Andrewartha, Fitz-Gerald take out the spoils at Ballarat Open Racquetball Championships
Squash & Racquetball Victoria Legend Paul Vear provides us with a comprehensive recap of all the action from the 2016 Ballarat Open Racquetball Championships on September 10-11.
Steve Andrewartha claiming his fourth Victorian Grand Prix Men’s Open title on the trot, local Ballarat players taking out seven of the thirteen titles on offer and a 34% increase in entry numbers over the 2015 event (including 19 Grand Prix debutants) all headlined the penultimate Victorian Racquetball Grand Prix Tournament Circuit event for the year, the Ballarat Open Championships.
Men's Open: Over the previous five years, Cam White (2011, 2014 and 2015) and Garry Pedersen (2012 and 2013) have owned this title.
In 2016 however, it is Dromana’s Steve Andrewartha who has won all but one Victorian GP Men’s Open title this year to scorch to an unbeatable lead of 1935 points in the Men’s Open GP Champion’s title.
So when the pointy end of the Ballarat Open was reached this year, it was another final face off between Andrewartha and Geelong's second-seeded Peter French, whom he had defeated in both the Wangaratta and Victorian Opens earlier this year. In what was a high class finale, punctuated by many long rallies containing an incredible range of shots and returns, it was Andrewartha who prevailed, 21/11, 21/19.
In their respective semi-finals, Andrewartha defeated his doubles partner Chris England, 21/13, 21/17, with French overpowering Tasmanian Matt Creely, 21/5, 21/13, after Creely had ousted third-seeded Garry Pedersen in a marathon three game quarter final, 16/21, 21/16, 21/18.
Women's Open: This event saw the return of the Queen of Australian Racquetball Sarah Fitz-Gerald, who swapped her Court Tech squash court building tools for a racquetball racquet for the first time since the ESRA Open held in February this year.
With Fitz-Gerald at prohibitive odds to win the event, the greatest interest focused on who was going to claim the runners-up booty. That ended up being 2016 Tasmanian Women’s Open winner and South Australian Open runner-up Kristel Proctor, who finally succumbed to Fitz-Gerald, 8/21, 12/21.
In their respective semi finals, Fitz-Gerald defeated South Australia’s Karin Gaard, 21/12, 21/12, with Proctor overcoming Wodonga’s third seeded Laura Shobbrook, 21/12, 22/20.
A Grade: Although top seeded Chris Rollauer was a pronounced favourite, the A Grade field contained several players bordering on Open status.
Prior to reaching the final, Rollauer had to survive a hectic three games against Ballarat’s Anthony Bosner (22/20, 17/21, 21/12), then overcome Wodonga’s seventeen-year-old Mitchell Nero, 21/12, 21/17.
In the bottom half of the draw, Ballarat’s Matt Squire proved to be the surprise packet of the event when he took out three seeded players, including Wangaratta’s second-seeded Dean Milligan, 21/9, 21/12.
In the final, Squire seized early control which he never relinquished, taking it out 21/11, 21/13 over Rollauer.
B Grade: Rarely does Corio stalwart Adam Lander miss reaching the pointy end of a B Grade event, but former world deaf squash champion Paul Walters had other ideas in their quarter-final clash.
Recovering from a game down to take the second in a nail biter, Walters overpowerered Lander in the decider 21/9.
Walters then went on to claim the scalp of fourth-seeded John Phillips, 21/17, 21/12, to reach his first B Grade GP final.
Meanwhile, 2016 Victorian Open B Grade champion Dave Whan was putting the blowtorch to his opponents in the bottom half of the draw, including Ballarat’s seventh-seeded Mandy Simpson and Mulgrave’s third-seeded Lance Cowan - downing both in straight games.
South Australian Whan then made it a Victorian GP Circuit running double when he overcame the 'never say die' Walters, 21/9, 21/12 in the final.
C Grade: When the judge called a halt to proceedings for this event, Ballarat’s Blake Caspersz had well and truly earnt the title of ‘Marathon Man’.
Caspersz survived four intense, action packed rounds, including a gut busting win over Warrnambool’s GP debutant Simon Gunner in the final, 21/16, 19/21, 21/15.
In the semis, Caspersz overcame Warrnambool’s Peter Molan, 22/21, 21/17, with Gunner overpowering Ballarat’s fourth-seeded Kale Marnica, 21/17, 21/14.
D Grade: 2015 Ballarat D Grade Plate winner Marg Taylor stepped up a few notches this year to capture the title over Geelong Open D Grade runner-up Simon Jackson, 21/7, 21/19.
In their respective semi-finals, Taylor came from a game down to take out Corio’s top seeded Ben Bell, 17/21, 21/13, 21/15, with Jackson surviving a titanic struggle over Warrnambool’s Gerard Hall, 21/19, 14/21, 21/17.
E Grade: The E Grade field contained five exuberant youngsters including two thirteen-year-olds who eventually reached the finale; Ballarat’s Mitchell Harrison and Corio’s Brayden Webber.
Harrison took out the final 21/11, 21/7, which made it two GP titles for him following his F Grade win last year.
In their semi-finals, Harrison defeated Corio’s Anthony Morgan, 21/8, 21/6, with Webber hanging on against Corio’s Jackson Lander-Mitchell, 21/11, 22/20.
Junior Boys Under 13: This event was won by Ballarat’s Jordan Humphries, who defeated another local Tristan Roberts in the final 21/0, 21/5, which provided the host club with five of the eight singles titles on offer.
| A Grade
|| Chris Rollauer
| D Grade
| E Grade
|Grade Winner Runners-Up
|Open England/Andrewartha Edgley/Adams
|A Snibson/Anwyl Nero/Whan
|B Phillips/Lander Boulton/Hain
|C Smits/Fry Collins/Nunn
|D Bell/Lander-Mitchell King/Rawlings
|E Harrison/Nolan Adams/Gladman
COPY CREDIT: Paul Vear