Intercounty Racketball Weekend 2023

With racketball in Surrey at a very strong level we were excited to enter two teams into the Intercounty weekend held in Nottingham on the 17-18 July. My thanks to both Nick Camus and Phil Hall who captain the Mens B and Over 50 teams respectively.

Mens B

Following a number of drop outs due to injury etc. Surrey found themselves without an A team this year, and following a countywide recruitment drive, getting any sort of team out was proving difficult… This is when Rob Lelliott approached the 1st team from his home club Surbiton (who are reigning Surry Cup holders) to see if we could field a team strong enough to possibly win the B Grade. With the help from a few keen members, Rob manged to rally a team made up of Rob Gale (O40 Surrey Champion), Ben Dixon, Nick Camus, Damien Harniess, Phil Hall and Rory Duthie and on Saturday morning the boys set off for the Intercounties Championships.

Out of the gates, the Capitan Nick Camus was tasked with some tough team selections; with the possibility of a tough 2nd round against the reigning title holders Devon, we needed to get through and keep our best lineup fresh in the hope we’d make the next round. The matches started with Nick Camus and Rob Gale playing in the doubles; not having played together before, and perhaps slightly underestimating the level of doubles that would be played, Camus and Gale found themselves 0-2 down! Some solid advice from Rob Lelliott (a doubles connoisseur), the Surrey duo managed to turn the match around. After about 60min the scores were level at 2-2, and despite some incredible winners from Camus, the boys found themselves 7-10 and 3 match balls down. A few quite words in Camus’s ear, followed by some heavy straight line hitting from Gale saw the pair save three match balls and go on to save a further 2 to close the match out 3-2. A turbulent start for Surrey, but a win on the board.

On court 7, Ben Dixon put a real pace on his opponent, the match never looking in doubt, 3-0 Dixon. The pressure wasn’t off just yet, with the 2 and 3 strings about to go on, we needed another win; court 7 saw Damien Harniess taking on a very impressive Adam Bagley who stormed out of the blocks with an 0-11 first game! But it was just a matter of time before Harniess started to purr into action, and Damian took a tight 2nd 12-10. From there on the match was nip and tuck, Bagley taking the match 3-2; we needed this next match!

Court 8 saw Duthie ease to a 2-0 lead, only for that to be levelled at 2-2; taking his foot off the gas was almost fatal, but another run of impressive length hitting and some silky winners saw Rory close the match out 3-2. Surrey is through to the semi-final vs Devon!

Following a short break and a trip to A&E for elder statesman Dave Dixon senior, we were ready to rumble again! For this match Camus chose to go with Gale, Dixon, Camus for the singles and Harniess/Duthie in the doubles. The fixtures kicked off with the doubles match and Dixon vs Hutchings and despite a racket in the eye, Dixon again, flew out of the traps like a spider-monkey and set the team off to an incredible start with an emphatic 3-0 win! At the same time on the neighbouring court, the doubles were underway; Harniess/Duthie starting incredibly with an 11-0 and going 2-0 up, what could go wrong from here? The Devon lads having started fairly poorly, had got their affairs in order and started to hit their targets, digging deep to take the next two games and drawing level! Another push from the Surrey lads, saw them close match out 3-2. Now it was time for the 3rd string match of Camus vs Russel and Camus shot out of the blocks, chopping the ball short at every hint of an opportunity, catching his opponent off guard. The 2nd was much of the same with Camus going 9-2 up, taking his foot of the pedal and Russel tightening his game up, Russel came back at Camus making it 8-9! Camus managed to re-focus and close the 2nd out 11-9 and take the match 3-0; this news came as sheer delight to Gale who was having a lengthy battle with his opponent on court 1, we were through to the final!

The final was the following day, and although the lads found themselves in central Nottingham at 00:00, enjoying some well-earned refreshment and several scoops of premium banter; they knew they had a job to do and kept it sensible…

We were up against a very strong Shropshire and this match is a testament to how strong the B Grade was this year. The matches started with Dixon and Harniess going on first. Dixon went off to an incredible start going 2-0, but this wasn’t being made easy by some very impressive hitting from Talbot, and Dixon was having to work incredibly hard to stay ahead. The 3rd game saw a lapse in concentration and Dixon dropped his first game of the tournament! Coming out in the 4th, Dixon looked tired, like Rocky vs Appllo in round 11 he dug deep, putting in a HUGE double dive the likes Miguel Rodreguez would have been happy with! Saving games balls, Dixon showed real guts to close out the 4th and take the match 3-1, solid start that would prove crucial… Court 8 saw Harniess against a very solid young player in Perry. Damian going 1 down, we were up against it – working to his strength, Harniess straightened his hitting and was managing to dictate in the 2nd. The match went back and forth like this, until the 5th, when, never one to shy away from a big occasion, “Damo” stood on the gas, getting a very healthy 9-2 lead and closing the match out 3-2.

Having picked up an injury Camus decided not to risk playing, so the great and powerful Phill Hall stepped in to play the doubles partnering Duthie against a very strong O50 pairing of Wase and Amitage. The pair looked all at sea in the first two, getting out played by their opponents and going 0-2 down! The was getting tense! Somehow, a change of tactics saw some incredible straight line hitting from Hall, opening up the court for Duthie to unleash some very accurate and aggressive attacking shots which saw the pair take one game back, then another; 2-2! The 5th saw the Shropshire lads up it again and the Surrey boys had no answer – a gutsy performance, the pair losing to an exceptional pairing 2-3.

As the doubles was closing, the scores were 2-1 (8-6 in games) and Gale needed a single game for us to take the championship. Rob opponent was Craig Chapple, a very tidy and well-rounded player, who took the first emphatically; we were in trouble here! Gale, known for his gritty approach came out in the second and dug in, Rob took the 2nd 11-4, but to win the match we would need a second game! Rob delivered, again with some heavy and hard straight line hitting on the backhand, he took the 3rd 11-4! The title was ours! The match ended with Gale losing 10-12 in the 5th, Craig taking the well-deserved victory.

It was a cracking weekend of racketball and it went right down to the wire. It was a fantastic effort from all involved, we saw some exceptional team camaraderie and some top individual performances! Thank you to all of the boys involved and thanks to Surrey Squash for some epic team shirts!

See you next year for more of the same!

Nick Camus – Team Captain

Mens Over 50’s Intercounty

This was the first year that an Over 50’s event was run and Surrey were able to call upon a number of players which was captained by Phil Hall (Nuffield West Byfleet). The format was 3 singles and a doubles to which you could only play in one string for that match.

Our first game was again Northamptonshire and it kicked off with Ian Chicken and Rob Lelliott (both Surbiton) playing in the doubles and Chris Burton (Woking) playing at 3 who all came in with very comfortable 3-0 wins. Next to take to the court was Phil Hall at one and Mike Wardle (Woking) at 2. Slightly tougher games but both performed great to take 3-1 and 3-0 wins respectively.

Our second match of the day was always going to be a tough ask playing Shropshire who were boasting 3 of the Top 5 ranked Over 50 players in the UK.

The doubles pairing of Ian and Rob had an incredible start storming to an unexpected 2-0 lead (12-10 / 11-7). The third game saw the opponents find their touch as they won this at a canter 11-2. But the 4th game went to the wire and at 10-10 Ian and Rob had their sites on victory but it wasn’t to be as they lost 12-10. At 2-2 there was still hope but it wasn’t to be and Northants came through 11-5 to take a 3-2 win.

Chris was again at 3 and was playing a guy who had incredible touch and was deceiving movement around the court. At 2-0 down (11-5 / 11-9) it looked to be a formality but Chrus dug in hard and won the 3rd 11-7. It proved to be too much as he lost the 4th 11-8 which gave Northants a 2-0 lead.

Phil and Mike had to play the number 1 and 2 in the UK. Phil was not at the races in the first two games but if he had doubles points for hitting the red part of the tin he would have easily have reversed the score. In the third game he found his form getting to 9-9 but missed out losing 11-3 / 11-1 / 11-9. Mike was focused for his game and came so close to winning the first using his questionable movement to get to 12-12 but was pipped to it losing 14-12. This took the wind out of his sails as he lost the next two games 11-7 / 11-3. Match result was 4-0 to Shropshire who actually went on to win the Over 50’s. In fact our match was their toughest test as they did not drop a game in any of their other matches.

This meant we returned on Sunday to play in the 3rd/4th place play off against Warwickshire after a seemingly “quiet night out”!

Chris started his 3rd string tie against a player that had only played doubles in the first two matches and it was a tough game which saw him lose 11-2 / 11-8 / 11-6. Meanwhile Ian and Rob who had done so well up to now went 2-0 down in no time and it would seem were on for an absolute crushing. But a change of tactics and some steady play saw them win the next 2 games very closely which got them back to 2-2. The last game saw Ian and Rob take a 6-2 lead but it got clawed back and they found themselves just 2 points behind at 9-7. They managed to win the next two points and at 9-9 again they were only 2 points away from an amazing comeback. It wasn’t to be as they lost 3-2 ( 2-8 / 2-11 / 11-9 / 11-9 / 9-11).

So it was down to Surrey stalwarts Phil and Mike to win their games and hope we would win on countback. This proved to be the case as both won very comfortably. Phil 11-4 / 11-6 / 11-7 and Mike 11-8 / 11-3 / 11-4 and the team an 8-6 win and a well deserved 3rd place overall.

Huge thanks to all who played and a special thanks to Phil who not only captained the team but also coordinated much of the preparation for the weekend.

Team L to R: Phil Hall, Rob Gale, Rory Duthrie, Damien Harniess, Ben Dixon, Nick Camus

Team L to R: Chris Burton, Phil Hall, Ian Chicken, Mike Wardle, Rob Lelliott