner of the main event and a member of the club’s Premier Squash League squad Tim Vail.

Phillips, England No1 and 2010 over-50 national champion, faced the 2010 over-45 national champion and top seed Steve Bateman (Oxfordshire) in the semi-finals of the over-50 event but went out in three very tight games 12-10, 11-6, 11-9.

Wall beat Mark Hurd (Dorset) in the other semi to take his place in the over-50 final. Wall defeated Bateman 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6 in 43 minutes to keep the over-50 national crown at Chichester for a second year.

With the fall of the No1 seed, the men’s over-55 draw opened up. Chris Nicholls, making his debut in the over-55 event, reached the semi. Despite going 2-0 down he defeated local favourite Rob Shay in five games.

He went on to beat James Murphy in another five-game match 11-4, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-8 to take his first national title.

The over-60 championship was the only men’s draw to see all four top seeds reach the second day with Ian Graham defending his title and looking head and shoulders above all his rivals.

Graham, who has not dropped a game in the past two national championships, beat John Cockill (Yorks) in the final 11-7, 11-6, 13-11 to take his third national crown. He won the over-55 title six years ago.

Finally, Chichester’s Premier Squash League player Tim Vail had a tough route to the final where the No1 seed played an inspired Mark Fuller (Northants), who was seeded No9.

Fuller had defeated No3 seed Jonathan Harford (Gloucs) in his semi-final. Fuller played out of his skin to lead Vail 2-0 and 8-2 in the third before Vail turned the tide - and after 71 minutes Vail took his fourth title 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-4.

Phillips said: “It was another very successful tournament for Chichester - four national titles this year, two last year. The club are building quite a reputation for top-quality age-group racketball.

“On October 29, we will be hosting the Harrow Series (Chichester) event which will consist of men’s, ladies’ and several age-group events, including a beginners’ category.

“This is part of a nationwide circuit and looks to attract some of the country’s top players with several national champions taking part, including this season’s Chichester four.”