Meagan Best and Shawn Simpson starred with unmatched individual performances on court as they successfully defended their titles at the 2019 Barbados Senior National Squash Championship played yesterday afternoon at the Barbados Squash Club, Marine Garden, Christ Church.
Best captured her fourth consecutive trophy on court one at the 45th edition of senior nationals 13-11, 11-2, 8-11 and 11-7 against Amanda Haywood. Simpson extended his men’s national record to 11 with a hard-fought five-set thriller 7-11, 11-5, 11-5, 7-11 and 11-6 against Khamal Cumberbatch.
The reigning three-time Caribbean squash champion Best exhibited her usual power-hitting combined with great technical ability where she produced uncanny ball control against fellow right-hander Haywood.
“This is the third time playing Amanda in the final and we have a great idea of how each other plays and I knew it would have been tougher this time. She would have gotten a lot more training in America, the same way I did, so I knew it was going to be a strong battle this time around,” said Best currently based at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut.
She added: “It was getting a bit scary when she came back in the third game but I was able to counter what she did and bring it home in the fourth.”
Best became Barbados’ youngest squash champion in 2016 at age 14 with her very first senior national title against former 15-time champion Karen Meakins. Since then she has met Haywood in all senior national finals and dominated.
Throughout the encounter Best with her aggressive shot selection forced Haywood to respond mostly from the back court and offered very little loose balls.
The 19-year-old Haywood fought well in the third set with lovely drop shots to trail Best 1-2 but was unable to tie the game and force a decisive fifth set. The match-up was officiated by national referee Orson Simpson.
Based at the University of Virginia, Haywood led 6-4 in the fourth set but was unable to sustain her two-point lead as Best came from behind to equalize 6-6, 7-7 and went on to secure the next five points for victory.
The men’s final between 35-year-old Simpson and teenager Cumberbatch was entertaining as the two showed great endurance and traded hard-hitting shots mixed with several lobs under the watchful eyes of referee Marlon Wood.
Cumberbatch at 17-years-old is ranked top eight in the Pan American region and showed why when he captured the opening set [11-7] and applied early pressure on the left-handed Simpson.
The youngest of the four Cumberbatch brothers that play squash for Barbados, the Avon Old Farm student was very attacking against Simpson and scored most of his points from technical plays.
After getting off to a slow start the lanky Simpson with good extension and a bag-full of shots responded like a true champion with lots of cross-court shots to take a 2-1 advantage over Cumberbatch who recently won mixed double gold with Best at the Pan American Games.
Not willing to let the match slip away from him, the right-handed Cumberbatch reversed the momentum in his favour during the fourth set and at 7-7 he went on to win 11-7 and tie the game 2-2.
That equalizer came after Cumberbatch heeded the advice of “take it back” from his older brother Rhett Cumberbatch sitting among the spectators.
However, Simpson coached by Canadian Rene Denis showed where experience counts as he slowed the tempo and bated Cumberbatch out of his usual fast paced game.
“This feels just as good as the first one. Every time I win it feels like the first title because as a junior coming up, I was never the number one. And even today people were cheering for young Cumberbatch who is the number one boy in the Caribbean and as the defending champion a lot of pressure was on me. But I just made sure I went out there and tried to execute my game as well as possible and not give him too many opportunities,” said Simpson who now has his eyes set on Guyana for the regional championship in August.
“This tournament was a spring board for our men’s senior team to start preparing for those championship. So, from tomorrow we are going to get on the bandwagon and really put in the work. For the first three weeks it is going to be fitness-based and then after that do some racquet work in preparation for Guyana,” Simpson said.
Third position in the women’s competition went to Jada Smith-Padmore 11-8, 11-7 and 11-7 against Sumairaa Suleman. In the men’s third place Zaki Williams had a walkover against Bryant Jay Cumberbatch who did not play.